by John Shableski
[Editor's note: here's another take on putting on a con from a first time show runner, and the lessons he learned.]
If you’ve been reading Mike Scigliano’s Comic-Conversations columns you get some really good insights on what’s involved in producing a major comic con. Thanks to an invite from Heidi, I get to share the experience of a different kind of con.
When it comes to making the decision to produce a con, this is not something for the weak at heart more like it’s a challenge for the mildly insane…and worth every ounce of effort.
My most recent experience in the con planning world comes from an event called the Wildcat Comic Con which was held on a college campus here in Williamsport, PA. Our approach to the Wildcat Comic Con was an entirely different take. We developed the programming first and then the sellers hall/artist alley followed. The main thrust of the programming is that we wanted every session to be about the craft of comics. Whether the speakers were artists, editors, publishers, educators or fans, our goal was to create a common language. This way the next gen creator in the room got the message just as well as that teacher sitting next to them.
Wildcat was also a different creature in that this was a con produced entirely by the campus staff. I served as a consultant and contractor as well as author/creator liaison.
When you plan a con, there are more than a few elements you need to deal with: Location, transportation of talent, and marketing, marketing, marketing.
If you are in a Class B or Class C city you have your work cut out for you. You will need some A list talent to pull fans in and your location probably means there are no direct flights to your location.
You also need to start working at least a year out to help create a buzz for your con. That means social media, working with local radio and news papers and posting flyers on telephone poles and bulletin board in every 7/11 or mini market for at least a 50 mile radius. IF YOU DONT market your event you wont get people to show. It’s really that simple.
Too often the folks closest to the con planning spend so much time talking about the con they assume the entire world knows about it. You have to develop a regular schedule of promotional efforts and publicity that stays consistent right up to the final day of your event.
Another major element to consider: There are now over 400 comic cons taking place across the country each year. Major cons in New York, Chicago, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Atlanta all have an impact on your con. They determine who is available for your show. Study the calendar and figure out the least challenging date to work with and you have a starting point…sort of.
Next time on Building the Con: Finding the venue and picking your team.