We are thrilled to announce our first celebrity guest for 2019 – Wallace Shawn! You know his face and his voice from his diverse movie and television roles. Wallace Shawn is known as “Vizzini” from The Princess Bride, “Rex” in Disney’s Toy Story series, “Zek” in Star Trek Deep Space Nine, “Mr. Hall” in Clueless, and his unmistakable voice can be heard in “Teacher’s Pet”, “The Incredibles”, “Family Guy”, “Kung Fu Panda” and many more roles. Wallace will be appearing at Farpoint all 3 days, attending the Friday evening cocktail party and opening ceremonies and speaking and signing on Saturday and Sunday. The links to purchase your membership tickets and reserve hotel rooms can be found here on our website. Join us for a rare opportunity to meet this movie and television legend!
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!
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.
- Southern Maryland Comic Con, Hollywood, MD 8/26/17
- Escape Velocity, Washington DC, 9/1-3/17
- Four State Retro Pop Con, Hagerstown, MD, 9/9-10/17
- PotterVerse, Baltimore, MD, 9/8-10/17
- MidAtlantic Nostalgia Con, Hunt Valley, MD, 9/14-16/17
- Baltimore Comic Con, Baltimore, MD, 9/22-24/17,
- Annapolis Comic Con, Annapolis, MD 9/30/17,
- MonsterMania Con, Hunt Valley, MD 9/29-10/1/17
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.
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.
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.
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!