The other articles on ideas to add more professional content to conventions is here.
There's something about competition, about challenge, that spurs us on. The most quiet, polite person can become disturbingly focused and energized by a little competition. Let's face it – we usually like a challenge.
Now conventions often run all sorts of events that are competitions. Thanks to an anime art competition, I will now be unable to forget the idea of Vash the Stampede from Trigun re-interpreted as a pinup-style model, but I am trying.
At your convention, leverage the competitions – or add new ones – to add more professional content. Art contests, writing contests, what have you.
JUDGES: Get professional judges if you can and have them critique from a professional point of view.
AWARDS: Make the prizes professionally oriented. That manga contest could result in a gift of books on drawing or history. The graphic art contest could result in a gift certificate to an art store or something similar. The writing contest could result in getting published in a pro publication.
THEMES: See about making (or adding) contest themes that fit a more professional bent. Don't have someone draw your mascot for the 50th time – have them enter 4 pages of original concepts. Make that writing contest serious.
Contests fire people up. If you're running them at your convention, see about adding a professional edge to them – or adding new contests. Use that drive.
– Steven Savage