Conventions have been a huge part of our lives for years now. We’ve attended about 30 as a company.
While there are differences between cons, many of them are structured similarly. This is part one of what we’ve learned so far while exhibiting.
There are a lot of ways that you can get to a convention. If you’re fortunate, you live in a big city that has some of the larger shows (like Seattle or New York City). If not, you have two main options: drive or fly.
If you drive, chances are you’re going to be tempted to pile all of your stuff in a van, drive to the venue, and setup your booth a day or two before the show. Here’s what typically happens when you go this route:
Very few venues will let you just drive up and start unloading. There is normally a process in which you must first go to what’s called a marshaling yard. Marshaling Yard is a fancy word for ‘parking lot’.
You’ll report in, tell them your booth number, and wait until someone at the loading dock tells the marshaling yard that there is room for you. At this time you may then proceed to the loading docks at the venue.
Note: The marshaling yard and the loading docks are not always close together. They are also usually hidden by some kind of elven magic that makes them particularly difficult to find.
Once at the loading docks, there may or may not actually be room for you. If there is, it typically tends to be located at the point farthest from your booth. Hopefully you brought a large dolly or cart to load everything up to make the load in with just a few trips. Ridiculous loading times are often given, like twenty minutes, but don’t worry too much as I’ve never seen these actually enforced.
Once you’ve moved all of your stuff in, you may need to go find another place to park and come back to setup your booth.
If you fly, your process can be more like this:
- Fly to destination city.
- Get an uber to the venue.
- Find your shipment which has been magically transported to your booth by Union Elves.
- Setup your booth
Obviously one is easier. Obviously I am a glutton for punishment. I keep driving.
So what makes a good booth? That’s kind of like asking what makes a good mate, there are some basic characteristics most agree on, but it varies based on the individual.
It’s more of an art than a science. Here’s what one of our first booths looked like:
Some big points about presentation:
- There isn’t anything that really draws your eye to the booth
- Everything is flat on the table, which makes it much less dynamic
- There isn’t any signage for prices
- Not having a draped table makes it look like a lemonade stand
We still have a long way to go, but we’ve been building up our arsenal over the years. If we had a lot of extra cash, it would be a little easier, but instead we’ve had to put it all together one piece at a time. As of this writing, this was the last iteration of our booth:
- Moar banners! We try and use as many as possible. Since we have so many licenses, somebody is bound to like at least one of them right?
- We opened up the space a little more by staggering the glass case in the back (hard to see in this picture, but it’s lit up back there).
- Counter displays, stacked product, and more signage so customers know what they’re looking at.
- Those little grey things. They are your savior. Padded floor mats that will make standing for days on end much more bearable, trust me.
Winter is Coming
Okay, it seriously is now that it’s almost February in Texas. But to be prepared, there are two things you need: food and water.
Stock up on bottled water from Walmart or somewhere cheap. You don’t want to get stuck paying $3.50 – $5.00 for each water at a convention when you can’t leave your booth.
For snacks, we like things like beef jerky, trail mix, and granola bars to keep us going.
Con crud, the plague, whatever you want to call it, it’s that illness you get during or after a convention if you aren’t careful.
The best way we’ve found to combat this?
- Sleep as much as possible
- Drink as much water as possible
- Use this liberally…
Seriously, we practically bathe in this stuff during a convention. Use it after shaking hands, handling products customers are touching, doing game demos, or before you eat anything. It’s like 99 cents and will last you 2-3 days. Best. Investment. Ever.
Get as many people as you can to help out. Three to four days is a LONG time when you can’t leave your booth and only have one or two people.
If you have games to demo, try to find some friendly folks that are willing to help teach your games for a few hours in exchange for a free badge. If you can afford it, extra swag, hotel rooms, etc. are also good ways to find more volunteers.
Note: we can’t afford it yet. But we do have ONE extra badge for PAX South 2016 and need some help running demos. Anyone interested in helping us a few hours each day to attend a sold-out convention for free?
It also helps to have runners for food, bathroom breaks, etc. Some conventions like PAX and RTX have event staff dedicated to this, but that’s the exception not the rule.
- Ship your stuff to the convention and fly
- Spend some time and money on your booth setup
- Stock up on water, snacks, and hand sanitizer
- Recruit some help
Let us know if there is anything you want to know in the next segment. Otherwise you get stuck with whatever I feel like writing about.