THE DEALER'S ROOM AT INTERSECTION
By Caroline Mullan
The Dealer's Room at Intersection did not scale up from the Eastercon model, and nor will the next UK Worldcon Dealer's Room. The next UK Worldcon Dealer's Room will not have to reinvent itself , but we had to invent the Intersection Dealer's Room from scratch.
The Dealer's Room at Intersection was not sold out. It took nearly a third of its total bookings by value and a quarter by numbers of dealers after the end of May. It did achieve its objectives and its budgets without too many obvious mistakes (though the ones we did make were dillies, they have hopefully remained reasonably private to the con committee!). And if we had assumed it scaled up from and Eastercon and tried to run it that way, it is my deep and sincere belief that Intersection would have taken a very expensive bath, while providing a poor Dealer's Room to members.
Now arguably Finance and Facilities (Site) divisions and/or an active Fixed Exhibits Division Head should have handled the bulk of largish chunks of the work involved. But they didn't at Intersection. And arguably in our inexperience we did more work than we needed to do in certain areas. But if we had just assumed that the Committee (in the wider sense) understood the marketing, site, and finance requirements involved in running a Worldcon Dealer's Room thenů but I've already stated my conclusion.
However, as far as we can tell Conspiracy did scale its Dealer's Room from an Eastercon despite being in a convention centre, because Conspiracy actually was a larger Eastercon in terms of organisation, and I have set out the differences below, for those of you who like details:
EASTERCON DEALERS ROOMS
Mark Plummer has run the Eastercon Dealers Room for five years.
For Eastercons in the past, Mark:
- sends one information mailing to about 50 or so dealers whose names he has had for years
- takes about 50 phone calls and maybe a dozen letters over the year
- normally turns away the last handful of people who want tables
- talks to the organising committee maybe once a month by telephone or in the pub
- visits the hotel once or not at all prior to the convention, and turns up on the day assuming (normally correctly) that the hotel will provide the appropriate number of tables, cloths, and chairs without overmuch fuss.
Then at the convention itself, for the most part the 30-50 dealers for whom there is space:
- turn up with their stuff at the hotel on the Thursday or Friday morning without expecting or needing any information other than the convention PRs
- move their stock by hand or hand trolley brought with them or provided free by the hotel
- use covered tables which are provided free by the hotel
- if lucky enough to have a power point handy and they want it, plug their unchecked equipment in with no fuss and at no charge
- leave again Monday the same way
- pay at the con and are given cash receipts
- don't grumble unduly at table prices OR membership rates with the latter at about GBP 25-30 and given that tables normally end up flat rate at GBP 30 or so each
At an Eastercon Mark does not:
- produce or work to a formal budget
- develop a pricing policy and set prices from scratch under conditions of total uncertainty as to how many tables can be sold at what rartes to which dealers
- "sell" the Dealers Room to dealers who have no idea what an SF convention is nor how it habitually runs, still less a Worldcon
- build up and manage a mailing list of over 300 names and addresses
- produce formal Dealer's Room sales or contractual documentation
- arrange building work (walls, power, telephones)
- arrange to hire (or beg, borrow or steal) furniture and moving equipment
- advise overseas dealers who expect the convention to be able to help with import/export procedures and communications
- handle VAT accounting requirements for 150 invoices over 18 months
- handle deliveries and collections by shipping companies in bulk and in the absence of the person contracting with the shipping company
- arrange for electrical safety testing
- deal with an average of 20 non-email communications (in and out) a week for a year
- co-ordinate actively over 18 months with a committee whose inexperience and communication difficulties have been much discussed
Incidentally, I was going to mark the items above that Conspiracy either did not have to deal with or did not require their Dealer's Room organiser to concern himself with, but then I realised that the ONLY one that would remain unmarked is the furniture hire! So I didn't.
Then at the convention itself