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.

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