Make It So: Honey I Shrunk The Con (and Kraken Con review)

Last weekend I went to Kraken Con in the Bay Area, doing one of my creative gameshows. Kraken Con (this year’s motto “New Squids on The Block”) is an attempt to do a small, one-day convention done twice a year.

They succeeded in my book. Massively.

It was a tight, focused, event. No wasted room, no wasted time – and no hurried pacing or inability to choose what to do. There was one (shockingly huge) dealer’s room, organized events, a nice relaxation spot/cafe, and a tightly run ship. No fluff, no mess, and no overload.

In turn, everyone I talked to was pleased and having fun. From artists telling me how it was even bigger than they expected to attendees mentioning how they enjoyed it, people seemed to really like this. Frankly it felt like a second or third year convention – and this was the first time it had run.

I’ll certainly be there the next time, in April.

So this got me thinking. Admittedly a lot of things make me think, but in this case it was pretty specific: I think there’s a place for more smaller conventions held more often in the fields of fandom and geekery.

This is not to say that I don’t like large, sprawling conventions. I think they can be great. I think they’re fun. I enjoy being lost in the haze of three days of cosplay, creativity, and pizza. I like the extended, concentrated blast of geek.

Such conventions have their place, but I don’t think they’re the only way a convention should be run (or aspire too) and in some cases overlarge events can actually become a chore. ┬áIndeed, a subject that’s oft been discussed among the MuseHackers is this; that there is indeed a place for different sized, different duration conventions. Not all conventions need to be the same

Kraken Con embodies that difference – small, tight, organized, yet easy.

So I’d like to make a proposition to you thinking of organizing conventions: maybe your goal should not be a future Giant Sprawling event or even a current Somewhat Sprawling Event. Maybe you should focus on conventions that are single-day and done more often.

Looking at Kraken-Con and other “smaller” cons I’ve been to, I see several advantages:

  • A single-day event is, frankly, easier to plan. It’s limited scope simply means there’s less to go wrong.
  • A single-day event also requires you to really ask what people want to do – it focuses you and your staff. As much as I love some big conventions, there’s been a few times I’ve wondered “is that really necessary?”
  • A single-day event probably gives you more adaptability in venue since you’re not booking for three days.
  • A single-day event also limits your ability to, well, screw-up. There’s only one day to mess up, and one day of bills to worry about.
  • A convention done more often means that you can evolve quicker – since you do it more often, you apply your lessons more often.
  • A convention done more often actually increases publicity since people hear about it more often and have more chance to attend.
  • A convention done more often means a better chance to get guests and attendees (couldn’t come last time, come six months from now!).
  • * You can always change your mind – it’s probably easier to scale up a small, more regular con than scale down and spread out a bigger one happening once a year.

Tight, focused, bounded. I think there’s something to this. I think you should explore it and, well . . . make it so.

Besides, it’s like software. Not all tasks are suited for giant software packages – sometimes you need smaller apps to get the job done just fine, thank you.

– Steven “Squidmaster” Savage