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[personal profile] tommo
The $20 day pass for Friday was intended to make it more affordable for new people to have a "taste" of SwanCon. However, it also meant that SwanCon might have lost some revenue from the non-first-timers that bought Friday day passes.

Perhaps a better option is to have day passes at their normal rates for all renewing attendees, but give first-timers a day where they can just attend for free? For a student/teenager, even $20 can be a fair bit of money, and if it's the difference between them attending a day for free or not attending at all, you're really not making any sort of a loss by letting them in. And if you make it free people will almost certainly be interested, and I think it'd result in a very impressive first-timer turnout. Keep in mind that you can get into Supanova for a day for about $20, so from the new attendee's perspective it's not like we're offering anything particularly out of the ordinary.

Hell, I'm starting to wonder if we should just let first-timers attend the whole damn con for free. I think, in the long term, it'd probably be a wise investment.

Date: 2009-04-15 06:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The "suck you in with a cheap fee" thing worked well on me. To the disbelief of many, this was actually my first Swancon. I was considering not going on Friday but I did, and I had a blast. And then I coughed up $25 to come along on Saturday evening too (a decision I made about 2 hours before I went to the Masquerade).

Date: 2009-04-15 06:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'd rather we let everyone have really cheap memberships for the whole con, but to do that we need funding and sponsorship, and to do that we meet to make an event that attracts more people.

Date: 2009-04-15 06:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Everyone as in all new members? Or everyone as in everyone?

Given that we've started nudging the 400 mark, how many more do you think we need for a larger CBD venue to be financially feasible?

Date: 2009-04-15 06:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well last year the convention made a surplus so large we *could* have afforded a larger CBD venue!

Date: 2009-04-15 06:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
True, but I mean in a sustainable way :)

Date: 2009-04-15 06:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
1. Actual honest-to-god marketing and publicity. I mean the kind where you strut around discussing Swancon's "brand" that usually makes organised SF fandom run in terror.

2. A deliberate overhaul of the convention to... I don't want to say "sideline" the overtly weird fannish stuff, but that's kind of what I mean. I know many very avid science fiction fans who would adore spending a weekend meeting their favourite authors and discussing their favourite books and TV shows. These people don't come to Swancon because they take one look at it terrifies them.

Date: 2009-04-15 06:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
1. I'm not sure how necessary this one is. If we want SwanCon to be a really massive event, then sure, it's the right way to go. If we just want to upscale a couple of notches so we can afford a larger hotel, then we can probably do it without going this far.

2. I'm all in favour of this. I think fannish and OT panels are important and have their place, but for the most part that place isn't in Montana A during a prime-time slot. Our programme just doesn't have the sort of stuff people expect to see when they think of an SF convention, and that's an issue. Hell, I've been going for 9 years and it bugs me that I only get to attend a small handful of panels that are actually about SF&F.

Date: 2009-04-15 06:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I would argue one of the reasons 2008 got the surplus it did was because of unified brand identity and extensive marketing and publicity.

But then I would say that, since I was in charge of developing a unified brand identity and undertaking extensive marketing and publicity.

Date: 2009-04-15 07:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am 100% behind you/in agreement with you, in this entire thread Grant. Or, to put it another way: "yes"

[to compare, when I was pres of the Gamers Guild, one of the things we did was get a professional logo done up, and start mass advertising. Once I left, no-one could be bothered, but that's another story.)

Date: 2009-04-15 07:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So I count 52 SF&F panels. How many is enough?

Date: 2009-04-15 08:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I count 117 panel slots in the programme, not counting annual standards like the opening/closing ceremonies, masquerade, awards ceremony, auction, etc. 52 SF&F panels out of 117 total at a SF&F convention is not enough. It's less than half.

Also, one of my main gripes is that out of those 52, only around 15 have a topic that mentions a specific fandom (Tolkien, Miyazaki, Heroes, Twilight, Batman, Doctor Who, etc), with many of the remaining ones being vague and generalised in their topics. Those generalised panels can be interesting, to be sure, but in my opinion it's a definite imbalance. And I think it's particularly bad for newcomers, who probably just want to attend a discussion about their favourite show (or somesuch).

Date: 2009-04-15 08:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, I liked the balance, but that's just me. It's certainly not the "15" that got bandied around. As an excercise what was the balance on the convention you programmed for?

Date: 2009-04-15 01:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Honestly, it was probably a similar balance, although I can't give you exact figures because I don't know what criteria we're both using for what constitutes a SF&F panel (the line is pretty blurry on some of the more generalised panel topics). And I can say for certain that we had nowhere near enough panels on specific fandoms - around a dozen, by my count.

This kind of thing gets much clearer in the years after you've done it. So while I'm very proud of the job I did (and Maia should be very proud of the job she's done), what I've mentioned above are some of the things I'd change about 2007 if I were to do it over.

I guess this just further shows that what I'm talking about is a long running thing - certainly not a complaint limited to this year's programme. I've really got the feeling that SwanCon has turned into a spec-fic convention that just doesn't spend all that much time discussing spec-fic. I'm not really sure how long that's been the case, but it seems a bit odd to me.

Date: 2009-04-15 02:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Further to my last comment, I've been having a closer look at the draft programme for 2007 (can't find the final one). If we include generalised panels with a topic that can be (and probably was) applied to SF&F (eg. Breaking Reader Expectations) as being "SF&F Panels", then that programme contained about 70-75 SF panels out of a total of about 90-100 slots. Of course, your criteria might be different to mine :)

So, while I still wish I'd included more panels on specific fandoms (among a few other changes), I'm happy with the relatively limited amount of OT and meta-fandom stuff that made it in.

Date: 2009-04-15 08:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Some questions:

Do we want to move away from our fannish side? Isn't that what makes us unique?

If not, what makes Swancon different from Ghengiscon, Waicon and Supernova? (If we don't differentiate ourselves, they'll eat our lunch! We can't compete on size or cost.)

Swancon is a formula we exported east on several occasions. What has changed to make this a sub-optimum formula?

If we're growing at a nrate matching or exceeding population growth, are we failing?

Do we face a risk of diluting that which makes it feel like family for so many of us by growing too fast? (This complaint was levelled against Gothcon 1 AKA Swancon 21.)

I'm not saying what you are proposing is wrong, I just don't want us to go too far :-)

Date: 2009-04-15 09:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
what makes Swancon different from Ghengiscon, Waicon and Supernova? (If we don't differentiate ourselves, they'll eat our lunch! We can't compete on size or cost.)

Genghiscon is smaller and targeted at gaming. It's the only one of these cons to do so. Both Swancon and Waicon have Gaming sections, but that's not "in the name of the con".

Waicon is new. It's run by an extremely similar organisation (volunteers). HOW can you not compete on size or cost??? I REALLY don't understand that. 2 years ago they took a MASSIVE risk moving to the convention centre - it could have made the organisation (and a lot more than that) go bankrupt. It worked, but only just covered costs despite a huge increase in people coming (mainly through word-of-mouth advertising). The year after that (ie this year) there was nearly DOUBLE the attendance mainly because of the success of the '07 con in the new venue.
The first Waicon about 5 years ago had around 100 people and they now have over 3000 running with almost identical budget constraints that swancon has.

Supanova is a National thing run by a *company* that are PAID to run these kinds of events. They are mainly interested in money - it's why they run the event. It's not "run by fans, for fans" unlike the other two you've mentioned.
Yeah, it kinda covers the same area, but not really. It's not REALLY a SF&F con, but more a ...generic TV/Anime/Comics con...

Date: 2009-04-15 05:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
With respect whilst Supanova are commercial in nature they are very supportive of fan groups and established events and the community as a whole. They have been unstinting in their support of Swancon, and Waicon and I've had several very productive, casual and friendly conversations with Daniel who is the event director. It's a family business - they're lovely people and they are people and care about what they're doing, same as any of the rest of us running events. Daniel the event director is actually a fan, it's totally a fan based thing, he's just set it up differently to how we've done our stuff.

Date: 2009-04-15 02:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's not about moving away from our fannish side. Fannish injokes and community will live on as long as you have a bunch of people (and this bunch in particular) in the same place at the same time. You don't need to give that sort of thing time in the programme - it'll happen all on its own.

drayke sums up my views pretty well in his reply to this comment. SwanCon is unique because it's supposed to be a wide-reaching, all-are-welcome con for lovers of all things SF&F, across all media. The other cons you mention are tailored to more specific audiences.

I don't think we need to grow in size as an absolute rule, but I think it's something that'd be wise to do under the current circumstances (mostly to do with venue sizing/pricing issues).

Self-indulgence. Mine, and yours.

Date: 2009-04-15 04:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My presence may not be particularly important, but the relentless fannishness has driven me far from Swancon. Unless the con changes its nature over the coming years, I'll be spending my Easters interstate, at work, or volunteering at a shelter or something, or researching indigenous health, that sort of thing. My own self-indulgent wank.

Date: 2009-04-15 06:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As some one fairly new to Swancon, I'd say

1) I think this would work well. I have only ever vaguely heard about Swancon through friends who go (who finally bugged me sufficiently into going last year), and while word of mouth is a good way to keep people coming, it doesn't swell the numbers quite as well as some proper marketing

2) I would kinda agree here too. I don't think Swancon is drawing the sorts of numbers it could, given the more mainstream popularity of science fiction at the moment. I think there is wider circle of less intense fans who would come to a more relaxed con.

Date: 2009-04-15 07:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I wouldn't want a more "relaxed" con, but I'd be happier attending a con where the emphasis was more on just discussing SF texts and related/meta- subjects. I'm not into the costumes or the advanced geekery side of it, although I do appreciate that it's nice for those that are to have a safe space in which to practise their hobbies/fetishes.

As far as panels go I'd be interested in attending or even running a pre-Tolkien fantasy panel. Has that been done to death yet?

Date: 2009-04-15 07:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think there was a Classic Fantasy that isn't LotR panel the year I did the programme, but I have no idea how it went, and it's probably about time the topic was revisited. I think it'd be an interesting one.

Date: 2009-04-15 03:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, IMHO GengisCon is a more relaxed version of Swancon. Have you attended one of those?

Date: 2009-04-20 11:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
No, but I will have a look this year, though I am not sure if I am in the state at the time.

Date: 2009-04-15 06:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm a fan of the first go is free idea, even if it's just 1 day free, or half price for the first whole con. This lets people actually go along and find out if they'd like it or not. Belinda had not thought she'd like Swancon until I managed to talk her into spending $20 on Friday to find out. She liked it so much she spent $25 more and came in Saturday also, and is planning on being a full member for next year.

Date: 2009-04-15 06:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Every day is $20 entry for first timers, maybe? Then they don't have to go to a particular one, and may come to all of them?

Date: 2009-04-15 08:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Interestingly enough 2004 swancon had a scheme like this and it was one way that they didn't break even - which was a shame. They had cheap memberships for people who introduced people, including the new person.

This year we may or may not have lost income - or we may have engaged the numbers in a sense that provides more continuity for the future. It may be that our convention had slightly lower numbers in some areas due to the $20 day.

However, it may be that those people will return again next year and possibly be there for the whole time/be involved etc. That's actually what I think is more likely to happen, though I am aware of several people who did come back for another couple of instances based on the $20 day.

I'm very much supportive of exploring and workshopping the idea.

Date: 2009-04-15 11:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
2004's not breaking even wasn't a shame, considering how close to budget we were. (In fact, the main reason we made a loss at all was that A Certain Shop failed to give us the $900 or so they took on memberships.) Making a massive surplus, however...

Date: 2009-04-15 04:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My understanding is that it wasn't all that close to the budget - not including that Certain Shop? I'm happy to be wrong - my understanding that the 2 major factors were the cost of the hotel, and the effect of the new person memberships.

Date: 2009-04-16 04:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
While it's difficult to know exactly what led to the approx $1,500 deficit (ie. a bit under 4% of budget), the official reason was indeed put down to the cheap memberships experiment. (WASFF had "pre-authorised" up to a $1,500 deficit on the basis of the experiment, so on that basis we were very close to budget.)

Date: 2009-04-16 04:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Aaah cool - thanks for clarification :)


Date: 2009-04-15 02:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I remember that. The $50 for newbies thing (as well as $50 for newbie-bringers) was FANTASTIC.

Date: 2009-04-15 09:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I really think a free con or a greatly reduced con for new people is really the way to go. And yeah, also keep the OT panels out of the main venues at prime times. I think there are loads of people in perth (and I know as I work in a library) who read SF&F and would like to come to a convention to discuss it. They just don't know about it. Perhaps putting posters up in local libraries could work or around universities. We need better marketing methinks!

Date: 2009-04-15 02:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
SwanCons have been advertising in libraries (with varying degrees of effectiveness) for a few years now, and there's always advertising in UniSFA.

There's probably more aggressive ways we could advertise, but frankly if we get the word out to as many people as possible that there's a Science Fiction event happening for 5 days and it's FREE TO NEWCOMERS, a lot of geeks will get out there and see it.

Date: 2009-04-15 10:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
how are you going to tell if someone's been before if they say they haven't but have really? it's not really feasable to be carrying around attendance lists for whomever is selling tickets

Date: 2009-04-15 02:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I figure a previous membership list, covering the last 5 or 6 cons. I don't think it'd be particularly hard to get access to one.

Date: 2009-04-16 01:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Or you just take people on face value - if someone says they've never been to a Swancon, you give them the cheap membership.

The community will police itself if people start rorting it.

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