Convention Report: GalaxyFest 2017

This last weekend, I had the opportunity to go to GalaxyFest2017. A friend of mine needed help with his booth, so I got in as a vendor, which was an interesting experience. Here’s what I learned, what I thought, and so on. (Oh, Carl’s site is Tale Spin Games. Cool product, check it out!)My only other Con experience has been Imagicon, so I’m never sure what to expect. The building for GalaxyFest(GF hereafter) was big enough and fancy enough. I hear it used to be a Hilton, but lost its franchisee status or something. But it was maybe the largest hotel I had ever been in and they had assigned a whole wing to the Con. It was maybe twice the size of Imagicon2016, so that was cool.

As a vendor, I had to be there early Friday morning to be there to setup. Which meant getting there at seven, which meant waking up at 6. I don’t do mornings very consistently. 6am was painful. But I showed up, found the place and earned my ticket by being the pack mule, bringing in our supplies to set up with. We got our booth set up in minutes, hours before we actually needed to be ready. Our next booth neighbors, the awesome people of Alpine Anime, took hours to set up, each day. They had crates of merchandise that had to be carefully set up so each piece was aesthetically pleasing, and visible. It was a little entertaining to watch them fight with it. They were great neighbors. We had a lot of fun conversations with them.

Finally, everyone was as ready as they could be, the time was nigh and the doors opened. And, with the thundering of feet… no one showed up. The first day, there was almost no one. Most of the people who came by the booth were bored vendors on a walk about. Carl and I alternated watching the booth and doing a walk about on our own. I met some interesting people, all local, which is interesting.

Actually, when compared to Imagicon, the make up of GF was very different. Minot had a lot of brick and mortar stores, as they’re called, in residence at the con. Here, there were barely any. A costume shop was the only one I recognized, although there were a few places with a spot in the large main room that could have had physical presences, but I didn’t really talk with any of them.

There were a lot of costume/cosplay based booths, a much higher percentage than I was used to. There was also a lot more self publishing authors, selling actual books, than I was used to.

In terms of gaming, as much as this wasn’t a gaming convention, or a fantasy convention, I had expected there to be more gaming support booths, but, as far as I could tell, we were the only booth that sold D&D/whatever paraphernalia. Was there much of that in other places? I’m not sure.

So the make up of the con was different than I expected, but, the attendees, once they showed up on Saturday, were normal. Or, as normal as our crowd gets. I guess there was a bit of a blizzard on Friday? I was indoors all day. But Saturday was a lot busier.  And there were people in incredible costumes. Maybe its the Scifi/Comic instead of the generic con, maybe its the size of the local, but there were some fairly impressive costumes. There were these three guys with Ghost Buster costumes with large proton packs that made a crazy amount of noise. It was kinda cool, albeit noisy.

You now, someone who is more versed in technology and stuff would have taken pictures or maybe some videos. I am not one of those people. For some reason, I’m just not good at the documentation for things like this. Maybe if I started up an… Instagram? I think that’s the image sharing one.

Anyway, I had a lot of cool conversations with people on Saturday. Part of that may have been that, for no good reason, I had only two hours of sleep. So people who came by the booth either found me sleep deprived, or overly caffeinated. So it may have just been me imagining that it was a good conversation. But I got to talk to people about comics, about D&D, about plenty of things. There was a lady dressed as the new Miss Marvel, and I talked about comics and why the old one was awesome and a bit of her origin. There was a group of girls, dressed as Enchantress, Valkirye, Captain America and Bucky and I had good conversations with at least two of them, mostly about the Marvel/DC cinematic universes.

Also, over the course of the day, I got my demonstration patter down pat. I knew the four talking points of the talespinner and could transition between them. I was confident enough in the sales pitch that I began selling the hypothetically products that may have a post announcing their existence before I’m done writing this article. I developed an introduction, asking people if they played D&D and transitioning into the demonstration pitch. And, if they hadn’t played D&D before, I took it upon myself to explain what it was, to extol it’s virtues, and to try and bring more people to the game.

I think it was a good experience for me, although I do think Imagicon was a better con. I learned a lot about being a vendor. Here are some of my tips and thoughts that I came up with, to make my next vendoring experience better. (They aren’t written in any particular order)

1.Bring as little as possible.

Carl and I probably made 3 trips out to the car, making it 6 loads worth of stuff we had at our booth. We could have done it with just 3 loads of stuff. Carl had some cool cosmetic things for the booth, then the product and moneybox. That was all we really needed. The first day, we brought a pair of catch-all crates, with a ton of things that were potentially useful, without actually being so.To be fair, we did dip into it for a few handy bits and bobs, but if you’re going to have a booth, know exactly what you want to bring it, have it organized, cut out as much dead weight as you can, and, if you’re bringing a just-in-case kit, have it be small, easy, and organized, so you know exactly what’s in it and where it is.

2. Have cards, will advertise

One place I failed for this convention (okay, one of the places) was in advertising myself. The first day, all I had was a stupid hand made poster lying flat on my corner of the table. My limited supply of first generation business cards (which suck horribly) had been left at home. I brought them the next day, but I only had about 10, so I wasn’t as generous with them as I could/should have been.

3. Have shirts, will advertise

On the first day of the con, in addition to our crappy position, I believe we had a few people slip on by without seeing us because, visually, we didn’t have a lot drawing people to use. Booth babes we were not. On the second day, however, we had a lot more visibility due to what we were wearing. Carl had a Portal cosplay that was bright orange. Add a portal gun with effects and there was plenty to bring people to our table. I was less eye catching, but still intriguing. I was wearing my d20 yin-yang shirt. And so, people who were interested in D&D (aka our target market) would come up and talk to me based on the shirt and I could easily spin that into a demo. I’m working on self branding shirt, based off my logo for a future con. I don’t know if it’d be as eye catching, but I would be selling something else, I guess.

4. Practice your pitch

Our sales pitch for the Tale Spinners was very rough on Friday and early Saturday, but, as we had more and more people by, we smoothed the pitch into an easy, seamless sales speech. It is, of course, impossible to tell how much we could have sold with a good speech the first day, but it very well could have. It would have at least held the interest of visitors a bit better. So, if I had a product to shill, I would try to practice my pitch before the con. I don’t know if I have an elevator pitch for my comic. I should work on that.

5. A variety of products

As a D&D paraphernalia booth, we began the con by limiting our share of the attendee market. Anyone there for just comics, or Star Trek or whatever wasn’t going to give us the time of day. And so that limited our options. Having something else, that would be useful to people outside of D&D, would have been good for business. It also would have been good to have similar products with different price points. I suspect we had a few people walk away due to prices being a bit to rich for them. People have to think about buying something ten buck and higher. But something under ten, it’s easy to justify and not worry about. Which means more profit for the table.

6. One easy payment!

It should be the easiest thing in the world for a customer to give you money. It was a little tricky for us. Part of that was my fault. I didn’t want to go to the hassle to learn how Carl was processing digital money and I didnt want to deal with the physical money. So, if Carl was out on a walkabout, we couldn’t process payments. If we were actualy in buisness together, I would have volunteered to learn. But it was a temoporary alliance, so I left the keys of the kingdom in his hands.

There was also sales taxes, which bothered me a little. If I sell product, to make it as simple as possible, I’d want to work in whole dollar numbers. What I would probably do, although I don’t know exactly how it works legally, would be to set a firm dollar amount, then after easily selling things, go back, do the math, and determine the sales tax amount afterwards. I think it may cut into actual profits, but I haven’t run the numbers at all, so that’s just a gut feeling. And I’m sure there’s all kinds of math designed to determine maximum price points for such things.

7. You’ve got to be kidding me!

Something interesting from Saturday was there were a lot of kids at the Con. Maybe they got in for free or something? Not sure, but it was fun to have conversations with kids. I don’t talk to them enough anymore. I wish we had had something more in their interests, but it was a fairly adult oriented booth.

8. Swag!!

Along the same line as having things for kids, it would have been great to have something small and insignificant that people could pocket, giving them some cool sticker or something to pull eager, magpie-ish attendees to our booth. Throw a logo on it, and its also advertisement. A step up from business cards.

I may have learned more, but I can’t recall. I meant to take time out to do this earlier in the week, but I didn’t. I did, however, come up with a 10 point scale for rating Conventions. No idea how well it will work, but here we go! (FYI, I’m using my shortnotes for it. Ask questions and I may write more about that part specifically!)

  1. Did I have fun? I’ll give it a point here. I did enjoy myself, somewhat, although it was more of an education for me than an entertainment. +1
  2. Turn out? It was not that impressive of a turn out. Maybe Sunday was better, but Friday was the pits. +0
  3. Vendors? While the people there were cool, I don’t think there was the selection I was looking for. I learned afterwards that GF has pissed off a lot of the brick and mortar game stores, so they don’t participate. I don’t know the details or how true it was, but I was a little disappointed by the selection. +0
  4. Game area? I didn’t participate in games, as I was manning a booth an all that, but their game area seemed to be 12 tables, all in the same hallway with little insulation from sounds of the convention and each other. Your mileage may have varied, but I wasn’t impressed with it. +0
  5. Panels? There wasn’t any that I was interested in. And, as our table was right next to one of the panel rooms, not many other people seemed to be interested either. +0
  6. Special Guests? There were a handful of guests, but I wasn’t interested in them. Again, ymmv, but a +0 from me.
  7. Con Staff? There was con staff? I barely noticed them. They weren’t super obvious, like they were at Imagicon, they never came around to talk. Maybe it was just that our booth was off in the boonies, but I was not impressed. +0
  8. Organization? The schedule was a mess, no one knew where anything was, they double booked a panel room or two, basically, they were not organized. +0
  9. Layout? I wasn’t impressed here either. There were boothes out in the lobby of the hotel, so there was a lot of content that was free to the public, whereas our booth was behind the paywall. We were also placed so people continuing the circuit would pass us by. +0
  10. Would I go again? Eh…. not really. I mean, if someone invites me to sit their booth again, or if I had something I think would sell well, probably. But I wouldn’t drive for hours to get to this con. +0

That leaves us with a… 1/10? That seems really horrible. maybe I’m being really harsh, maybe these are bad questions. Or maybe this was just a disappointing Con. I dunno. I’ll have to go to more cons, rate them against the thing, and we’ll see how it goes.

But that was my GalaxyFest report! I don’t know how complete it was, but it’s what I recall a week later. So that’s what you’re going to get!

Cheers!

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