This past weekend was ConnectiCon, which was the first major convention I’ve ever attended as an exhibitor. I’m pretty tired of talking about it at this point, but I did want to post some takeaway/lessons I learned over the weekend.
Let the audience come to me
I tried to stick to the idea that my ideal audience would find me. I spent hundreds of hours on producing Rumbirds and put in a lot of time and effort on making sure my presence at the con was fun and eye-catching. My tablescape and products spoke for themselves and people were able to tell right off the bat whether they’d be interested in what I had to offer or not. I never shouted or pandered to people; I never tried to “sell” people on my products. I understand that Rumbirds isn’t for everybody and I wanted to respect that by not wasting time and energy on attracting the wrong crowd.
Instead I focused on making personal connections with anybody who kindly stopped by the table to learn more about what I had to offer. People bought my books or they didn’t. No big deal. Without this pressure to sell, I had a much more fun experience than I would have if I was hellbent on turning a profit.
One major mistake I made was that I never had a business card made JUST for Rumbirds. I was so used to doing local comic shows that I just put out my personal business card like usual. This confused a lot of people and I ended up having to write the comic site on my card. ARGH.
I doubt many people actually sort through their business cards post-convention, though, which led me to think that I should take it a step further and perhaps print bookmarks or magnets instead – something functional that people would use/see repeatedly instead of tossing away during their next spring cleaning.
Putting my foot down
Since it was my first major convention, I had a hard time figuring out when to put my foot down when it came to certain things…so I didn’t. There were some unfortunate things that happened as a result (mostly personal boundary issues) but it gave me a better idea of what I am NOT okay with when exhibiting at a show. Hopefully I’ll be better about saying no to people in the future when they ask for favors, block my table, or take up too much of my time when they clearly aren’t somebody I want to connect with (either not my target audience or just outright shady).
Dealing with staff issues
This is more targeted to ConnectiCon rather than a general takeaway, but now that it’s over, I feel the need to vent. I can’t say anything about the rest of the convention, but the Online Media Guest portion was SO UNORGANIZED. I was told by a ConnectiCon staffer early in the year (Jan/Feb) to look into attending as an Online Media Guest – so I did. No response FOR THREE WHOLE MONTHS. Those are three entire months I could’ve spent promoting the event at local comic shows.
Thankfully Jamie was kind enough to act as a liaison to the person in charge of our area – funny enough, he would get back to Jamie but NEVER got back to me personally. I didn’t find out I was “officially” on the list until a month before the convention, in a MASS EMAIL THAT DIDN’T BCC THE ADDRESSES – this means I could see every single contact address for everybody that had a table, which would be awesome if I were a crazed stalker or spammer. When I responded to the email asking what time the convention actually started, I was told “Friday” and to arrive there at 7AM (our area opened at 11AM, so that would’ve meant four whole hours of…what, exactly?)
When we arrived at the con, we weren’t given any badges or told where our tables were. There was nobody there to help us. We tried going by the table arrangements in the program book, but naturally those were wrong. We ended up having to go to the staff room to ask what the heck we were supposed to do. We were pointed to the guy in charge, who SAW US WALKING TOWARDS HIM, yet still turned his back to us when we were no less than three feet away. I only had one badge given to me and he took a second badge from Johnny Wander to give to Roy. No lanyards – thankfully we didn’t wait for him to come back with them (he never did) and instead I went with a fellow exhibitor who was nice enough to help me out and get them.
The last major incident was being asked for travel receipts when I was never told that our travel expenses were going to be compensated for. In fact, I spoke with others who were under the impression that only artists in a certain area were going to be compensated for travel costs. But that was not the case, as I was given a hastily folded up paper “envelope” to put my non-existent receipts in. If I had known expenses would’ve been covered I would’ve obviously saved the receipts from the $20/day parking all weekend.
We did get apologies from some of the other staff in charge, which I appreciated, but it didn’t do much to make up for all of the stress that occurred leading up to the event. I’m trying to remain optimistic, though, and am hoping that next year will be less stressful on the backend of things.
Overall I had an excellent time this past weekend. I met so many wonderful people and had a chance to talk shop with other exhibitors. Attending local shows all year helped me feel more prepared for this bigger event and I’m happy to say that – aside from some minor goofs – nothing really took me by surprise. Hopefully if they’ll have me back next year it will be even better.