Top 5 ways conventions let their vendors down (+ Cons doing things that artists love!)

Prologue

For most people in the furry fandom, conventions are an escape from life’s daily pressures. But for thousands of professionals such as myself, these cons are a part of our livelihoods. We have a little hope to escape from the chaos of the world at the cons in addition to selling at them but sometimes the poor practices of cons contribute to that chaos that makes that escape a little bittersweet.

As a full-time furry fandom artist, business owner and frequent convention vendor, I have been to a number of cons (sometimes as many as two cons a month) in the North Eastern US and have driven alone to cons as far as Chicago and Atlanta. Through attending and selling at various cons in the past three years, I was able to build my customer base and connect with friends and fans alike. However I have also experienced and heard from others of depressing and infuriating stories regarding vending and performing at cons. Many of these stressful issues that I will discuss in this post are far too common. Sometimes these issues will lead artists to boycotting an event until the practices improve. And some of the issues have even discouraged performers and creators from ever attending cons again.

One of the biggest issues that I will elaborate on below, is not having our voices heard. I know that everyone can improve – artists, cons, businesses, people in general – but only if they actively want to improve. Arrogance and stubbornness keeps a con from being the best; the trick to being the best and growing your support base is to be open to suggestions, collaboration, and occasionally trying something new.

But why should vendors have a say in anything a con does? Well, I have said this before: when it comes down to it, dealers are super sponsors. As a part of a vendor’s business, we pay more than the average attendee to invest in a table and act as an entity of the con. Not just a spectator. Not just a table to sell from and security to keep our merchandise safe. With our confirmed table, we are given the opportunity to act in the best interests of the con. We help to draw a bigger crowd with commissions, advertising, hype, and other forms of promotion.

As a vendor or artist, we contribute to the con but for the most part are left to experience as a separate entity from the con chairs, staff, and volunteers. Vendors going through the con application process and weekend itself can feel like being a rat in a maze that was built by the con staff. When we go through that maze, we see things that the maze builders do not; the things that do harm, don’t work, or just don’t make sense. And since we are invested in the con’s success as a whole for current and future events, that means making suggestions to help improve the con experience for the future. The big question is: are they listening?

With all that said, this is my attempt at a generalized critical assessment of furry conventions to evaluate what can be done to improve morale and support by both con staff, vendors, and attendees with the aim at a better overall experience and increased future attendance. I can imagine you probably read that sentence twenty times now. I realize this is a daunting multi-faceted statement but I hope that the take away from this post is how important it is for everyone to contribute to build a better mutually-satisfying experience. Speaking up, listening to each other, thinking outside your own experiences, and making steps toward improving upon the past through cooperation.

 

Disclaimer

This is also not the end-all-be-all blog post on the positive and negative aspects of dealing at all conventions all over the world. My scope is limited to Furry fandom cons mostly in the north east United States. I will do my best to speak from my experiences along with some help from fellow vendors and performers who have gone to many cons that I have yet to experience. And while I would like to give kudos to cons below who have shown how they can make things less chaotic and generally more appealing for vendors and attendees to return, it is unfair to point blame at specific cons that have fallen short. This is why I’m focusing on real issues and how to fix them as well as giving my “gold stars” to cons who went the extra step to make a good impression.

If anyone has input to share, I would appreciate your comments below. Do you have other suggestions? Agree with me or disagree with mine? Have some favorite con experiences of your own? Comment away!

And now, here is my list.

 

Problem 1.) Dealer apps accepted AFTER the hotel block mass hysteria

This chaotic practice creates a feeding frenzy over rooms that has everyone scrambling to get a room. Not just the people who will attend no matter what. This room frenzy is also inflated with artists who won’t be accepted in the dealer app process down the road. Every single person who wants to go will try to apply. Some will get a room and attend. Some will get a room and fail to get a dealer table and will need to forfeit the room. Some will fail to get a room and get too discouraged to vend. Either way, this is incredibly stressful and twice as much for vendors who rely on two application processes to work out for them in order to do their job.

This not only stresses out con-goers and dealers, it also puts a strain on the hotel staff and their system. When hotels sell out rooms so quickly, that’s great for hotels… in theory! But weeks or months later, a wave of people (who were denied a dealer table) will cancel their unwanted rooms (which is just more effort on the hotel’s part to cancel.) With thousands of frantic furries fighting for a room in an hour’s time only to cancel rooms later probably doesn’t put the convention or our fandom in a good light for the hotel staff.

Additionally, the common reply given to our concerns about this panic attack waiting to happen has been that “there is no fee to cancel so just get a room and then apply for a dealers den table!” That may be true but belittles vendors as it isn’t coming close to addressing the point of the concern. Regardless of whether a hotel has a cancellation fee or not, it’s wasted time and energy on the part of the hotel and vendors who all have better things to be doing with their time. It’s not fun for anyone this way and many artists including myself have lost interest in attempting to participate in the frenzy hosted by some cons because the stress far outweighs the chance of success.

Solution: Dealers first, ration out the rooms, then release the hounds. For full-time artists hoping to deal at a con, attendance is contingent upon getting a table. Our need for a room is contingent on our attendance. Given that order of necessity, it’s far more logical to offer and confirm dealer applications before hotel blocks. This just means a call for dealers a few weeks or so ahead of the hotels. When final dealer approvals go out, that thins the herd and lessens the intensity of competition (since only the confirmed vendors need to get rooms when hotel block opens.) Anthrocon and Furthemore have earned gold stars for emailing approved dealers a secret dealer-only link to apply for rooms before anyone else. This small detail helps improve morale as it reduces the stress of the vendors (and the hotel staff) just a bit more!

 

Problem 2.) First come first serve & lottery dealer slots / artist alley lottery spots assigned at con daily

Considering how we vendors are all professionals that aren’t just sitting around waiting to apply to cons, this is a surefire way to cause artists undue anxiety or completely dissuade artists from applying. First come first serve I’m sure is much easier for the con. I mean, how can it not be easy? The emails are time stamped, the con takes all they need, and they’re done. And for a lottery, it may randomize things and make it seem like the “little guy” gets a fair shot but is this a benefit or is everyone just missing out in a not-so-random way? There are a few issues that my vendor contemporaries and I have seen with these random and speed-dependent methods of vendor/artist aggregation:

  • How serious are the applicants – What about the quality of the speedy or random applicants? Not necessarily their workmanship (although that could be a serious consideration!), I mostly mean their dedication to sell. Do they have a Tax ID? Do they have the time to set aside for the duration of the con? Are they reliable and professional? Do they have the products that people want to buy? I believe that we all start somewhere but for me for a full year I started in the artist alley. Some may be better suited for artist alley for various reasons. However in first come first serve or lottery situations, if their rate of application speed or random chance is the only determinant, for every random person who takes a crack at dealing there’s a chance a door closes on someone that relies on having that table or has been an established and respected vendor. I have also seen dens that went through a lottery with handfuls of empty tables; a poor side effect of a poor practice. Gaps between tables ruin the flow of shoppers and doesn’t make the most of the space… especially if they’re left blank throughout the weekend.
  • Do they help promote the con and draw a crowd – For many, vendors are the main attractions for many attendees. When you cut them out due to random chance or their lack of speed, you disappoint attendees who look forward to the artwork of that seller. Some creators who aren’t trigger-finger dealer applicants are people who dedicate their lives to selling at cons professionally and make the time to guarantee the con is well-advertised and well-attended.
  • Will there be enough diversity – Additionally, what if the fastest artists to apply are all traditional artists? All fursuit makers? All people that sell only bandanas? Only NSFW art? These are pretty extreme examples but the point is that the curation of a juried con guarantees there isn’t too much of any one art style, any one kind of merchandise, etc. Diversity helps all vendors sell their work and makes con-goers of all ages happy!
  • Are these methods just an excuse to secretly jury without scrutiny – When I first heard this from a fellow vendor, it seemed like a conspiracy theory that cons were allowing in only their friends and popular artists to vend but, realistically, crazier things have happened. I have noticed that when cons behave like an overgrown private party, furries take notice and the con quickly loses support. Even if this is just a conspiracy theory, it definitely isn’t something we want to see from cons and I truly hope that none have ever done such a thing.

When compared with Dealers Dens, Artist alleys are made to be a little more flexible (they have to be for the sake of daily tear-down alone!) but that doesn’t mean that artists want to apply every single day at a con or spend half a day waiting for results. Don’t forget that these people want to sell but want to have fun at the con too! One of my single worst AA experiences was in 2016:

When I registered for the con, I inquired by email about how they take AA sign ups since the website seemed unclear. In response they said sign ups were daily at the con, “this is how we chose to function”. After expressing concern about my seriousness to sell all three days and the great distance I would drive, they nonchalantly replied that if I wanted “secured spaces” I should apply for dealers (which was long closed before I could get the chance.) With these responses, I was already disappointed and it didn’t make it any better that I would be driving my longest distance to date for a potentially dismal weekend.

On Friday, I spent my early morning hours inhaling breakfast, taking a shuttle to the main hotel from my off-site hotel, waiting in line and signing up for Artist alley from 9am until I got assigned a table at 1pm. It was a depressing waste of my time and even more disappointing to know that I had only signed up for that day. What took the cake was that when artists signed up in person, we gave only two pieces of information for sign up: phone number (to call if we were able to get a table that had been abandoned by the person ahead of me) and badge name.

Considering my first and second AA experiences involved AA applications and confirmed tables/dates online, I was stunned a con at any size would engage in such prehistoric and clumsy practice such as the one I experienced. But since I was there and determined to sell, every day before the alley closed, I put my name in for the next day. By the end of the weekend I had a table Friday, I was waitlisted Saturday (called around 2pm but I was at the hotel a 15-30min shuttle away and in the middle of commissions so I let the phone ring; I’d never make it in time), and thankfully got a table Sunday.

Not to mention the poor reception/wi-fi and confusing layout that didn’t make it easy for shoppers or comfortable for artists and dealers. Despite making some good connections with new customers and friends, this entire experience colored how I saw that con; it communicated to me that by trying to please everyone they made artists look like an afterthought. For these reasons, it will be hard to convince me to ever go back.

Solution: Juried Dealers dens / accept & confirm AA applications online. Artist alleys will always be for those who can only spare a day to sell or who want to try it out or don’t have an epic display to tear down everyday. People with this flexibility should be encouraged to try for AA instead of taking up valuable real-estate in the Dealers Den. Juries can help with this. Juried DD can also help bring diversity, quality, professionalism, and attract more con-goers.

Some AA applicants want all three days, while some only need a day or two in the alley. Planning this ahead would require less staff at con to manage artists as they sign up and leave. It puts more responsibility on artists to fulfill their promise and takes pressure off the con during an already chaotic weekend. A table full of people signing-in artists, cold calling artists, and directing shoppers, could instead be used to volunteer their time and efforts elsewhere like table-sitting for dealers!

AA can be lottery for a few “last minute” tables at con but the least a con can do for the majority of serious artists is to help them help the con by confirming tables and dates at least 3 weeks ahead of the con weekend. That way they can take orders for pick up, plan their signage/display, and advertise their con hype! It all can be done online. If the con distributes a Registration confirmation code to the con-goer, they can enter it into the AA application when applying for the day or days they want to sell so that it correlates attendee information with their Artist Alley status. Anthrocon, ANE, and Furthemore make the AA process a bit easier with their online applications and earn a gold star!

 

Problem 3.) overlooking a bounty of free advertising / overlooking the hype

When artists, vendors, and performers regularly create hype about the cons they plan to attend on social media, they aren’t just promoting themselves, they’re promoting the con. When cons are overlooking these posts completely or simply “liking” them on Twitter, they are potentially hurting these entertainers and the con itself. Cons don’t have to retweet everything but a retweet can do some good for someone lesser-known who is slated to perform. The cons have a hashtag (or a few), and it’s not just so people can click the hashtag and explore… it should be for the con to help identify who is excited and promoting the con so that they cash in on that free advertising! ESPECIALLY with smaller or newer cons! Furrydelphia definitely earned a gold star for their first year efforts to promote their promoters, GOH, vendors, and performers!

One instance where a friend of mine was discouraged from performing at any future cons was the horrible letdown he experienced at a con last year:

My friend is a musical performer who attended a con that I was vending at. He applied to perform a musical performance with video which was perfectly in the theme of the convention. After much confusion he was accepted, submitted information for the con book. (Sadly the confusion about his style of performance delayed the description, date, and time from being included in the con book.) But he did his part to advertise his set on social media. His social media advertising was merely “liked” by the con; no assistance with retweeting.

The required equipment and set up information was in his application, mentioned in person twice the day before with con ops, and the day of the performance. When it came time to perform, the room was not prepared as requested. So he struggled to gather a table, electrical source, and set up on his own. Waited an hour for a projector to be set up to display the video he created to play with the music. He played to an empty room for the first song. By the end of his shortened set, a handful of people had shown up. And to those who stuck it out, he gave out free t-shirts.

After the terrible upset, he was offered a comped sponsor level registration as apology but it was all just too much of a disaster for him to want to ever come back to that con or go to any other cons for that matter.

He stopped by my dealer table to let me know what happened. I was stunned. Seeing him leave so early and so angry on Saturday (too angry to stick around or even fursuit) sparked me to speak out on his behalf. The dealer staff at the same con was so supportive and eager for input. The neglect to my friend and his performance both before and during the con was inexcusable.

Solution: Help promote your con through your artists and performers. If a con can like a post or reply to a post, they can easily click a retweet button! Feature your happy, hype, and talented participators every freaking day from the day you confirm performers, dealers, etc. and throughout the con weekend.

If you offer a listing in the con book to your performers, please deliver upon that promise. There are always ways to remedy misprint issues (small flyers to add in with the con book, promote on social media) but completely ignoring and failing to assist a scheduled performer is never acceptable.

 

Problem 4.) scheduling conflicts are wasting vendors time & money

As vendors and artists, we sit for 5-8 hours for 3 days of a loooong work weekend. They are there to work but some want to have a part in enjoying some con programing as well! There are events that we can’t take part in because they conflict with the dealers den hours like fursuit picture, dance competition, etc. It may sound like a minor inconvenience but these conflicts also take the wind out of the dealers den and artist alley; the shoppers seem to disappear in an instant and the silence could last hours. It’s bad for sales (I’ve seen the drastic difference in sales between the cons where these events happen during dealer hours and the cons where they’re scheduled after the den closes.) And it’s bad for dealers who have been running on adrenaline or just want to enjoy the con a little after their work is done.

Additionally, if a dealer is offering a panel or if there are art related panels that dealers might want to attend (like art business or design panels), ideally those panels should be scheduled after the den is over; it makes sure dealers can go and helps the panel be more successful! (When I was FurXoticon GOH, they made sure to organize the schedule so that I could deal in the den and teach my marker panel after DD closed!)

Solution: Big events during DD kill the DD & Panels related to art/dealing should be scheduled after DD – The panel scheduling is pretty self-explanatory.

As for large event scheduling, cons like FWA and ANE have considered the entertainment conflict issues (or simply lucked out in scheduling – I’m not quite sure who to thank but I like it!) by scheduling the dance competition after the den closes. I was even able to snag dinner between dealing and the dance comp at FWA!

An alternative potential option might be scheduling dance comp around 1pm Saturday and closing the den for a midday break (that can be used for watching the dances or for lunch). After all, we do have to eat and some of us work alone so getting lunch is tricky unless you close the den or have considerate roommates.

 

Problem 5.) ignoring or otherwise disciplining con-goer suggestions or concerns

This shouldn’t have to be a bullet point, and yet, here it is!

The fact that there have been significant conflict management faux-pas in the furry fandom this year alone is devastating – it isn’t a good sign when people who were going to the con (including vendors) start saying they have better plans that weekend. These controversies don’t look good for the con or fandom in general. I realize that cons are generally a volunteer venture passion project, and a stressful one at that, but there is no excuse for poor public relations. Controversy hurts the con, it hurts the vendors, it hurts the hotel, it hurts the charity, and it hurts the fandom.

When there are problems with any business, customer relations can get touchy. If problems can be addressed early, quickly, and calmly, all the better! When something flaky or spontaneous happens, or if information is unclear regarding con register payments, that does us a frighten. Please communicate with us and we will communicate with you! And when your con-goers communicate about an issue, it’s usually for a good reason.

If something is offensive or unsettling to some, there’s a good chance that it’s upsetting to many more. The worst thing you can do is silence people, ban people, let the animosity grow between the divided con-goers and between those concerned and the con itself.

Social media has a funny habit of helping wronged people to speak even LOUDER when they are silenced, blocked, or otherwise shown they are unwelcome. People will always find a way to be heard especially on an internet – after all, most of the internet is fueled on drama and controversy. Cons should help themselves by not adding to it.

It’s important to remember most of all that con dealers and charity don’t want to be associated with the drama. And a con shouldn’t want that association or reputation either because furries don’t forget these disasters.

Solution: treat your con like a business & be professional / send out after-con surveys. Slow down, take a breath, think about how you would talk this person as if you were talking to a highly respected person in your life. Expressing mutual respect, considering points of view, and remaining calm is key. Resolving an issue in a private manner and on a small scale before it becomes a larger uglier one is far better than turning their back on their supporters. Hearing out concerns and making strides towards improving the con and the experience of those who attend shows the con wants to be the BEST!

Con chairs and volunteers can’t be everywhere and do everything that vendors and performers do, that’s why they need our suggestions to help make it a little better. Not all suggestions can be made a reality (obviously) but making the effort to apply even some small changes can help con-goers and vendors feel like they are a welcomed and crucial contributor to the con’s success and longevity! I’m happy to say that Furthemore and Furrydelphia sent out a dealer con survey and I was very pleased at their efforts and interest in improving dealer experiences for next year. I have also heard that BLFC listens to their supporters as well, which only makes me want to find my way out there even more!

 

BUT WAIT! There’s MORE!

Along with suggestions from various vendors and artists across the fandom, I have compiled this overflow list of qualities that should be obvious necessities or make the con just a little more enjoyable or sane! (And gold stars given to cons that I’ve attended thus far and for significant experiences that I remember or heard from fellow vendors.)

NEED

  • SECURITY! SECURITY! SECURITY! – someone at the door checking IDs, someone outside the adult section checking drivers licenses, locked doors at night, only vendors and staff allowed before or after den hours. Defined hours for vendor set up and tear down with security and staff to assist with questions or issues.
    (Anthrocon is very strict with their security and monitoring access points which gave me the biggest sense of relief of all cons I have attended.)
  • Clear, consistent, and comprehensive communication – people shouldn’t have to guess or ask for details about how they’re getting paid, how the AA or DD works, who staff members are and who they can talk to for help, etc. Reply to all email concerns no matter how small – cut and paste from the website if you have to!
    (Anthrocon’s Dealer twitter, comprehensive website, and DRIP definitely win a gold star here. The Dealer exclusive Telegram chat function was also a nice plus at Furpocalypse. Furrydelphia did an impressive job assembling their dealer instructions and getting information to dealers in a timely fashion for their first year! Big ol’ gold star for that!)
  • Con register while in the DD or AA should have a clear and detailed plan and stick to it – A reminder to cons that use the register system: the money these artists earned in a weekend is in your hands; communicate clearly so that you do not do them a frighten! Making sure everyone is on the same page with how many sales they made is critical and easier to do while its fresh in the artists’ minds and while in person. Pay these artists daily or at least by the end of the weekend.
    (Although the lines were massive or took an extended amount of time, information was clear and payouts were handled at AA for FurXoticon 2017, Anthrocon 2016, and Furpocalypse 2016.)
  • Plenty of time for set up and efficient dealer load in and load out – Thursday afternoon until late in the evening really help dealers get a head-start on set up. A few hours in the morning Friday help with late-arrivals and last minute touches.
  • Get a room for the dealer’s den that comfortably fits all of your vendors with wide aisles and good lighting – Ideally, a single room for all dealers since people can get lost or confused if there is a maze of rooms with dealers and artists in them. Artist alley works well when it’s in proximity to the dealers den, the con store, and registers so all shopping is done in one general location.
    (Furpocalypse, Anthrocon, ANE, and FWA all get gold stars for good den layouts / Artist alley layouts I have enjoyed were Furthemore 2016 and Furpocalypse 2016 as they were right outside the dealers den and in high traffic areas.)
  • Interactive & supportive dealer staff – Just checking in on us helps to create a unity between those running the den and those participating.
    (Furthemore’s dealer staff gave out special gift packages to dealers and surveys. Furrydelphia gave out surveys and offered their help whenever possible.Anthrocon dealer staff were helpful in settling disputes or helping with load in/out emergencies. Furrydelphia staff offered to help with load in, set up, and load out. I didn’t have the pleasure of attending Megaplex yet but I hear from vendors that they also engage with their dealers.)
  • Art show teardown help or after DD closes – We can’t be everywhere at once! – Artists/dealers often work alone and cannot rescue their artwork from art shows during den hours. Either prolonged Art show tear down hours or volunteers to table sit or deliver artwork would be ideal!
    (FWA volunteers helped deliver my work to me and earned a gold star for helping to tame my chaotic weekend!)
  • Easy to navigate website, Proper con signage, and Clear Maps – Make it easy for people to find info on their own and ensure that information provided is clear. Promote the hourly and daily schedules and map on twitter and (if possible) on signage or projector displays around the con. Signage outside all special events rooms and directions to AA and Art show if they’re separated considerably from DD.
    (Anthrocon, ANE, FWA, and FurXoticon win a Gold Star here)
  • Promote Special events and information on Social media! – Social media is a powerful tool. People that are hype about your con help you look awesome. Make people want to go to your con… all… the… time. Is the Dealers Den opening? Tweet it! Are dance comps starting? Tweet it! Is a performance or panel starting soon? Tweet it! Hosting a charity event where vendors give out goodies to people who wear that special charity button? Tweet your participating vendors!
    (FWA, Anthrocon, MFF, Furrydelphia, Furthemore, and ANE win a Gold Star here.)
  • Give a little bit more to your Guest of Honor Artists – all GOHs are wonderful but remember their contributions vary from the singer, the dancer, the fursuiter, the artist or craftsperson. The artists you recruit to be GOH put their lives and commissions on hold to create the various themed illustrations exclusively for the con (sometimes for months at a time leading up to the con) and then they may even contribute more at the con through special panels or classes. Take this into consideration when treating your various honorable guests!
  • Refrigerate the fursuiters, not the artists – many of us artists resort to winter gear in the den to keep up with the fursuiters. And although fingerless gloves help, we often we get too cold to even do our commissions!
  • Keep those dealer tables full! – Empty dealer tables (especially at a large con) should never be a problem. It’s not good for the flow of the room (an empty table between dealers is a dead zone that shoppers subconsciously evaluate as “the end of the row” which is bad for that next table on the other side of the empty one! Also if there’s an AA full of artists, a DD waitlist, the con has plenty of resources to try to pull from and charge for (if they want to upgrade!)
    (ANE got a gold star for making the attempt to fill tables last minute – I went from AA to DD 9 days before the con. FWA got a gold star from me for selling empty DD tables at a discount on a Friday to AA artists willing to upgrade. Furpocalypse also upgraded an AA artist to an abandoned DD table free of charge since the DD table had been paid for by an absent vendor – a really nice thing to do considering how they could have charged for it.)

Things that aren’t required for us to be happy but sure make our experience a positive one!

  • WATER, FOOD, COFFEE! – Give us nourishment and we’ll follow you around like happy ducklings. Some artists are new or caught up in the chaos and forget to bring food or water. And many of us need coffee when we least expect it! These small offerings are huge perks in our eyes and we love you for it! And volunteers or staff offering to watch the table as we run to the bathroom are a BLESSING.
    (Furthemore provided coffee and water. ANE’s dealer staff checked in with artists throughout the weekend when they could.)
  • Artist work lounge – a private area (with better table space and lighting than our hotel rooms) for AA and DD artists to draw with each other, shop talk, and maybe share a meal over commission work after the den and alley closes.
    (Furrydelphia and Anthro Northwest earned a gold star for offering a peaceful art paradise!)
  • Vouchers for dealers to snag a quick lunch or breakfast
    (Furthemore and Furrydelphia get gold stars and, from what I hear, AnthrOhio provided lunch for vendors as well!)
  • Large garbage cans in the den – sometimes artists make garbage – food wrappers, paper scraps, used pieces of tape, you name it! And when you have a lot of artists, you need some big garbage containers to handle it!
    (Furpoc and FWA had some serious trashcans around the den while ANE had some small ones between various dealer tables – all instances were helpful!)
  • Reasonable hours for the hardworking vendors and artists – Selling is exhausting work. And many times, an artist’s work is never done. Sleep is for the weak… or early morning hours! Artists who sell at cons tend to take on commissions for completion that weekend which means late hours drawing. The 9-10am hour is a rough time frame to be ready for sales (even for the shoppers!) Ideally starting after 10am or 11am, with end times of 6pm at the latest (4pm on Sundays for packing and travel.)

Additional details for a con to consider

  • Hotel proximity to alternate hotels – within safe walking distance or are there shuttles?
  • When main hotel sells out in a day or less, a larger venue is most likely necessary
  • Food availability within and around the hotels – is there a good variety for different palettes and budgets? Delivery options or walking distance?

If anyone has comments or input to share, I would appreciate your comments. Want to contribute? Agree with me or disagree? Have some favorite con experiences of your own? Comment away!




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10 Responses to “Top 5 ways conventions let their vendors down (+ Cons doing things that artists love!)

  • ShardWintreswolf
    7 days ago

    My only conflict for this list is the fourth major point made about scheduling and events. Unfortunately there’s only so much cons can do about organizing events and keeping people interested throughout the day. For those in the DD/AA, everyone has events they want to see and panels that interest then, but these will vary greatly from person to person.
    For example: I personally don’t often watch the dance competitions (I don’t have anyone dancing to support and they’re just not my thing) but I love info, sociology and psychology based panels about interaction. I also like the more comedic shows and events. I know I’m not always gonna be able to see either.
    THAT SAID, if a con is lumping a lot of high profile events very close together, yes, it can absolutely harm sales for dealers, and it’s a way for con-goers to get burnt out as well, which means they’re less likely to shop, but they’re also less likely to go to some of the smaller panels they might’ve held off as a “maybe”.
    Like I said above, there’s only so much cons can do to to organize events and keep people interested throughout the day, but that’s a big difference from creating long hours of time where there are multiple high profile events happening in rapid succession (I can’t imagine that’s not tiring for some high profile performers as well, but I won’t speak for them, because I simply don’t know.) To me, I feel the problem addressed above lacked this clarity, considering everyone had different ideas on what we see as exciting during a con. But if I’m missing something, please let me know!

    • Thank you for your contribution! I do agree that the fandom has the shared interest in animals but what we find interesting and worthy of our time can vary person to person. Tastes in specific events are as diverse as the attendees themselves! As I tried to mention in my post, the scheduling conflict on the surface sounds like a minor inconvenience (missing out on watching or being a part of some of the big events) but my biggest concern when mentioning the major events truly is the deflated shopper presence. I am there to sell during the hours given, and when no one’s there, I don’t sell. Time after time, the dance comp and fursuit photo/parade (when scheduled during the den) have been the biggest contributors to the slowdown. Which makes sense due to the shear quantity of persons attending each of those high profile events; a collection of all the con’s fursuiters in a giant ballroom and another ballroom filled with dancers and their fans. I hope that helps!

      • ShardWintreswolf
        7 days ago

        I certainly agree that I did get a bit nitpicky about the flow of how the statement is written, but unfortunately, when it’s just one big panel or event (such as the fursuit parade) then there really isn’t much that the con can do. Arguably, they can state that the DD/AA is closed for the duration of a very high profile event, and then tweet/announce that they are back open at the completion of said events, but beyond that, I don’t feel there’s much they can do. That said, stacking high profile events, like I said, isn’t a good idea in my current opinion either. (Granted, perhaps it’s easier for high profile performers, but I don’t know). Unfortunately there really isn’t a solution that benefits everyone here, at least not that I can think of at the moment.

        • That’s why I mention ANE and FWA ^^ I feel their scheduling has shown dance comp can work after the den closes and helped to diminish the deflated shopping presence issue in the past. It may not be possible to do the fursuit photo/parade that late as well, but having both during the den have been the worst.

          • ShardWintreswolf
            7 days ago

            I can certainly see that, and it’s a fair point. 🙂 that said, depending on hours it might be easier to go for something like the midday break you mentioned. People’s schedules at cons can get pretty strange, and while I’ve heard more than once that cons should have the den/alley open later, I don’t know how viable that would actually be.

  • Anonymous
    7 days ago

    All the points in this are wonderfully expressed, and quite a lot of these affect not just dealers and artists. But general con attendees as well. Especially the small after-section about con signage and directions, you mentioned Furrydelphia as earning gold stars in a lot of regards. One place it did lack however was signage. Perhaps it was just because it wasn’t first con. But I couldn’t find the table to get my badge in order to explore. I also couldn’t tell who was con staff to be able to ask where to find it. All in all, I ended up wasting the money to attend the con and driving almost 70 miles to it. Just to end up leaving after only seeing a few suiters in the lobby for the couple hours I was there. Which was highly disappointing.

  • Thanks for the positive points for Anthrocon- and even the critiques! As director of the Anthrocon Dealers Room, I’ll make a couple comments:

    First Come First Serve vs Lottery vs Curation is a tricky subject. Anthrocon has been very resistant to curate the room, though we have had increasing need to do so around the edges (Former GoHs will sometimes get advance placement, we’ve been curating the Islands for a few years. We make sure all of that is disclosed in the DRIP.) As the room increasingly fills faster, it does become problematic. There is a timeframe where the people that are responding are generally the ones who take things professionally and seriously–we’ve announced over a month ahead for our general timeframe, two weeks ahead for the planned day, and a few days in advance for the specific time of day. We also don;t accept an application if you don;t have your PA Tax ID done- every year, there’s times we reach someone and see “Will apply if I get approved” in the field, when we work it in reverse. We know every con is different, but that’s why our DRIP is crazy-extensive, and has a short version and an index. 🙂

    That said, once you get within a week’s timeframe, it gets tougher to say people who can’t get an application in aren’t prepared; Anthrocon’s looking towards a curated model in future years. It’s a lot more work, determining folks in a way that benefits attendees, doesn’t seem like you’re playing favorites, etc. the first year or two cons went to curated Dealers rooms- especially MFF- there were howls from Dealers who didn’t get in. There’s a fierce feeling of rejection from not being considered ‘worthy’ to be in a con.It’s settled down as more Dealers recognize it’s the only way to sift 500 applications into 200 seats, but I still see twitter erupt with ‘I didn’t get in!!!” sometimes after seatings are announced at large cons.

    Promotion through social media: I know that Eurofurence does a very nice job of this! We’re a little more reticent at Anthrocon with the @anthrocondealer twitter, as we also try to keep it fairly focused *for* dealers. I’m not sure they want 200 tweets about other dealers promoted and pinged. 🙂 That said, it’s a good point, and we’ll consider ways to do so that might help us keep a twitter account Dealers and others want to pay attention to.
    We also don’t currently ask our Dealerships what, say,t heir twitter account is. maybe we’ll change that in future years.

    Temperature control.. we try! Things unfortunately start off hot n’ sweaty during move-in due to open loading bay doors, then it gets cooler as the hall opens.There’s also sunshine making for small localized warm patches. We aim for a nice balance during the con for everyone, and cool down fursuit-heavy areas the most.

    Food and Coffee: Alas, some Hotels and convention centers have catering departments that will overcharge, and eventually, that’d pass down to Dealer costs. We try to combant this with concessions stands, and reasonable rules about bringing in your own food and drink.

    Filling empty tables: We do that every year. We don’t like empty tables either, but there’s always people who a week out have something get in the way of the con. We offer them at a fire-sale discount, and we can usually fill them. Once or twice we’ve let people on adjoining tables creep over into the space, giving them a little more room for free.

    –Robert “Chiaroscuro” Armstrong, Anthrocon Dealers Room

    • Thank you for reading and replying!

      I want to commend Anthrocon for not only being able to balance the stress of the shear size of the event but all the things that come with it (venue costs, venue size, hotel organization, union workers, volunteer communication, security, comprehensive website, application processing, etc. etc.) Anthrocon has made multiple “first impressions” in my time attending cons; it was my first con to ever attend and one of the first artist alley and Dealers den experiences. All of which, I found myself impressed! The help from Cajun Fox alone made my first AC DD less daunting!

      Thankfully, most of the points in this post were definitely to the credit of AC rather than criticism (mega bonus stars!) And of course there are always going to be silly things that are just out of reach, impractical, or completely out of control of the dealer staff and even the con chair or venue coordinators. For instance, open loading docks in the summer with A/C off will make it toasty during load in, but it’s something most dealers just have to prepare for simply due to the immense size of the room itself (and how impractical it is to attempt cooling a room with giant open doors.) The fact that the room was well chilled the next day made me happy as someone who tends to live in her hoodies at conventions in anticipation of fursuiter temperatures! (and if I had my fursuit at the time, I would be just as happy!) The only real concern from DD this year, was with a very dragged out loading dock load-out time; I assume it must be partly due to the union/venue rules. Thankfully I know now to bring dinner and extra water to keep my energy up.

      The fact that Anthrocon has a main twitter, Artist alley twitter, and Dealer twitter is exactly what I need as a professional. It is a great tool for me to keep my eye on an account that has business in mind: notify me of application links, due dates, rules, and other information. I feel that the main account is what does a great deal of advertising and getting people excited, which is great for us as well. Out of sight, out of mind. The trick is to get people ramped up for your event all year long and Anthrocon delivers!

      Coffee and food are nice perks at cons that are small enough to manage it but with AC being so big and the dealer room so vast, it’s definitely a perk that would take more time and energy away from far more important details. Thankfully I’ll be dragging my husband along next year to help out in the den and hopefully caffeinate and feed me lol

      I hope that – although the curated model may be extra work on the front end – it may be something that can be a another notable point toward Anthrocon designing a diverse and well received experience for all those who attend and are involved! Sadly I know the feeling of rejection from stores, art shows and conventions (even cons I have dealt at in the recent past) but so long as they decline politely, I feel much better knowing that I lost my spot to someone better; not just someone who was simply faster at applying than I was! And so long as cons keep making people want to come back, my hope is that even though I may be declined a spot, I can look forward to a time when they grow to a larger venue and can accommodate more dealers in years to come!

      Thank you again for all that you do to make this event possible and I look forward to dealing with AC again this summer!
      Crazdude

      • Cajun is one of our fine staffers, indeed. I’ll point him here to let him know he’s appreciated. 🙂

        Load-out is a difficult procedure, due to the limited amount of vehicle space (Two at the dock, and a maximum of three on-the-floor vehicles, and the need to pause the former when we need to move in or move out the latter.). Load-in has six vehicle hours (and four non-vehicle hours) on Thursday and four on Friday.. but load-out is all of that at once in four hours. The loading dock is really a bottleneck for us, and we’ve tried to make sure it’s the only bottleneck.
        Also to note, you are welcome to exit the Dealers room at 4pm on Sunday, grab a food, and return for checkout! We just ask that you be back promptly, as we want to keep people movin’. 🙂

        The problem with food/drink for Anthrocon is much more catering costs, than time and effort! We could get every dealer a sandwich, chips, fruit, soda, and cookie pack– for about $30 each. Per day. And we’d have to pass along that crazy cost.

        Curated rooms over First-Come First-Serve do have their advantages, indeed! It remains a complex choice for us, and other cons whose applications far outstrip available space. It’s tough to determine the right tipping point between the advantages and disadvantages, and as we consider a curated system. we’re going to look at what works and what doesn’t for other conventions.

  • Ricky Latch
    6 days ago

    Thank you so much for this insightful article! The points made reasonable, clear, and practical. I’m studying up as much as I can; gathering ideas, reading new and established dealers outlooks and insights, even as so much as looking at what products the masses are demanding to one day run the section of the Dealers Den/Artist alley.
    Being apart of a Vendor family business team myself at events such as Cheerleading, Ice Skating, Gymnastics, etc., I understand the struggle from watching my parents frusterating over tables, layouts, table placements, communication between staff and dealers… and the list goes on and on. I look forward to reading more <3 keep up the good work. It really shows.

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