21
Sep

Intervention is on Guidebook

Intervention information and schedules are now online!

In addition to the convention’s awesome guidebook and paper schedules, you can also access Intervention on Guidebook. The app itself is a free download and is available for Android, iPhone, iPad, and Blackberry devices.

Guidebook will allow you to custom-create your own schedule for the weekend and even sets reminders for you. Additionally, you can be notified of any last-minute updates to the schedule, such as room changes or guest additions.

 


21
Jan

15 MORE things to think about when starting your own event

Here is another installment in the sporadic series of posts I will make to help other people start their own events and pursue their dreams. How do I decide what to post about? I answer your emails and questions that you send to me. When the answer is good enough, I re-purpose it as a blog post for everyone.

For a full list of every tutorial I have done, click over to the tutorials section of my personal blog.

A recent question I got was – what are some things one should think about when starting a new con. Here goes:

1. What don’t you know? Find people who know those things and recruit them. In my case it was hotel negotiations. My first recruit was our Hotel Liaison.

2. Define what events you might want to have at your con as best as you can, then decide what key positions you need. By “key positions” I mean managerial. These people need to have professional experience in these fields and be able to recruit people they trust for their staff. I also made sure my staff knew other staff so I could get people I previously didn’t have access to.

For our first year we had:

– Hotel Liaison
– Treasurer (Since we had no money he functioned as a Financial Advisor in the meantime.)
– Operations Manager
– Dept. Head of Security
– Dept Head of Guest Relations
– Dept Head of Registration

Harknell and I both did Web, Finance (we were funding it), Programming, Artist’s Alley, assigning guests to panels, approving guests, Marketing, sponsorship, staff training, and everything else. We had to do so much because it was a new thing that we had to shape.

I think there were only about 20 staff including runners for our first year. Most did work at con. We did almost all pre-con work. I did all the marketing and sponsorship.

3. Know your limits. We didn’t have things like Art Show and Cosplay in our first 2 years because we knew we didn’t have enough staff to handle it yet. Don’t do stuff you can’t handle. Remember, this year’s con is your best advertising for next year’s con. Do what you have RIGHT and people will notice.

4. Understand that you might do most of the work the first year (and subsequent years…). Your staff is still getting used to their jobs and likely won’t be familiar with what you expect from them yet.

5. Make sure you get legal advice and start the proper type of business to handle your event. Don’t sign a contract that will bankrupt you in the worst case scenario. If for some reason Intervention got sued (god forbid), I’d still retain the rights to my comics and t-shirt shop. It’s 2 separate businesses. Also, make sure you put an “act of god” clause in there. If a storm happens or a war breaks out or a volcano erupts out flying smurfs, you shouldn’t have to pay for your event that never happened.

6. Plan for the worst case scenario. Don’t agree to pay anything you can’t afford to lose. A lot of things could happen that might affect your attendance. This is not a “get rich quick” scheme. Most events operate in the red for the first 5 years.

7. Get event insurance for fraks sake. It’s only a few hundred bucks and can save your butt.

8. Make sure you have a grasp of Project Management techniques or know someone who does. (I am a digital media PM during the day. It helped.)

9. Decide how your staff should be structured. Some cons use a board of directors. I don’t, because I wanted to retain full control over my vision. More pressure is put on me, but it was the right choice for us.

10. Interview well. Realize that your friends may be nice, but not every friend is a good fit for every job. I either interviewed or observed quietly while my staff was working at other events to vet each person. How people respond to stress and their problem solving capabilities dictated where I assigned them or if I accepted them at all. I also took note of things like who had industry contacts, police experience, legal experience, customer service experience…you get the idea. Assign them to stuff they enjoy.

11. Try to plan some redundancy. If you can, every key position should have an understudy. Stuff happens.

12. Realize that it takes a couple of years before people will start to really notice you unless you have the budget of a large corporation. Most people are skeptical of a new, unproven event. It sucks. but most people will choose what their friends have already told them about over something new. I’m also guilty of this. It’s human.

13. Realize that I make this look easier than it is. Prepare for the worst and (in my case) best year of your life.

14. Actively reach out to bloggers, press, and guests. If they can’t attend, politely ask if they can post about you. If they can attend, keep in contact with them to make sure they keep telling their fans to come. Many guests don’t realize that cons aren’t magically going to fill with people unless they help you help them.

15. Don’t pay a lot of money for a big name just because. Research how well they communicate with their fans. Fame doesn’t necessarily mean anyone will come to an event for them. I’ve seen people with small fan bases attract more people than the famous guy. (In 2005, I was the newcomer who did just that.) I find that the ability of a guest to attract people is directly related to how much they seem to care and converse with their fans.

OK that’s some stuff… :) New events are a totally different animal than established ones…there is so much…


11
Jul

8 things you should know before starting your own convention

I will continue to post helpful advice here for those of you who may be considering starting your own event. You can see all of our “Con Solutions” posts by clicking this link. If you are an artist who is looking for technical, business, or con attending help, check out my tutorials over at Onezumiverse.com.

This post is meant to help those of you who have a great idea for a convention or event and want to know if you should go ahead and do it.

1. You must be OK with working an unpaid full time job until your event becomes sustainable. Cons are not cheap to start. I advise saving up at least $5,000-$10,000 to invest into an event that is a 3 day, full featured event like Intervention. More, if you can. Scale that down if you intend to start off small. No, you probably won’t make any money in the beginning. Yes, you will have to work harder than you do at your day job.

2. It might take 5 years for your event to become sustainable. You have to be OK with taking a short term loss your first few years. Let’s face it – you and I both know that people are more willing to support an event that they complain about that has been running for 10 years rather than try something new. It is human nature. I am guilty of this as well. Why should I go to a new, unproven event rather than go to where my friends already are? The devil you know is sometimes better than the unknown. In the beginning you will find that most of the battle is proving to people that you won’t do a bad job and that you are here to stay. The other part is that unless you are funded by a multi-million dollar corporation or have celebrities backing you with promotional signal, it usually takes a year or so for people to get the message that you even exist.

The upside is that once they see how much you really care and what a great job you’ve done, they will likely stay with you. It just may take a few years for the message to get out. Prepare financially and mentally for that eventuality. Do the best job you can do regardless of your size and your attendees will subconsciously advertise you after your first year. This is how you build it.

3. You must be able to afford to pay up front for an attorney, event insurance, printing costs, event space costs, and all other fees. Like I said in #2, it may take awhile for people to hear enough about you that they start attending your event. If you can’t afford your basic needs before starting your event, you probably should concentrate on straightening your finances out and getting a job that will allow you to pay for your event and absorb any casualties. If you don’t, you will almost surely bankrupt yourself. I got the capital together for Intervention through my store that sells things based on my webcomic. I also work as a Project Manager during the day and earned investment money by working ridiculously long hours. I also got a lot of help from our Enablers who graciously donate each year to help keep us going.

4. You and your key staff should have at least 5 years experience each running the sort of event you want to run. My staff and I are old pros at this point. I didn’t just wake up one day and say, “HAY GAIZ I LIEK A GAMEZ LET’S START A KON OMG.”

No.

I have been active as a key staff member for most of the cons in the northeast for years now. During that time I was silently vetting staffers who did good work. Little did they know, I was waiting to pounce on them for my event. (BWAHAHA!) They agreed because I had also built up a reputation for being serious business. (One of my nicknames is actually, “CEO”.) By the first year of Intervention, we already had a rapport that is a lot like family. That is one reason why the event ran so smoothly last year. I am keenly aware of the great work that Intervention staff do. I actually consider it to be part of our overall brand. We are the SWAT Team of con staff. We don’t just take anyone into our key ranks – everyone has either worked with me or one of my key staff members before. Failing that, they have to undergo an interview with me to see if they will fit in.

Whichever way you do it – make sure your staff has actually run cons before and not just attended cons. Also make sure they understand professional conduct. Your staff are a reflection of how welcoming you are.

5. You should have a good relationship with the community and be known for finishing what you start. Everyone thought I was crazy when I started Intervention, but no one thought I’d screw it up. Why? My track record speaks volumes. I’ve staffed cons, maintained my own webcomic and web presence for many years, helped many people along the way, and climbed the ranks of corporate America like Conan the Librarian. Everything that I start, I finish. Everything that I say I’ll do, I do. I am notorious for getting things done and working hard.

Think about the community you want to serve. Ask yourself if you understand where they are coming from and what problems you can solve for them. Then ask yourself if they know and trust you. Knowing the answers to these questions will make your job much easier. You’ll need the community behind you. It takes a village to raise an event.

6. You should leave any competitive venom in nursery school where it belongs. If you are looking at other events as your enemy, you are in for a rude awakening. Nothing good ever came from that type of thinking. Fan events are only as good as they can harmonize with each other. At the core, we are about the community. If you fail to work with your neighbor and support the community, you are failing to engage with your demographic. Fans and con runners are one and the same. Crapping on the very people you purport to serve is kind of silly, in my opinion. It is like shooting yourself in the foot. Negativity and competitive venom have no place in my world.

7. Realize that transparency and fairness go a long way to resolving any disputes and treat everyone like you would want to be treated. I find that a lot of “internet drama” comes from people sensing that someone is not being authentic or honest. I go about things just like I do during the day at my Project Management job – I explain to people where I am coming from and why things are like they are. I find that just treating everyone like I would want to be treated goes a long way toward keeping things drama free and happy. Don’t hide things or try to make things more complicated than they are – just be cool and everyone will understand.

8. You must love this. If being cool, honest, tireless, and planning well doesn’t sound like a good thing to you, you might have a problem. You must absolutely love what you do, because this is not as easy as I might make it look. This is long hours of working tirelessly – sometimes for no recognition. You will get negative feedback that is absolutely ridiculous and unfair from somebody complaining that there were no live dinosaurs in their martini. You will get people who take you for granted, eat your food, and ditch without so much as a “thank you”. You will get entitled talent that behaves crankily, and staff members that have to drop out at the last minute due to life issues.

This comes with the territory, but the positive interactions, great people, fun times, and lifetime of great memories and new friends outweighs it by far!

You must be able to quickly rise above and keep your goals in sight. If you don’t love it, it could destroy you. I am lucky that my natural personality as it is today matches up well with con running, but when I was younger I don’t know if I could have done this. You must love this because the results are worth it, but your heart must carry you through it to get there.


21
Dec

Why Intervention is the most awesome con to sponsor and how we did it

So far we are very happy to report that every corporate sponsor from 2010 that we’ve spoken to has opted to return for 2011!

Offices are shutting down now for the Christmas holiday – I have a feeling that once I get a chance to ask the remaining sponsors after the holiday, they will be on board too. This is so important because with their help it allows us to have a much bigger event and party than we otherwise would be able to.

How we did it:

I have never worked with an organization that handles sponsorship like us. Ever.

When I began putting together my staff, I wasn’t able to find anyone to handle the sponsorship and marketing position. It is the most difficult position of the volunteer staff because it’s a ton of work, organization, and outreach. Big companies pay people to do this for 8 hours a day – since we are a volunteer organization that wasn’t an option. Since I couldn’t locate an insane person to do this for a volunteer wage…DING DING DING…As a famous video game once told me, “The winner…it [me]”.

At first I wanted to jump off a cliff. This was our first year! I had no numbers! Nothing to base anything off of! Where would I start? How would I prove to people that we are legit?

What happened next is what always happens with me – I forget about all of this and look for solutions like a rampaging barbarian…err…ok maybe Conan the Librarian.

I read books (specifically this one), I googled. I learned the formal method. I learned that it wasn’t an exact science. Then I realized that none of the formalities mattered because the formal method is aimed at large corporations.

I threw out the book (OK, well I kept it for reference) and I asked my self, “What do we have to offer NOW?”

We have good people who believe in this and will do it right. I have years of Project Management experience, and experience marketing my own art. I understand what is a value for a company and what is not. We also have a lot of indie creators who could help us get eyeballs on the sponsor when they promote their appearance at our con.

I handled it like I would want my own personal money and brand to be handled. I used my heart coupled with my skills. I didn’t just become a sponsorship and marketing person – I thought of it as becoming a marketer for the companies who were helping us. They got an Onezumi spokesperson, staff member, and a great event to be involved with. After all – it was easy – I only approached companies that I believed in. Honesty is so important!

What did sponsors get from us?

– I got a feel for what their goals were and created events that actually engaged people with each brand.
– I clearly featured them on the site with clickable links and endorsed links in blog posts.
– I made sure they had my email address and mobile number so that they could reach me at any time.
– I kept in touch constantly to make sure they were happy.
– I mailed them fun things!
– I did a ton of press and talked about them in every interview I could.
– I pushed out a social media campaign over all of my related twitter, facebook, and blog accounts. I made sure the tweets weren’t too long so that people could retweet easily. I made sure each post was hand typed so that it would not be mechanical. I posted from each account at offset times that also coincided with statistical highest traffic. (Nothing is worse than reading the same post on FB that you just read on Twitter!)
– I worked out awesome sponsorship packages for larger companies but also for small companies with limited budgets.

I think I had an advantage in figuring out how to get the most value for everyone because of my years tracking what worked when I promoted my own artwork and webcomic.

Really this is just a tiny bit of what I did – I added more fun things as much as I could. It was kind of like improv that worked really, really well because it really delivered results.

You know, things don’t seem like work when you really believe in it this much. I am so glad to be able to make this awesome party for everyone! Reg is almost ready to open and we are almost full on into the 2011 frenzy! :D

I hope this post helps some of my convention friends who are starting their own events. On the other hand, If you are a company of any size, this will give you a small idea of how we work. You can check out our sponsorship area here. As of this writing it has the 2010 documents, but I’m busy updating the 2011 documents right now. They will be up after the Christmas holiday.

Any questions – feel free to ask. We always have time to help other events or to answer any questions! :D


20
Oct

Con Solutions: Event Internet Connectivity

[note: A list of our actual tech set up comes at the end of this article]

One of our major challenges with the 2010 Intervention event was figuring out how to have affordable Internet connectivity for our staff, guests, panel rooms, Artist Alley participants, and attendees. Anyone who’s ever tried to rent internet connectivity directly from a hotel or convention center can tell you–it ain’t cheap. For three days of connectivity, with only up to 100 connections, it can be upwards of $1250–not a small sum, and it doesn’t even really cover the number of connections needed or is simple to use (each connection requires a username and password).

So we were left in a bit of a spot since our budget wasn’t unlimited.

Our first thought was to investigate using 3g/4g modems running off of cell phone networks. All of the major cell companies have them–but they almost all cost a decent amount per modem, and they almost all require a 2 year contract of service. So the costs over time were equal to or greater than the one time hotel cost.

We then happened to discover one quirk of the area our hotel was located in: It had 4g service based on the Clear network. This network is actually a joint project with Sprint–but isn’t directly based on cell phone technology. It’s actually has more in common with your standard wi-fi network you have in your laptop–but designed to work over a much greater range.

Well, we figured out that if you buy their “home” base station modems, then hook those up to a regular wi-fi router, you can cover the entire hotel with 3 set ups–and it was a fraction of the cost of either of the other solutions. You also own the hardware, so your future costs are much lower. Clear allows you to buy their hardware on a no-contract basis if you want, which really was the determiner for this solution.

Now, this isn’t to say we didn’t have some issues. It turns out Clear is still working on their system–so for 3 weeks in a row we tested out their modems at the hotel, and each week they needed to be placed differently and gave us different throughput and connectivity. The worst thing was the quality generally dropped a bit each week–and at the actual event we had to go to some extreme contortions to get the things to give us an acceptable signal for 2 of the set ups.

But ultimately they worked well enough to be successful. We were able to get a large number of people connected wirelessly to each router, and the routers we primarily used could even separate into multiple wireless networks (a public one and a private one).

Would I suggest this set up for other cons? Yes. But you REALLY need to do advance testing to make sure the modems will work at your location. First consult their map on their site to see if your area has service (and it’s expanding a lot recently). The good thing is they do have a 14 day trial period, so you can send the modem back for a refund if they don’t really work for your location even if it says it should. You should be aware though that the placement for the modem is touchy and you need to try it out all over the place to get the best signal.

So here’s what we used:
3 Clear Series M modems
2 Netgear n600 routers
1 linksys WRT54G router

  • Intervention is a Trademark of Onezumi Events 2016. "Your Online Life, In-Person" Trademark Onezumi Events 2014. All content, art, posts, or information on this site is copyright Onezumi Events 2016.


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