Convention Ideas: Pay a Visit

You can find the roundup of other convention ideas here.

When we plan convention events, there's a tendency to keep events focused ON the convention itself – doing things there at the hotel, building, etc.  You paid for that floor space, youíre going to bloody well use it.

Floor space aside, for professional events, you might want to think out of the box (or the hotel).  Depending on where your convention is located, you may want to think about doing some professional events outside of the convention.

Again, though this is location dependent, do some research on what businesses and industries are near your convention that would be of interest to your attendees.  Is there a Print-On-Demand facility near your literary con?  Is there a branch office of an anime distributor or import company near your anime con?  Are there game companies near . . . well any convention remotely geeky?  If youíre in one of the big metro areas (Boston, New York, SF Bay Area, etc.) thereís surely a wealth of interesting companies.

Once you figure out whatís near you, see if you can set up tours or lectures at the very facilities near your convention as events associated with the convention.  Go show people at the convention how the industries they're interested in work by giving them direct experience.

This may sound daunting, but it's probably easier than you think:

  1. Many companies and businesses have tours, and more may be open to them.  They're used to this.
  2. It's an excellent chance for them to gain a little publicity ("Local publisher hosts visit of aspiring writers" makes great press).
  3. Let's face it, it's fun to show off.

For your convention there's plenty of benefits:

  1. It gives people SERIOUS hands-on with an industry, business, or company they're interested.
  2. You have an event that's not taking up valuable convention floor space.
  3. You build good relations with local business.

If you're on staff at a convention, I have a challenge for you: go hit the phonebook, chamber of commerce, web sources, etc. and find local businesses that might be of interest to your convention attendees.  Once you have a list, talk to the people at your convention and see if they'd be interested – and if they are, start calling.

It's not perfect – there will be transportation, disclaimers, possible feels, NDAs, etc.  But nothing beats that real-life experience for your attendees.  You can be sure it'll be memorable – and educationa.

Go on.  See if you can pay a visit to local businesses.

– Steven Savage