Tag Archives: convention

The Future of Conventions: Modular

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Conventions have been part of my life for nearly 40 years. For many people, much like me, the story is the same – a majority of our life has involved attending, hosting, and even being guests at conventions. Now that they are threatened by COVID-19, we rightfully wonder what will happen to them.

Since COVID-19 has struck, I have wondered how conventions can survive. This is really a two-part goal: how do we preserve what makes conventions wonderful and how to we maintain having events. Vaccine-wise I don’t expect cons until late 2021 at best, and wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see the first until 2022.

So how do we help them survive? One piece of the puzzle came to me recently when Dianna Gunn held an online Writer’s Conference.

This was a tight, focused, effective event. It focused only on writers. Each panel focused on a given subject, such as worldbuilding, and each had a monitor. There were rules, Zoom meetings, an discord, and in short a plan. I obviously enjoyed it – and as a Project/Program Manager enjoyed how well run it was.

Now this small event had all the elements we’d want from a convention. It was social, it was friendly, and of course it was an event. Smaller than even a mini-con, but it had the elements we’d want at larger cons.

What struck me then is that this may be the future of conventions – in part. Literally.

Imagine this as a blueprint for the future:

Small groups like Dianna’s evolve to hold “mini-events” that are tight, focused, and polished. They should focus on a given audience and themes, with a team just the right size to pull them off. They shouldn’t necessarily hold these events as part of cons – they should develop independently but form alliances.

Conventions should also work to create small groups like the above that to tight, focused events that are like the events they used to hold in person. They should not feel they have to hold them as part of a convention – though they may. But any set of events should be considered independent.

And then conventions can use these “modular events” to assemble online conventions as needed. Conventions might even share content and run at the same time.

What do you get out of this?

  • You get groups that are good at running a set of specific things – and have a target audience.
  • You get groups that can run relatively independently.
  • You can have these events happen on their own, but when they are part of a convention, everyone gets to know more about these events.
  • You can work outside the usual convention schedule.
  • When we can finally meet in person, you have the talent you need to do things in person, or share things virtually, or whatever works.
  • If any con falls apart, its elements can survive.

This idea is one I clearly need to think over, but it feels like it’s something that can work, and I’ve seen similar business structures such as Scrum At Scale and even SAFe. Maybe we can save and improve conventions by making them modular and distributed.

There’s a seed here we can grow.

Steven Savage

SV Comic Con Roundup: Marketing Panel

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

First of all, sorry this comes late. It’s been awhile since I and my crew did the Silicon Valley Comic Con panels on self-publishing, and i’m only now reporting on it. It’s been a busy few weeks to say the least – you probably noticed a decrease in my blogging.

But now, with a lot of that behind me, let’s talk the latest addition to the speaking repertoire for my local crew of self-publishers – Marketing for Self-Publishers.

We’ve been speaking about self-publishing for years. The panel we do has been updated over time as we got feedback, as things changed, and as we adapted to new venues. But what my crew has also done has tried to speak on Marketing for years – but most people wanted Self-Publishing 101 (which is understandable, as its still new to people).

Finally, we got interest at SVCC, so we ran for it. And what we did is worth sharing.

First, yes, we had experienced Self-Publishers from our usual group, this time speaking on our Marketing experiences. We even had a one-page handout, like our usual Self-Publishing panel. What we varied was adding someone to give us a reality check.

Our panel included an experienced marketing professional, someone who’d been in the trenches of marketing in Silicon Valley. This person was there to check our advice, add things from their professional perspective, and discuss the bigger picture. In other words, they made sure our advice was applicable, unique cases weren’t discussed as if they were universal, and survivorship bias got shown the door.

I’ll cut to the chase – it was fantastic.

The usual speaking team did great, of course, providing validated advice with plenty of examples. Alone it would have been a pretty good panel, everyone was very aware and experienced, giving good examples. But when you throw in the Marketing Expert, it just went off the charts in quality.

What happened was we got into a rhythm, the authors discussing experiences, and then having the marketing professional give their take. That professional advice too things outside of the context of individual experience or just publishing, and into a good understanding of marketing. It meant that people heard what worked for us, but also helped them get the bigger picture of marketing.

I’m enthused enough I really want to repeat this panel. I also want to consider this model elsewhere – having specialists discuss a subject with a “non-specialist” expert to check them and expand their knowledge. A few ideas off the top of my head:

  • A digital artist panel – that includes a graphic tech expert.
  • A panel on writing techniques – with an expert on language history to discuss the history of writing patterns and such.
  • A panel on how to run a convention – with a professional manager or project manager (call me).

So great panel, great finding, and some advice for everyone to try.

Steven Savage

Fanime 2019 Roundup!

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

OK I was at Fanime 2019 and as usual, a quick roundup. This was pretty interesting.

DOMINANT FANDOM: My Hero Academia was seriously dominant in cosplay, Artists Alley, etc. It was clearly The Top Fandom in many ways that makes me recall stuff like Naruto or One Piece back in the day. However, I think MHA has a wider range of appeal.

OTHER FANDOMS: The Fate series had a large cosplay gathering, more than I recall seeing at Fanime before. I also saw a lot of Spidervese characters, with Spider-Gwen being the major character. Jojo seemed to be getting more representation, from all over the series. There were cosplays and stuff from all over, obviously not just anime.

SURPRISES: I saw an Outlaw Star group, and Yuri On Ice was still evident in cosplay and merchandise. Yuri On Ice made an impression (says the guy who watched it twice)

DEALER’S ROOM: Dealer’s room was pretty diverse. Fanime runs a good Dealer’s Room and there was merchandise from all over the fandoms and interests.

ARTISTS ALLEY: As noted, lots of MHA, mixed with other stuff. I also saw some artists who had radically different styles and takes on anime and game art.

PANELS: A few insights, but the panel selection felt deep:

  • Lots of Cosplay panels this year, including advanced techniques and personal branding.
  • There were a lot of fanfic panels, at various levels of interest. These were not just basic panels, but some got deep into craft.
  • Some panels on culture were interesting, from exploring odd theories around anime to queerness in magical girl stories. Very intriguing.
  • There were other in-depth panels like developing mobile apps.
  • My panel on Geeky Productivity was well-attended for a 10 AM panel, and the Self-Publishing panel was very well attended despite being across from a panel on branding (seriously). There’s a real interest at this con on skills, and I had people remembering me and others from before.

So that’s my experiences. If you attended, let me know what you thought!

I plan to be there next year, obviously, but I’m going to return with more panel and panel sequence ideas. There’s a real interest in heavy skill stuff there. If I can lecture dressed as an MHA character, it’ll have come full circle . . .

Steven Savage