Cons: Guests Aren't Just Numbers In The Bank
Submitted by harknell on August 29, 2010 - 15:15
In my recent post I spoke about how guests at cons should think deeper about their relationship with cons and how they can benefit by this, in this article I will reverse this situation and talk about how con staff should view and treat their guests.
I outlined in the previous article the basic economic truth that cons see guests as a monetary investment. Guests are there (theoretically) to draw more attendees and money to the con. So in many cases cons start to see and treat guests as "employees", or even as objects to be sold.
When was the last time you thought that being seen as an employee or as an object inspired you to greatness? Or really made you want to promote or work hard?
Cons will often see only one side to the equation, getting attendees in the door, and actually handling the full needs of their guests are an afterthought. Once the name is on the flyer or guests page, cons often forget that the guest has some goals that they want to have fulfilled (other than getting whatever monetary or other considerations might be directly in the contract). Promotion back to a a guest (i.e. linking and giving a full bio on your guest page and front page of your website) is a must. Also, try communicating with them in a timely fashion--let them know well in advance on deadlines or other things that they should know about. Try to treat all of your guests with the same level of respect--keep in mind that "niche" guests can sometimes pull more people than so-called "A" list guests--since they may make less appearances and may have more hardcore fans. And always make sure that any vendor space a guest gets is easy and quick for them to get in and set up (and assign people to make this happen and assist in this).
A con can very quickly get a reputation for being hostile to guests' interests--and that can make it really hard to get guests without paying a huge amount. A con can't guarantee sales for it's guests, but it can guarantee that they have a good time and feel respected and wanted. I've heard of events where sales weren't the greatest, but all of the guests still thought well of the event (and publicized their like) because they knew the event cared about them and made the rest of their trip enjoyable. I have also heard of events where sales were great, but overall they were slammed by guests because "sales were great in spite of the fact that everything else went bad". This after opinion is the biggest thing you will want to manage as a con, since it lingers the longest.
These aren't huge concepts, they're pretty obvious--but they often get missed in the shuffle of running an event. The point is to grasp the overall picture, not just the "benefit" you get from getting a name signed on a guest contract. With Twitter, Facebook, and other networking sites happening 24/7, you can get hit hard immediately by bad feedback and ruin even a promising start to an event--don't let it get to that point.