Convention Idea: A focus on failure

The roundup of convention ideas is here.

How to use Photoshop.  How to find an editor.  How to make a portfolio.  Good events at conventions teach us how to do things.

How an author succeeded.  How an artist became famous.  We hear how the successful have achieved their goals when they speak at conventions, when they lecture, when they instruct.

Positivity is all fine and dandy, but let me suggest that, when doing pro-fan events at your convention, you also keep some events to focus on failure.

Yes.  Failure.  What are the ten things not to do to be an author?  What are the five careers that sports fans think make lots of money but don't?  What would professional artists say in a roundtable if asked "what's the dumbest thing you did in your career"?

Having pro-fan events at your con that speak on mistakes, on what to avoid, can actually have a lot of benefits:

  • Done properly – the "I did this wrong, this is why, this is how I fixed it" people can learn how to avoid or fix common mistakes.  Always make sure any panel on failure includes a  how-to-get-over it section.
  • It can defuse dangerous delusions of competence people may have about their idols and successful people.  Knowing how people make mistakes helps people face their own.
  • It makes people able to face their mistakes easier – especially if it's delivered with humor, understanding, and ideas of how to fix mistakes. 
  • It helps people develop sympathy for others who make errors – knowing others fail, acknowledging you fail, let's you accept it in others.
  • It acknowledges that your convention accepts that finding your dream job is hard, and people will view your events for pro-geeks as more realistic and balanced.
  • It gives you new material to work with as opposed to the same-old-same-old.

So go on, embrace failure as a subject at your convention.  Think of the topics you could cover, the laughs people could have, and the different viewpoints you could bring.

A few suggestions:

  • Have professionals speak on their biggest career mistakes.  Especially good in a more casual or roundtable setting.
  • Combine a discussion of the best software for a profession (writing, artist, etc.) with the worst (though you might annoy some people that make the software).  Make it a debate.
  • Have panels on the "X" most common mistakes in "Y" profession; the five worst things artists do, the six biggest mistakes people make getting into video games, etc.
  • Do a roundtable discussion where attendees themselves discuss the mistakes they made.
  • Discuss great historical mistakes relevant to your convention that relate to careers; what's the worst dub in anime (I was on several panels like that), the biggest flub in film releases, the worst-marketed video games, etc.  Make sure lessons learned are clearly called out.

Remember, you want your attendees to be successes in their geeky jobs.  Help them out by introducing them to failure.

– Steven Savage

Convention Idea: Different Prizes

The List of Convention Ideas is here.

How many conventions have contests with assorted prizes?  Figures and books and comics and more are given out for guessing songs, writing, skits, and more.

Having run a few contests, I certainly enjoy finding interesting prizes; obscure videos, interesting collectables, and more.  However I also enjoy giving away books.

Career-oriented books.

Now I'm not recommending your Sci-Fi con use copies of "What Color is Your Parachute" or "The Unwritten Secrets of the Highly Effective Job Search".  What I'm recommending is making some of your contest prizes books relevant to careers appropriate to the attendees.

I've given away books on anime and manga-style art at anime cons.  Think of what else you could do:

  • There are how-too books on virtually everything out there, from art to writing.
  • There are career-specific books on various geeky careers.
  • Considering books that profile the careers of famous people – those are often inspirational.

I you're going to add profan elements to your cons, why not take it a bit further and work it into your contests.  It may seem a small thing, but it's just one more addition to making your convention cater to those who want to use their hobbies in their careers.

– Steven Savage

Convention Idea – Student Associations

The round-up of convention ideas can be found here.

When you want guests and events its easy to focus on the professional side of things: professional fans, professional groups, professional lecturers.

Keep in mind that many of your attendees with be students, potential students, or people looking to learn more.

So for potential guests, events, and more start looking at inviting student associations.

Your local colleges will probably have plenty of selections:

  1. There are those associated with particular professions or skills – writer's groups, artist's, etc.  They can provide people with information on what it's like to learn a skill or pursue a profession – and find groups they may want to join at a given skill.
  2. There are those associated with colleges in general.  They may be able to speak on the virtues of a given college or institution.
  3. There may be groups that have general interests (anime, SF) that can provide some broad and interesting insights.

The advantages of inviting student associations?

  1. Speaking to the right targets.  Most student associations know exactly who they're for and what they provide.
  2. History.  Many student associations have long histories that provide information, context, and connections.
  3. Build relations between your convention and colleges.  Good student association relations can forge stronger relationships with educational institutions.
  4. They are your audience.  There's a good chance the student association members are interested in or are already attending your convention anyway.

Next time you set up your convention's profan activites, don't forget the students.  You'll be missing out.

– Steven Savage