A Year in #ConLife, Part 4

It’s program planning time! Sharon, your friendly neighborhood con chair, here saying hello. Fall signals the start of our highly capable programming team shifting into high gear. If you’re following us on social media (and if you’re not, go to Farpoint Convention on Facebook and/or @FarpointCon on Twitter) you have seen the announcement that the list of panels will be sent out soon for you to select programs you’d like to participate in. To add yourself to the distribution of the panel list, email us at Programs@FarpointCon.com

We solicit and receive panel ideas from guests and attendees, more than we (unfortunately) have room for. What do we do with your submissions? Once the submission period has ended, our programming team evaluates each idea and assigns them to one of our programming tracks. The assignment can be complicated because ideas will often cross tracks. For example, a talk on writing content for online outlets in the Authors track would also interest guests and attendees in our New Media track which covers online creativity. All programs we identify with potential to cross tracks are identified as such in our database and opened to guests and program participants who express interest in both tracks to encourage a diversity of speakers on the panel.

Another criterion we look for from your submissions is idea duplication. Each year, we receive great submissions from multiple people on a particular subject. Rather than accept one of the idea variations and reject all the others, our programming team will take all of the submissions on the topic and look for a way to combine them into a single program. The people submitting the original ideas will be notified of the combined topic and asked if they are still interested in participating. In most instances they are, allowing us to accept multiple submissions for the topic and again have a diversity of ideas and voices for the program.

We also look at past programs to see if a similar topic has been staged recently. This does not necessarily mean your idea will be rejected, however. If the topic is popular, repeating it in the following year can be a good thing but we also want to avoid duplicating the same ideas from one year to the next too often.

Once the program ideas are assigned to a track and evaluated, the programming team compiles a final list of the programs and panels we want to present at the convention. You will be notified by the team if your idea is accepted or not. Everyone who submitted program ideas will receive a copy of the final program list. Programs are listed as being “open” or “closed” and you will be asked to submit your choice of “open” program topics you wish to participate on as a speaker/panelist. A “closed” program is one staged by a specific guest(s) with the topic related to their area of expertise. An examples of a “closed” program is a in our Science track led by the scientists and engineers sharing their expertise in the field.

Our programming chairs will take everyone’s requests for panel speaking spots, assign speakers to panel(s) and place the programs on the convention schedule. We use a custom program planning database for this task. The database tracks assignments of rooms, times, topics, equipment and speakers and gives an error message when someone or something is double-booked at the same time or place. Assigning programs to specific room and time slots requires balancing the convention’s overall schedule requirements with each individual’s request for speaking slots. We also work hard to ensure that two different programs on the same topic are not occurring simultaneously on the schedule. For example, we would not want an Authors track talk on writing for the Star Trek universe opposite a Movies/TV track panel on Star Trek so that Trek fans have the opportunity to attend both programs.

The programming team will produce 2-4 draft schedules during the November to early January time frame and evaluate each version for mistakes and issues. The schedule version resulting from the programming team review is evaluated by the entire committee in mid-January. Committee feedback is incorporated and the final draft schedule is again reviewed by everyone. Once approved, the schedule goes to the printer, our website and social media for publication. The programming team will send each guest and program participant a personalized program schedule.

Farpoint Convention is proud that our program schedule is finalized and ready for publication each year at least 2 weeks prior to the convention, allowing you to better plan your convention experience. You may also notice that we have almost zero “on the fly” schedule changes during the convention. The rigorous schedule review process by our dedicated programming team and committee ensures that our schedule is firm and ready to go when we open our doors on Friday. We thank our loyal guests and attendees for submitting their wonderful ideas and being willing to participate in programs at the convention. We would not have our #EmbarrassmentOfRiches without YOU!

A Year in #ConLife, Part 3

Sharon, your friendly neighborhood convention co-chair here, with the next part in our blog series talking about our year in #ConLife as we get ready for #FarpointCon2018!

Our last entry talked guest selection. We have since announced guests Matt Frewer, Nana Visitor, Timothy Zahn, Nora McLellan, Glenn Greenberg, and more that you can see on the Guest page on our website. Don’t forget that your 3-day, Saturday and Sunday convention tickets include 1 complimentary signature from your choice of our celebrity guests each day, giving our 3-day attendees 2 complimentary signatures in total. Our author guests will have copies of their books for sale and will also sign your personal copies if you bring them to the convention.

With guest selection underway, our programming team is beginning to look at ideas for panel discussions and events. If you have any ideas for our program team, please email them at Programs@FarpointCon.com. The events you are traditionally used to seeing at Farpoint will be returning: Art Show, Charity Auction, Masquerade, Gaming, Vic’s Place karaoke, Book Fair, Dinner and A Movie and the Ten Forward dance party.

If you are a dealer/vendor or know one, our #FarpointCon2018 Dealers Room is projecting to sell out by the end of September! That’s very exciting but it makes it important for any dealers out there considering joining us to send in their application as soon as possible. A copy of the application can be downloaded from the Dealers page on our website.

And we’ve been “on the road” at other conventions in the area! Since our last entry, we had tables or booths at Balticon 51 , AwesomeCon, BlerdCon , Shore Leave and StarQuest .  We had a lot of fun at each of these events and got the chance to meet new friends that we hope will join us at #FarpointCon2018.

One of the things we do at each publicity event is invite people to follow us on one of our social media channels (Farpoint Convention on Facebook and @FarpointCon on Twitter). New members from that weekend are put into a drawing to win two 3-day convention tickets. Even if you already follow us on social media, encourage your friends to join us during one of the weekends below even if they’re not at the event. They would still be a new member from that weekend and could win the 2 tickets and bring you along! Here’s where we’ll be for the rest of the summer. If you are attending any of these events, please stop by the Farpoint Convention display to say hello.

Our next #ConLife blog will continue to follow our programming team as they begin to build the schedule for #FarpointCon2018. Thank you for supporting Farpoint Convention and please share our online presence with your friends.

A Year in #ConLife, Part 2

Sharon, your friendly neighborhood convention co-chair here, with the next part in our blog series talking about our year in #ConLife as we get ready for #FarpointCon2018!

Our last entry covered venue selection. Now that we have our venue, the Delta Hotel by Marriott in Hunt Valley, MD (formerly the Hunt Valley Inn) it is time for guest selection. Farpoint is very lucky to have a wonderful group of supportive industry professionals – science fiction and comic writers, scientists and performers – who attend as guests on a regular basis. It is important, however, that we never assume that any of these in demand pros are coming. They are among our first outgoing invitations for the next year, informing them of the dates and venue with our hope that they will be able to join us again.

Along with our beloved “regulars” we begin looking at potential celebrity guests. Selecting a celebrity guest is quite complicated. It starts with looking at the budget. The appearance fee for a celebrity guest is paid in one of two ways: the convention pays the entire fee upfront allowing the guest to provide signatures and photo ops at no charge or the convention guarantees the guest will make an agreed upon amount from attendees paying for the guest’s signature and/or photo op. In the latter case, the convention agrees to pay the guest the difference if the sales do not reach the guaranteed amount. As such, it is important for the convention to understand their level of attendance and the potential for each guest to make their minimum sales guarantee and then ensure the convention has sufficient funds to cover any guarantee shortfalls in a worst case scenario. The convention will also be paying for the celebrity’s airfare, hotel and meals during the weekend, and possibly the same for an assistant sent along by the booking agent. Another potential expense is the cost of the photos the guest will be signing. Who pays for the photos is an item to be settled when negotiating the guest’s appearance agreement. Travel costs are part of the upfront expenses a convention needs to cover, along with supplies, equipment rentals, printing of programs, schedules and signs, and deposits to the venue. A convention must make sure that they have sufficient funds to pay for all of these costs.

Once we determine the amount of money we have available to pay the expenses for celebrity guests, we look at the input we have received from our attendees on who they would like to see and consider which TV shows, movies, comics and books people are interested in. This gives us a list of names for potential guests. We contact agents we know work with the potentials on our list to find out the appearance requirements for each. Our agent friends also provide suggestions on potential guests with their requirements.

The fee requirements data allows us to focus on potential guests who match the best with Farpoint. We then select guests to make offers to and submit the offers through the agent. Our normal process is to submit to one guest at a time as we do not want to over commit our available funds. Whether the guest accepts our offer is completely out of our control. That decision comes down to the guest’s anticipated availability for a convention appearance in February and their personal desire to do an appearance. Some celebrities also do not wish to book an appearance more than 3-4 months out to limit the possibility of their having to cancel because of a change in their work schedule. When all of the factors come together, we are able to sign an agreement and announce the guest’s appearance. We will be announcing our first #FarpointCon2018 guests at Balticon 51, being held on Memorial Day weekend (May 26-29, 2017) at the Renaissance Hotel Inner Harbor in Baltimore, MD.

Our table at Balticon 51 is the latest in our series of publicity displays at conventions throughout the year. Normally, Farpoint will do a table trade with other conventions where they provide us a table to set up our display at to meet people and we provide them the same at the next Farpoint. In a few instances, we will purchase a table in the convention’s dealer area as the organization does not offer table trades yet their event is in a geographic area and/or date range we wish to hit. We use our appearances at other conventions to hand out our latest Farpoint flier and introduce attendees to another opportunity for them to gather with fellow fans.

Between Part 1 of our #ConLife series and Part 2 (this entry), Farpoint has attended CreatorCon in Silver Spring, MD, FurTheMore in Tysons Corner, VA, and the Anne Arundel Public Library Comic Con in Odenton, MD. We highly recommend all 3 of these events as places fans can meet and have fun together. CreatorCon (http://www.creatorconfestival.com/) focuses on original art and technology to encourage fans to create on their own and to network with other creators. FurTheMore (http://www.furthemore.org/) initially began as an event focusing exclusively on the Furry community but over the years has expanded to cover costuming, cosplay, and pop culture, and welcomes furries and non-furries alike for a weekend of workshops, discussions and fun. The Anne Arundel Public Library Comic Con (http://www.aacpl.net/comic-con) is a free event spotlighting comics, literature and superheroes. Many public library systems are offering these fun one day community events and we encourage everyone to attend their local library event as it occurs.

Coming up on our publicity tour is:

AwesomeCon  June 16-18, 2017 in Washington DC,
ShoreLeave July 7-9, 2017 in Hunt Valley MD
StarQuest  in Frederick MD.
If you are attending any of these events, please stop by the Farpoint Convention display to say hello.

Our next #ConLife blog will continue to talk about more experiences from our publicity tour and follow our programming team as they begin to build the schedule for #FarpointCon2018. Thank you for supporting Farpoint Convention and please share our online presence with your friends.

A Year in #ConLife, Part 1

We often get asked what happens between conventions, as we close out the previous year and plan for the next. You can follow along with us courtesy of our blog as we get ready for #FarpointCon2018, our 25th anniversary.

The first 2 months after the convention see quite a bit of activity. First there is the “mandatory” one week of “do not mention the convention to me in any way shape or form”. After, we make certain all final bills are paid, borrowed equipment and supplies are returned to their owners and hold a post-con meeting to review things that went right and things that can be improved upon for the next year. The first major decision for the next convention is the date and venue. We contact multiple local venues requesting cost proposals for our established date of President’s Day weekend and the weekends surrounding.

Evaluating the proposals requires several steps. First is establishing the initial budget for the next convention. Being an established event gives us a leg up on budgeting; we have good historical data on our attendance numbers and regular expenses and as such can establish upfront the affordable range for our venue costs. The second step is taking the proposed costs submitted by each venue and calculating out the expected total cost for using that venue. This means we can’t just take their numbers at face value. We take the venue’s space rental fee, hotel room rates and catering menus to develop an estimate of what our final bill would be at the venue, making sure to properly apply applicable taxes and service charges. Each venue is also evaluated on multiple other factors including whether they can give us our traditional President’s Day weekend, whether the venue can provide sufficient tables, chairs and staging, ease of access and parking, and if the venue has sufficient space and sleeping rooms for us. All of these factors combined point us to the specific venue for our event.

As previously announced, our 25th anniversary convention will be at the Hunt Valley Inn in Hunt Valley, MD on February 9-11, 2018. You may notice this is not President’s Day weekend. After evaluating the 6 proposals we received for #FarpointCon2018, HVI made the best overall offer; the only big “hit” on their offer was the fact that we couldn’t have President’s Day weekend but the weekend before. After deliberation, our group consensus was that HVI was the best choice despite not being on President’s Day. In every other factor, HVI beat out every other venue by a substantial margin and will give us and our attendees the best value.

With our date and venue chosen our next steps will be to begin identifying celebrity guests and set up our #FarpointCon2018 “publicity tour” – the other events and conventions we will participate in to advertise our convention. Our next #ConLife report will look at choosing celebrity guests and report on life from the road.

 

Convention Pre-Registration is Complete!

WOW! Our convention pre-registration period closed on 1/31/17 and our advance sales are 30% higher compared to last year. We are thrilled and amazed with the love and support from all of our attendees.

Now that we’re down to a handful of days, here’s the at-the-door information for you:

Weekend ticket, adults (3 days)                           $85.00

Weekend ticket, child 6-12 (3 days)                  $25.00

Weekend ticket, child 0-5 (3 days)                     Free with paying adult

Friday single day ticket                                              $15.00

Saturday single day ticket                                        $60.00

Saturday evening after 6PM ticket                     $10.00

Sunday single day ticket                                             $40.00

Cocktail party food add-on (Friday evening) $25.00

Weekend, Saturday and Sunday tickets include one signature from the celebrity of your choice each day at no additional charge on an item from your personal collection you present to be signed. Weekend attendees get 1 signature each day (Saturday and Sunday).

Everyone, please travel safely and we look forward to seeing you all soon!

Farpoint 2017 Progress Update

Farpoint 2017 Autograph Information

Here is the information on obtaining guest autographs for your reference as you prepare to join us at Farpoint 2017! Email us at contact@FarpointCon.com if you have any additional questions.

Celebrity Autographs – Sam Witwer, Enver Gjokaj, Nicholas Meyer

Weekend, Saturday and Sunday attendees will receive ONE signature at no additional charge from the celebrity of their choice on an item they bring to be signed from their personal collection OR the convention program book. Weekend attendees can get one signature on Saturday and one on Sunday for a total of two no charge signatures for the weekend. Saturday and Sunday attendees will receive one signature on the day they attend the convention.

Costs for additional signatures/items from the guest’s table are as follows:

Sam Witwer

$40 – signed photo purchase from the table/additional items to be signed from personal collection

$30 – at the table picture with Sam

$60 – signed photo and at the table picture combination

Enver Gjokaj

$40 – signed photo purchase from the table/additional items to be signed from personal collection

$30 – at the table picture with Enver

$60 – signed photo and at the table picture combination

Nicholas Meyer

Items from attendee’s personal collection will be signed at no charge.

At the table photos with Nicholas will be at no charge.

Signed books, videos and items for sale at the table will be at the prices set by the guest.

 

Authors, Performers, Scientists and Other Guests

Our author, performer, scientist and other guests will sign items from attendee’s personal collection or the convention program book at no charge. Guests may also have books, videos and items for sale at prices they set. They will take photos with the attendee at no charge.

Our celebrity guests for 2017 will be Sam Witwer from the Star Wars universe, Once Upon A Time and Being Human; Academy Award-nominated director Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek Discovery, Star Trek II, Star Trek IV and Star Trek VI, Seven-Per-Cent Solution and Time After Time); and Enver Gjokaj from Marvel’s Agent Carter and Dollhouse. All 3 will be arriving in time to attend our Friday evening Opening Ceremony and we hope to see you there too! The Opening Ceremony starts with a Cocktail Hour at 7:00 pm, with cash bar and food buffet available if you wish to eat and drink with us. Food buffet tickets can be added on to your ticket for $25; the buffet is all you can eat.

Other new additions to our guest list include authors Pip Ballantine, Tee Morris, Michael Ventrella, artist Heidi Hooper and geek comedian/musician Mikey Mason. Unfortunately authors Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Mike McPhail and Mary Fan and musician Insane Ian have had to cancel their appearances at Farpoint Convention 2017 due to schedule conflicts.

You can purchase your tickets for Farpoint in advance at www.FarpointCon.com/register from now until January 31, 2017. Ticket prices will be higher at the door. You can also print out the registration form online at www.FarpointCon.com/flier and mail it in with your payment.

Our hotel room block at the Radisson Hotel North Baltimore is selling quickly as well. Book your room online at https://www.radisson.com/timonium-hotel-md-21093/usatmmd using code FARPOI, or call the hotel directly at 410-252-7373. Thank you in advance for booking your room under our block. The more rooms we sell, the more our hotel likes us and gives us excellent pricing for our use of the meeting rooms. We’ve been able to keep our ticket price the same for the last SIX YEARS because of your loyalty to us and our hotel.

Our 2017 charities are the Julien Fleming Memorial Fund (www.jfmf.org) and Art Way Alliance (www.artwayalliance.org). We will be having two live auctions (Friday and Saturday evening) and a silent auction from Friday through Sunday morning to benefit our charities. Art Way Alliance, which provides instruction in drawing and animation techniques to young fans, will be participating in programs throughout the weekend as well.

We’re excited to announce a new showcase for this year: Fandom Central! Located in Dulaney Valley 1, Fandom Central is where you will find the displays and information tables for our fandom partners – other local conventions, fan clubs, charities and independent film production companies. Please make sure to visit Fandom Central and thank our friends for their support.

Congratulations to John Norton, winner of the 2017 Volker/McChesney Award for Service to Fandom. John was nominated in recognition of his hands on support of our continuing charity activities. You may recognize John as “that guy” who aced you out of that prime collectible during one of our live auctions. He has participated in the Washington/Baltimore convention scene for many years and can always be counted on to lend a helping hand or a smile whenever needed.

Schedule development is well underway! If you are interested in participating on any panels, please send us an email at Programs@FarpointCon.com to request a copy of the list of proposed panels for the convention. We are also bringing back several of our most popular live events, including the Wizard Dueling League and Cosmic Game Show. A new live event is the Button Down Pinback Party, which is an all age event looking at the history of using buttons in advertising and political campaigns and providing all participants the chance to create their own button during the party. More information on all our panels, shows and activities will be forthcoming as plans continue to develop. Make sure you follow us on Facebook (Farpoint Convention) and Twitter (@FarpointCon) and check our website www.FarpointCon.com to keep up with the latest news. The convention schedule is scheduled to be finalized February 2, 2017 and will be published online at that time.

We look forward to seeing you in February at Farpoint Convention 24!

Autographs and Photos FAQ

Autographs and Photos – A Frequently Asked Question
Fans discovering Farpoint Convention for the first time often ask about our way of providing autographs and photos with celebrity guests, because many of them discover us through our appearances at local comic cons where autographs and photos are handled differently.
Our convention attendees do not need additional tickets for autographs/photos at Farpoint. Our roots are in the original Star Trek fandom and we honor these roots by staying “old school” with fans’ interactions with our guests. All of our celebrity guests are available at their signing stations throughout Saturday and Sunday at the convention for you to meet and get autographs and photos. Each attendee receives one signature Saturday and one Sunday from the celebrity of their choice on an item from their personal collection or the program book at no additional charge. Our guests will, of course, have additional items available for sale at their station. You can choose the time when you want to stop by to meet Sam around your enjoyment of the 200+ hours of panel discussions, activities and games we plan throughout the weekend.
We do not offer professional photo opportunities. As a small convention of between 800 and 1000 attendees we do not offer professional photographers the volume of “throughput” they desire at a convention. Our guests will normally take photos with the fan’s camera at their table. It is up to the guest whether they will charge a fee for the at the table photo. Most guests will charge $0 to $20 at the most.
We provide our guests with escorts and assistants as needed throughout the weekend from our team to assist them and our attendees. This level of trust from our guests is a reflection on both our wonderful community of friendly fans and our 24 years of experience running Farpoint Convention. We are very proud of Farpoint Convention’s reputation as a place where fans and guests can interact in a relaxed, safe and fun atmosphere.
One of the other advantages of being a smaller convention is that our celebrity guests are able and willing to do additional activities with us. For example, both Sam Witwer and Enver Gjokai will be attending our Opening Ceremonies on Friday night (unless there are travel issues). They may also be participating in our traditional radio play performance by Prometheus Radio Theatre, which will be a one-time opportunity for you to see them in action live. Sam and Enver are planning to judge our Masquerade competition on Saturday evening. It is also not surprising for attendees to run into our guests at the bar or karaoke party during the weekend. All of our guests tend to mix and mingle with us throughout the weekend, allowing everyone to visit and chat at their leisure.
Additional autograph opportunities are available with our author and scientist guests. If you like to get all your books signed and pick up copies of your favorite author’s new book at one time, make plans to attend our Book Fair on Friday evening after the Opening Ceremonies. Our author and scientist guests are available at other times throughout the weekend for meeting fans and signing your copies of their books or your program book. They will sign your personal copy at no charge and are always glad to share information on their latest projects.
Convention attendees can purchase tickets now at http://www.farpointcon.com/register/ and book their hotel room at http://www.farpointcon.com/hotel-information/.

We are looking forward to seeing everyone this February!

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