If you’ve been to your share of gaming, anime or comic book conventions and thought you could do one better yourself—maybe you could. Running a convention is a lot harder than it looks, but it isn’t impossible. Even if your convention is not hugely successful, you’ll have a good time. On the other hand, you could make a lot of money and start a beloved tradition that thousands mark as their favorite weekend of the year.
Do the Research
Attend conventions, talk to conrunners and volunteer to help at events yourself. As you do so, think about what elements you do and don’t want to include in your own event. This includes considering whether it is cost-effective and in the spirit of your con to include celebrity guests. You also need to get the legalities in place. This means getting insurance, understanding any ordinances you must follow and setting yourself up as either a business or a nonprofit.
Join the Community
Your convention will be much better received if you are already known and liked in the community of fans that you plan to target. There is also a wealth of expertise in these communities, and there’s no point in reinventing the wheel. Most people are generous with their knowledge and eager for more help. You’ll have access to resources, volunteers and the knowledge of others if you spend the time getting to know people.
Deal with Finances
Despite what you may have heard about some of the big ones, most conventions aren’t huge money makers. You might make a little or a lot, but you should also be prepared to lose money. You’ll probably need to put down some money up front, and this could mean reorganizing your finances so you have more cash flow. If you have debt, see what you can refinance or consolidate. For example, if you have several different student loans with varying interest rates, you may be able to consolidate them into a single payment. Some research could give you an idea of your options and whether student loan consolidation is right for you. You might also want to cut back on your spending in other areas, perhaps taking the money you would have used for a vacation and putting it toward the con instead.
Maybe in several years, tens of thousands of people will want to come to your event, but to start with, keep it manageable. Stay focused on the fandom you love and know the best, and consider starting with a single day or just one or two tracks of programming. This could actually work for you in a marketing sense. If you cap ticket sales at just a few hundred, your event will have an exclusivity factor. Smaller plans also mean less financial risk, particularly given that your major cost will probably be venue. Over time, as you become more experienced, you can expand beyond that initial idea and perhaps include other fandoms as well—but perhaps not. Your biggest value could be your brand and exclusive focus.
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