So You Want to Throw A Comic-Con Party?

Some tips by guest writers @ArkhamAsylumDoc and @GeekGirls from the Geek Girls Network.

Perhaps you envision the final product: It’s a well-attended, successfully promoted, raging geekfest bursting at the seams with a few hundred of your closest real life and internet friends. Everyone has a drink in their hand, a nerdy tee, and a grin on their face.  Pulling off a Comic-Con party, however, takes early planning, a loyal crew, and a bit of organization. Taking over Comic-Con was not an easy feat for us geek girls! Here are a few pointers, guidelines, and even a few unpredictable mistakes that we encountered when coordinating the Geek Girls and Friends Tweet-Up at SDCC 2010.

Start early. Like, yesterday.

If you had a TARDIS, you’d travel back in time and get a head start on planning your geek gala. We stress that you can never begin too early when putting together a Comic-Con event. Depending on the popularity of the Con, you’ll have to begin your research somewhere between 3-6 months ahead of time. We began planning for the Geek Girls and Friends Tweet-Up nearly 6 months before the event.  The primary reason for getting started so early is that other organizations and networks will also be strategizing around their own events. Comic conventions are typically 2-4 days long, so you’re all vying for the same space. 

Choose a venue.

Surprisingly, pinning down a budget is not the first step. We strongly advise that you research some of the potential venues near the convention while holding a general idea of your budget in your mind.  Reservation costs can vary so much that you have to do some proactive fieldwork—that is, recruit someone who is local to the city where the con is held, because in-person research can be much more effective than off-site research. Our local scout spent several hours surveying the convention center grounds, visiting nearby bars, clubs, and restaurants and chatting with managers and owners. Ask about reservation prices, occupancy limits, food and alcohol options.  Assess the clientele, audio-visual equipment, and spatial layout. Tweet-ups and social networking events typically require a venue that allows for audible conversations—restaurants, bars, and cocktail lounges may be preferred over nightclubs that feature loud bands or potentially awful dancing. For SDCC, your venue needs to be a walkable distance from the con because public transportation in downtown San Diego is sparse and deplorable. Understanding the socio-cultural environment of the city, therefore, is extremely important when deciding on venue. Secure a location at least 2 months before your event!

Decide on a budget. Or not.

Surprisingly, you can throw a fairly decent Comic-Con event with little-to-no budget. Venues near the convention center may charge from $1,500 to $3,000 to rent an event room for a couple of hours. Without sponsorship (see below), renting space is ill-advised, especially when you can simply inform guests to show at a public venue and bear the individual costs of food and drink. If you are considering sponsorship and can aim high, your budget will potentially include the costs of the room reservation, menu items, servers, entertainment (e.g., a DJ.), and technical equipment, as well as supplemental materials such as nametags, raffle tickets, decorations, custom-made posters, a guest book, and geeky prizes.  A note about entertainment: whether it’s a band, DJ, comedian, or balloon-twisting artist you’re looking for, check your networks! We are indebted to @aboynamedart who volunteered his services as our official SDCC Tweet-Up DJ!

Negotiate.

A local scout not only helps to secure a venue early in the planning process, but also allows for repeated meetings and opportunities to negotiate, especially if your first quote is outside your budget.  Assuring that you’ll bring in at least 100 patrons isn’t a bad place to start. Local businesses are well tuned in to the fact that con-goers are usually paying customers. Tactfully communicate that “100 geeks will attend the event after a day at the con, reservation or not.” They know that things will be much easier on their staff if they can prepare for such an uprising!

Sponsorship

It can’t hurt to ask…and ask everyone. At first, I struggled with the idea of asking for handouts, but to my surprise, so many online retailers and bigwig organizations were thrilled at the idea of participating and supporting such a unique event. Start with contacting via email and Twitter the PR departments of companies that share a similar audience and explain why your partnership is made of awesome.

Of course, if you are going to ask for sponsorship, it’s only fair to provide something in return. The Geek Girls Tweet-Up sponsors received prominent ad space on the website, Facebook, Twitter, and were frequently mentioned throughout the social networks for weeks leading up to the event. Also, all printed materials proudly displayed the names and logos of our generous partners. We are still so grateful to our SDCC sponsors Science Channel, ThinkGeek, Geeky Boutiquey, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, Gaming Angels, Luxury Lane Soap, HallMark, and Quantum Mechanix.

Web/Local promoting

In today’s wonderful world of technology, it’s super easy to share news quickly and across a wide audience without spending a dime or being forced to send snail mail requests to your local newspaper.

Use tools like Facebook Events for keeping track of event details and guests and provide links on your website, Twitter and any other website where you have developed a social following. And here’s where you can call in favors. Ask all those hundreds (or even thousands) of friends and followers to help you spread the word about your event. Within a few simple tweets, your message can reach across the globe at an exponential rate. It’s like having access to tons of worm holes between groups of friends!

Expect a few mishaps.

No matter the amount of planning, confusing and frustrating surprises can arise so be prepared to act quickly and go with the flow. Although most of the feedback was positive, we encountered many unexpected hiccups before, during, and AFTER the Geek Girls Tweet-Up.  While being very proud of ourselves that we secured a full bar, our own servers, and premier “drink tickets,” we later realized that we imposed an age limit on our guests. Comic-Con attracts all ages! Thus, keep in mind that some your close web-pals, contributors, and *their* guests may be under 21.  We created a practical yet mildly embarrassing “not 21” bracelet which was a last-minute solution to the underage issue.  A similar issue regarding entry: At nearly 550 Facebook-confirmed guests by the date of the event, we realized some kind of system would be needed for a gallery room with an occupancy limit of 250. Thus: communicate with your guests via twitter, Facebook, and other networks to update them on such issues!  Needless to say, we don’t have an ideal solution for capacity limits—we truly wanted everyone to get in to the party! We can only advise a consistent guest strategy: use a guest list or keep the event “open.”

Perhaps the most frustrating lesson learned surrounded the *purpose* of the Tweet-Up: connecting with our online geeky friends IRL! Despite wearing nametags, guests often were unsure who was attending the event at any given time throughout the night. Amidst the flurry, geek girls and boys missed opportunities to meet their online pals who may have been just feet away from them. Katrina Hill wittily suggested that we construct avatars that would hover purposefully over our heads, creating a fantastic live-action twitterboard. My solution is nearly as comical: Introduce guests by name as they arrive, via microphone and spotlight!  Perhaps a more practical (and less prom-like) option is deciding on a unique party hashtag and encouraging guests to tweet their activities, encounters, and whereabouts during the event. Realistically, there are few solutions to the meet-n-greet problem when dealing with a large-scale Tweet-Up, but we welcome your suggestions!

Related posts:
* Girls’ Guide to Comic-Con with Ninja Tricks – L.A. Times Article by Geek Girls United
* Geek Girls Conquer San Diego Comic-Con 2010 – Do We Ever!
* Fangirl Furor: Should Geek and Gamer Girls Go Sexy, Sexless, Something Else?

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New York Comic Con 2010GGN Geek Tweet-Up
New York Comic-Con

Join the biggest Geek Tweet-Up event of all time.
Friday, October 8th.
8:30 pm-11:30 pm
Stitch Bar & Lounge in NYC

September 13, 2010 New York, NY – Hosted by Geek Girls Network, this Tweet-Up is sure to be the can’t miss event during the New York Comic-Con! During the convention, we will all be busy standing in lines, getting autographs, attending panels, and waiting for bathrooms that time to meet those you have been friends
with online and across the globe often takes a serious back seat. This Tweet-Up will be the perfect opportunity to hang out with friends you have made online and hopefully make some new friends.

Event Details:
·         Friday, October 8th from 8:30 pm-11:30 pm at Stitch Bar & Lounge.
·         The space holds about 300 people, so please RSVP on the FB Events Page.
·         Since alcohol will be served, no one under 21 is permitted. Everyone is responsible for their own drinks and food.
·         Epic music provided by Kirby Krackle.
·         There will be geek flavored movies, a must-sign guestbook, and more surprises and swag to come!

Sponsorship:
Geek Girls Networkis also looking for event sponsors. For more information on sponsoring this epic event, please email info@geekgirlsnetwork.com.




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  1. Pingback: Action Flick Chick – » So You Want to Throw A Comic-Con Party? | The League of Honor

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