I have produced a series of information sheets (11 pages so far) designed to inform hotel managements about the major requirements of SF conventions and highlight the differences between them and business conferences. These extracts consist of paragraphs taken from a variety of sheets to emphasise the points that really need to be rammed home to hotels.
The Convention Attendees
It is important to realise that the convention attendees are members, not delegates. They attend purely of their own free will and are not on any form of expense account. In many cases going to a convention serves them as an annual holiday and some will behave appropriately. The only exceptions to this are the guests of honour, whose bills are paid by the convention.
The Programming Structure
The programme at a science fiction convention differs from that at a conference in two respects. Firstly, it is a continuous stream or streams of items, with minimal gaps in between. Secondly, apart from the most popular items, many of the attendees will ignore the programme totally in favour of socialising. This means that drinks and (if feasible) food should be available throughout the day rather than solely in intermission periods.
So that members can take time from work to attend, conventions are generally held at odd times of the year. Frequently this allows us to fill a hotel that would otherwise be empty. For this reason substantial discounts, even on normal conference rates, have come to be expected by the membership and it is one of the main areas on which competing bids are cross-examined. In a majority of cases quality of accommodation comes second to price.
It is a characteristic of science fiction conventions that they combine a high consumption of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages while giving very little trouble. This may be because drinking tends to be spread out over a long period rather than being crammed into a few hours. Two essentials are a supply of real ale and an adequate quantity of soft drinks such as draught orange juice.
What Should the Hotel be Prepared For?
The convention programme will probably continue 24hrs a day at large conventions. Staff should be prepared for people in costume carrying (simulated) weapons making odd noises, parties in corridors and other strange venues carrying on into the early morning, bare feet, vegetarian diets (up to 10% of the membership) and other unusual requirements. It should be emphasised though, that most sites find science fiction conventions to be remarkably trouble-free, combining a high turnover with less associated damage than other functions.
Why should we bother?
Profitability - a large convention has a turnover of over a quarter of a million pounds. Also - many members are professionals and can be expected to be influential in deciding locations for meetings and product launches. Conventions attract press, radio and TV coverage offering excellent chances for free publicity.
All the original information sheets are A4 and slickly produced (courtesy of Apple Macintosh and a Laserwriter). If you would like to see copies of all the original sheets than write to me at 18 Pell St, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 2NZ, enclosing a large stamped addressed envelope please.