So, you want to start a furry convention! Great! We’ll never say no to a new event. And this is a topic I happen to know a little about, as I’ve been staffing/running conventions for 20 years now. (I’m old)
Let’s start with a few questions I’d like to throw out, the sort of questions every new convention organizer should ask themselves…
A Furry Convention Building Checklist:
Have you staffed a con before?
Are you incorporated? If so, as a 501(c)3 or 501(c)7?
Do you have a separate bank account for the organization?
Do you have a budget?
Do you have a hotel or other venue?
Do you have a signed contract with the venue?
Did you read the contract in its entirety?
Do you have liability insurance?
Do you have legal counsel?
Have you lined up people who can be senior staff/department heads for major portions of the convention, such as Programming, A/V, Dealers Room, etc.?
Have you vetted your staff?
Do you have a website?
How about social media?
Is there another con already serving the same general area?
If so, will potential attendees feel that they are forced to choose between the two cons?
One of my activities outside of the office consists of staffing furry conventions. One of those conventions is Anthrocon, a furry convention held in downtown Pittsburgh every June/July. At that particular convention, I manage the website and their social media properties.
Yesterday, we opened general hotel reservations, and that resulted in a huge rush of members booking hotel rooms. 1,000 rooms were booked in the first 15 minutes! This was completely expected, and we kept track of how things played out on social media, and also took a survey of members who booked hotel rooms to see how things went. In this post, we’re going to share what we learned based on those survey results and Twitter activity.
First, did people who booked a hotel room get the hotel that they wanted?
For nearly 70% of you, the answer is yes. This makes us happy, but we would like to see the number higher—ideally 100% of our attendees would get a room in the hotel of their choice. This is something we continue to work on each year by adding new hotels and getting bigger room blocks in existing hotels.
Each year, The Dorsai Irregulars have their own annual convention known as “Dorsai Thing”. It is a weekend long event, held in a different city each year, where we all gather, socialize, and hold our semi-annual business meeting. This year, it was held in Phildelphia, and it fell on my shoulders to run the event, dubbed “Liberty Thing” While I’ve worked at plenty of conventions before, this was the first one where I was effectively the Con Chair. This was an entirely new thing for me, and I wanted to write a blog post about some of the things I learned during the experience.
When hotel reservations open, that is the single busiest time of the year for Anthrocon’s webserver. In fact, it even caused us performance problems last year. That was not so good.
So this year, I decided to try something different. Instead of leaving the regular website up and running, which involves using Drupal, I instead decided to replace the entire page with a relatively static “countdown” page, which displayed a countdown timer and automatically started displaying the hotel link at 11 AM on the opening day.
First, some stats for the Anthrocon website:
Peak bandwidth: 1.6 Megabits/sec
Peak connections: 1,400 concurrent connections
And now some status for Passkey, who handled most of the traffic:
Often this is done on the basis of referrals–if I think a con is interesting/cool, there’s a chance I’ll know someone who is on staff and inquire through them what the staff experience is like. If I receive positive answers, I’ll inquire about joining staff.
If it’s a convention where I don’t know any staff, I’ll volunteer first and see how I like it. If I have a positive experience, I’ll inquire about being on staff in a future year.
Why Do I Work So Many Cons?
Many reasons. First, it gives me a chance to make positive contributions to the community. Second, it provides me with a bit of structure to the convention–having to be in certain places at certain times helps me better organize how I spend my time at the con. And finally, it gives me an opportunity to meet people–I’ve made many many friends over the years just by staffing cons… and getting to see these people again at future cons makes the experience just so much more fun.
The totals from the above cons are as follows: 104 total conventions. I staffed 75 of those cons (they’re in italics), most (but not all) of which were also furry conventions. The full spreadsheet of conventions I’ve attended and staffed can be found here.