Welcome to the first-timers’ series, in which I ask a panel of seasoned gamers and experts from the US and beyond to advise newbies on a variety of larp-related topics, from running a first game to organizing a convention. It’s not easy to try something new, but with the right advice, maybe it’ll be a little easier.
Today’s advice is for first-time convention organizers.
Cater to your audience, according to Aaron Vanek:
Decide on your ideal attendees, and design the convention around them. Realize you will never please everyone, ever. And good luck trying to find a weekend to run your convention that doesn’t conflict with something important and big to at least a portion of your ideal audience.
Establish a chain of command, says Avonelle Wing:
Do not rule by committee. Rule by Committee is the death of personal responsibility. And of conventions.
Take personal ownership of your convention, and empower other people to act to support the vision. When there is somebody who can immediately and directly address anything that might go wrong, and a chain of command for escalating concerns to that person/team, you avoid the “That’s not my department” trap that often hinders customer
service. When decisions require a committee, you get stuck in personality conflicts that will absolutely sink your boat.
Remember the volunteers, according to Michael Pucci:
Chances are that people are not coming to your convention because it is your convention, but because of what it has to offer in the way of entertainment and features. Remember that without the people who run the entertainment, your guests are not going to return year after year. Treat your vendors, workers, and volunteers like gold… but expect them to do what they say they are going to do. Also, consider that your greatest form of advertisement is through the story tellers, artists, and vendors that work your convention. By active decision or not, these people will pass their review of your convention onto other people in the business… and could very well make or break future generations of the convention.
Budget extra time, Geoffrey Schaller says:
Be prepared for the fact that, at a very base level, people SUCK. Anything that involves people to arrange or finalize – scheduling events; printing flyers, programs, or shirts; making hotel arrangements; registration; and (the biggest of all) attendees – will become a nightmare to handle at some point because someone, somewhere, screwed up, and now it’s YOUR problem. Sometimes, you have a trusted ally that can clean up the mess, or deflect the issue before it reaches you – other times, you need to put on the rubber gloves and do it yourself. Be prepared, and willing, to do this yourself, or else you will quickly wind up miserable, and possibly worse (in serious debt).
Aaron Vanek has been playing, designing, running, and thinking about larps for 25 years. His larp publications include the illustrated essay “Cooler Than You Think: Understanding Live Action Role Playing“; “The Non-United Larp States of America” in the Talk Knutepunkt 2011 book, “Predictions for Larp” in Journeys to Another World, the Wyrd Con book, and the blueprint for “Rock Band Murder Mystery” in the Do Knutepunkt 2011 book. He hopes for at least another 25 years of larp.
Avonelle Wing is the Senior Vice President of Double Exposure, Inc. Along with her partners and a team of friends, comrades and co-visionaries, she works to produce two full-sized gaming conventions and a variety of other gaming related productions each year. She is a larper at her core – collaborative storytelling is her art form of choice.
Michael Pucci is the CEO of Eschaton Media and the creator of multiple larps, tabletop books, scripts and gaming-related media. He has more than twenty years experience storytelling for larps, tabletops, and convention games, and spent five years in the business side of the gaming industry. He proudly holds the title of ‘Zombie Lord‘ while looking for more inventive approaches to modernize gaming.
Geoffrey Schaller is a gaming gypsy, having wandered into and out of tabletop RPGs, Collectable Card Games, Miniatures, larp (WoD, boffer, and other), Board Games, MMOs, and countless other forms of gaming, as a player, play tester, demo-runner, author, and staff member. He still dabbles in all of them when he gets the chance. He is the Technical Director of Double Exposure, Inc.
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Other First-Time Guides