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Next Year's Booth: Storm this Brain

Started by Luke, August 25, 2004, 12:55:14 AM

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Andy Kitkowski

I tend to think in jumps and starts, so I know that I'll have more to chime in with later.  I'll only address maybe two things that were said above in my comments, mostly sticking to my own stuff.

Andy was a booth monkey. Here's his criticisms and suggestions:

First of all, all the other booth monkeys, the ones going in knowing that they were to sell others' stuff, were awesome. Everyone pimping everyone else's game was great, too.

That fifth table.  We really could have used it. The Cartoforge people were doing a great job, but we could have rigged up a makeshift podium or something, or use the end of a long table. That fifth table wasn't being used for demos, and when there were people looking for demos in a full house, its loss was profoundly felt.

The fourth table.  There were some times on the early days of the con that one or two people would sit down on one of the Four tables, prop up a book, and wait for people to come to them so that they can run a demo. Nuh-uh. Didn't work.  Luckily, it didn't happen on Sat afternoon or Sun.

Training!  Getting in friendly demos of the games at night was a great way to get accustomed to the game. However, I think that we need to make an effort to get the Booth Monkeys, namely those people specifically coming to pimp others' games (and maybe the low-tier people too), perhaps pre-release copies of the materials.  I'd like to have every booth monkey be able to run a quick (20 minute) demo of at least TWO or THREE of the New Hotness games by Thursday morning when the con opens. If you're on the low tier buy-in, your own game would count towards that. Fresh off the press is great, but it's a bullet in the foot if it means the only person at the booth who has played or can run the game is you.

Don't "bark" or "herald". At least, not too much. The people at the SGJ booths yelled things out in the "barker voice" a lot, and it was kind of annoying. Except for the "kind of". We did it a few times, hell I did it once or twice to announce demos.  We're not a fish market, no need to yell out things like "Indie Games, Step right up!!!" etc.

Build a fucking monstrosity.  Someone mentioned something to the extent of "Hey, can we build a two-story structure?" before the Con.  Maybe that's something to look into, if only for a REALLY HIGH SHELF to keep our stock on (and a mini-ladder to go up and get stuff). I've seen some pretty stupid but handy guys at college make some incredible, sturdy, rock-solid wooden structures (bunkbeds and the like), and maybe we can think about something like that. At least for storage. I'd love to make a 2-level booth with tables above, but seeing some of the Gen-Conners, I'd feel REAAAAAALLY uncomfortable being underneath some of them.

Perhaps retire the shelf? It is awesome, it truly is, but it's hard to manuver around. Else we can think of a new way to use it (keep the 'third side' empty, etc).

Not enough running. We had booth monkeys there specifically so that people can limit their stock under the table, and when supplies got low they could "fire off" a monkey to make the 20-minute round trip journey to get stuff and bring it back. Instead, we had LOTS of unused stock piled up under the tables, which got in the way. Stuff like the register box, too, didn't need to be there. Hindsight 20/20.

Demos were awesome.  But like Luke did a few times, I think we need to get some of the Forge booth buy-in folks to schedule actual events of their game. Make interesting 4-hour demos at the actual tables. It will run you out a little, make you a little ragged, but you will have a captive 5+ player audience (I've never been to a non-RPGA RPG event that wasn't full). Bring extra copies of you book to the table, and you might be able to score some insta-sales when the adventure is done and you're packing up. If it's not legal to sell stuff at the gaming table, head out to the lobby or step outside the building for a friendly exchange. Or, if the hall is open then, just lead them to the Forge table.

I don't like homogenous shirts. Having said that, an easy way to spot Forge booth attendees would be nice.  Like a badge/pin, or a sombrero or something.  But not a big point, because you could always spot the Forge people at the booth easily: They were talking or selling stuff to other people.  Personally, I find a LARGE group of people with similar shirts kind of intimidating, if I'm only there to "poke around".

No Press Anthology: Part Zwei

Credit Card reader.  It was probably a pain in the ass last year, but I watched how some companies did it (Obsidian folks), and they had the process down pretty slick.  You cannot easily split the money apart like you could with the register.  Having said that, I watched a girl bring TROS to the register, then realize that no cards were taken, then look in her wallet, and then walk away when she realized she had little cash.  Credit is evil and is destroying people's lives in both the US and Japan... but it's grrrreat if you're running a Con Booth and are banking on impulse buys. :)
Seriously, though, It'd be worth it to get maybe 2-3 people (monkeys) involved on the CC side so that we can have one person running the Register totals at the end, and the other person figuring out the Credit Card sales. If you have a healthy seperation between credit and register, it should reduce the calculation time.

I think it'd be a good idea to contact some of the smaller booths to see if they'd be up for joining forces for next year, since TROS may have to fly their banner elsewhere (but hopefully close by).

I hear the comments about a Larger Booth and Two Booths Seperated by Space. I can see the good points of both. But I'll leave that discussion entirely to the people who will actually be there next year.

Oh, and I was kidding about the sombreros.

-Andy
The Story Games Community - It's like RPGNet for small press games and new play styles.

Luke

Quote from: Ron EdwardsHey,

H'm, that looks good at first glance, Luke.

We'll have to consider a few other things, like whether the long tables are really functional for our purposes, and similar. And bigger space means more little tables and more chairs (expensive little suckers). But it's a good start.

What was the shape/size of the booth you were looking at?

Best,
Ron

Hi Ron,

Well, given this configuration -- new furniture plus old -- we could be running 8 demos at a time, minimum.

I based my numbers off of the figures in the exhibitors application from this year:

Quote
Type Dimensions   Priority        Priority   Late    Badges
Standard 10X10     $995 $1,095 $1,385 2
Corner 10X10        $1,175 $1,290 $1,540 2

THIS YEAR:
End cap 10X20     $2,400 $2,640 $3,080 4

Proposed Next Year:
4-booth peninsula 20X20 $4,750 $5,335 $6,490 8

6-booth peninsula 30X20 $6,950 $7,645 $9,485 12
8-booth peninsula 40X20 $9,125 $10,035 $12,475 16
10-booth peninsula 50X20 $11,300 $12,430 $15,940 20
4-booth island 20X20 $5,620 $6,180 $7,760 8
6-booth island 30X20 $8,000 $8,800 $11,085 12
8-booth island 40X20 $10,400 $11,440 $14,550 16
10-booth island 50X20 $12,750 $14,025 $18,015 20
12-booth island 60X20 $15,100 $16,610 $21,195 24
14-booth island 70X20 $17,500 $19,250 $24,660 28
15-booth island 50X30 $18,725 $20,595 $26,180 30
30-booth island 50X60 $37,450 $41,200 $49,440 60

I'm sure the price will go up. Ron, do you remember how much the booth was last year?
-L

Andy Kitkowski

Another thought for future booth monkeys:

Perhaps the tie-in to live, scheduled events could work well, to the point where we try to get every person at GenCon to run at least 1-2 scheduled gaming events (time slot up to them, and number of slots, including "none" left up to their comfort level) in the scheduled area. That would give people a chance to get away from the Forge booth, pimp a game they like by running a solid, functional demo for a crowd interested in the sound of the game, etc.

It will take a lot of work to organize something like this, and do it in advance enough to make it work, but IMO it'd be worth it.

-Andy
The Story Games Community - It's like RPGNet for small press games and new play styles.

Nev the Deranged

Monkeyspeak:

Ron, I'd be more than happy to fork over 15$ to cover your extra costs. I know you aren't asking, I'm offering. That said, one of your extra badges last year was mine, which I paid for and then could not show up to use. Stupid car. This year I made sure to get it tuned up the month prior to the trip, and it paid off.

I think two adjacent booths would rock, even if it was an end and a side. Particularly, I think: End = Display/Sales, Side=All Demos, All the Time. I think two separate booths would be bad for a few reasons. One is that on the way from one booth to another, it's easy to get distracted. And there's that dilution factor, too. But this is all monkey observation, I defer totally to people who actually have product there.

As for the booth-person recognition factor, I don't like the T-shirt idea either, for pretty much the same reasons. 1) Seeing a bunch of "uniformed" people there is imposing and counter to the "Forge-vibe" as I understand it. 2) There are enough of us that we frequently outnumber the customers, which I think would look awkward and bad. Again, my retail-fu is rusty, so feel free to discount my opinions. Pins are fine if we have something besides our own clothes to pin them to. I wear all my best gamer-gear to the con and would prefer not to stick holes in it. Sombreros... well, I won't get into it.

Besides that, I'm cool with any gimmicks anyone wants to tap me for, as far as leading people to the booth from afar by any means, wearing any accoutrements or outfits (as long as I have forewarning), waving banners, whatever. I think the flyers are cool, because a lot of folks who didn't pay much attention at the Con itself can still check out the websites when they get home. I personally was probably responsible for 99% of the flyer-violations, for which I apologize to anyone besides myself who got yelled at. All I know is I handed out an assload of flyers.

I am SO down for pre-con monkey/ninja training sessions. Getting to know the games even a little bit makes it much easier to tout them... "I haven't actually played this one, but I hear it's really good!" is not a good closer, suffice to say.

Alright, I've run out of even potentially useful things to add, so I'll close by saying I had a great time, I hope I was helpful, and I'm open to anything that will make me more helpful next year.

btrc

First, let me give more kudos to Ron for setting things up and to everyone for helping make the absolute most of a tight space. After reading through all the comments, here's my 2 cents.

Suggestions?
More space. Like everyone else is saying. I'm willing to commit $400 (maybe more) to Ron -right now- as a share of a 4 booth peninsula for next year, or at least a 3 booth corner. I think it is well worth it.

More shelving. Ron knows the sort of thing I'm talking about. A couple of those and a few fixed racks with better exposure that would rotate "feature" products or something. The triangle shelf is nice, but a lot of the time I was pointing people at the sides they couldn't see and therefore ignored.

Push the tech. If we had wireless access, we could process credit cards or paypal. We could also have a dedicated computer sales station. Want a T-shirt? Order it in your size from Cafepress.com and it will be shipped right to your door. Mugs, coasters, mouse pads, posters, RPGmall print on demand, etc. Allows some access to other revenue streams without the up-front expense or space of a pile of shirts in the wrong size. Is it worth the space? Never know 'til you try...

A flip chart. Something to write on in big letters, like "Sorceror demo at 11am".

A contest. Something that you enter now, and check back later to see if you won. Maybe something where there is a drawing at a certain time, and the "losing tickets" are a coupon for "$X off product Y". Basically, something to get repeat attendance and an incentive to buy.

Greg
BTRC

Judd

How about a card people could get and if they demo X number of games they get 10% off a sale or something.  The Booth Monkeys could carry a stamp that for each slot, kinda like those coffee cards at coffee shops but for Demo's.

I know from what my friends bought that when they got caught up in a demo they bought the damned thing.

Throwing an idea out in this storm of brains.

btrc

While overpriced, the geometries are a good source for ideas:

http://www.godfreygroup.com/literature.html

Greg
BTRC

Michael S. Miller

As long as we're throwing out questionable ideas: What about buying folding hard-top stools rather than renting chairs. I know they're not that expensive at WalMart, and they can't be that much less sturdy than the really expensive rented chairs. Plus, they take up less room when not in use, and the lack of a back keeps people attentive in their demos. Storage and transport would be issues, but surmountable ones, I think.
Serial Homicide Unit Hunt down a killer!
Incarnadine Press--The Redder, the Better!

Harlequin

I think the sombreros are cool.  No, really.  Highly visible but allowing those who wear them to still maintain unique identity stuff (esp. line T-shirts and so forth).  Bizarre and unexpected.

Also, they would synergize with another suggestion, this one an observation as a customer...

Limits on monkeys.

One thing I did find tricky about the booth this year was that sometimes it seemed like there was more monkeys than people, and more monkeys waiting to run demos than demo tables.  This is just an impression, as Ken Burnside had me too dang busy running demos elsewhere.  So this is poor stats, a couple data points only... but the impression was nonetheless there.

The answer to which has to be rationing peoples' time at the booth.  Space is at a premium, and booth personnel are one consumption of that space - frankly more so than shelf space for your product.  Certes, we have necessary minimums, and they're high for a booth in general... but a stern eye not to exceed that number of staff would be a good thing.  Think of it as if, whenever one of the booth staff is at the booth's location or in the neighboring aisles, we have to pay them.  Real money (because space is money).  Whether they like it or not.

Obviously this would be facilitated by the previous suggestion.  Bring N sombreros.  If you are not wearing one of them, head elsewhere for a while.  Recognize that we want to maximize sales of everybody's product; give up your personal space on behalf of a potential customer.

Which in turn synergizes with my third suggestion.  Not only would it be a good idea to have real, scheduled demos outside of the exhibit hall, but I would suggest that we go so far as to tap the convention's pockets for demo space... by booking Forge demos back-to-back throughout the con.  Essentially, create a second locus, not in the exhibition hall, but in one of the gaming rooms, where at any time of day you can find Forgies demoing one of our products.  Which one?  Check your con program for the default, which can obviously be changed at the decision of the players/GM present for the demo itself.

Unify them in the name of the event.  I don't know how much the con controls the presentation of things in the manual, but event names like:
[Forge] My Life With Master - Demo: Withering Heights
[Forge] Burning Wheel - Demo: Thunder and Light
... and so forth.

This last suggestion depends largely on whether, armed with that sort of nomenclature, we can "convince" the con guys that this should just be one table with a reliable location or at least a reliable room, in all time slots.  If so, cool - make doubles of some of our eye-catchers, and make that table a second advertising locus.  (Can you imagine if one of the many indistinguishable demo rooms had a Forge banner above/beside the door?)

If there had been a scheduled Universalis demo, I would have scheduled around it.  As it was, I left it ad-hoc, and ended up running out of time for one (though I did get a shot at Elfs, my other hmm-let's-see-how-it-plays Forge product for this con).  This by no means replaces our in-booth, ad-hoc demo program... it supplements it.

- Eric


Valamir

Eric hits on a good idea.  I don't know if Gen Con has anything like this because I've not gotten to be a mere attendee at GenCon since 1994, but at Origins there are rooms around the convention center that are reserved for a single company.

They are largish classroom sized rooms of the sort that would have 5-8 round RPG tables in them for normal scheduled events except they are 100% running a single companies games all day everyday.

Columbia Games is the one I'm most familiar with at Origins but I believe that Mayfair and Rio Grande et.al. have done this as well.

Christopher Weeks

It looks, from the numbers Luke posted, that two two-space endcaps is only trivially more expensive than a four-space booth.  I'm thinking two endcaps right across the aisle from one another would be better than a square of four.  You get to whack customers, as they walk through, from both sides with the Forge experience.

Also, I don't think you should strive to double the furniture costs because the booth, the demo area in particular, is already too tight.  Add a few tables, but don't just duplicate the current setup.

As far as the great triangular shelf goes, consider that the inside is wasted space (at least from a presentational POV -- is the inside used for something?).  If you had three planes of the same size, folded out, you could have stuff displayed on each side, doubling the area for books.

Chris

Michael S. Miller

Another thought, riffing off Andy's point about more than one demo-capable person per game. Perhaps behind the counter we should have a Demo Box. Everyone prepares their demo, complete with character sheets and hopefully a quick rules summary, and they all get put in one box behind the counter, along with plenty of dice, coins/chips and several decks of cards. That way, when someone needs to demo a game, they can just grab the demo pack and go!

I kinda like the Forge Demo Table. As far as running ticketed demos, I've had pretty good luck with them. This year, I ran four 2-hour demos, one each day. I got to run for 14 different people, and I know at least 4 of them bought the game, and another 5 said they were going to pick it up.

I also have to weigh in against the two separated booths thing. I foresee lots of folks saying things like: "Isn't this the Forge booth? Where's Burning Wheel?"

"Um, it's on the other side of the hall, at the other Forge booth"

"Did you guys have a falling out?" Now, booth person must use valuable time to explain why some games are here and some are there.
Serial Homicide Unit Hunt down a killer!
Incarnadine Press--The Redder, the Better!

JamesSterrett

If I could expand and reinforce some of Eric's points....

- Sombreros might not be the best option, because of the space they take up - but distinctive gear is a plus, especially if it lets you limit the number of demo minions present.

- The Forge Mini-Con is very cool.  However, as Eric noted, it was also several negative things:

 1)  A traffic jam.  It was sometimes hard to get to the Forge booth as a result, hard to get the attention of people in the booth, and the pack dissuaded us from trying to get into the Forge space on a number of occasions.

 1a) And it was also hard to get to booths next to it.  The latter is important - you had indie publishers on three sides.  Do you really want to impact on their con success, and give them negative feelings towards the Forge?  I'd answer "no".   I know that when I was on duty at the Ad Astra booth on Saturday, two or three of you spent the entire time chatting while standing in a wall in front of Jeff Siadek's Battlestations booth.  In his shoes, I'd have been right pissed; and I felt rather ashamed of considering myself a Forgite (or at least a fellow-traveller :) ), watching that.

 Good will from your neighbors is worth something - in crude sales terms, it's worth referrals (or, with ill will, worth gripes that may drive people from coming by.)

 2)  Corinne and I sat down at a free demo table looking for a demo of TROS and/or Burning Wheel, and amenable to most other suggestions.  Nobody took the slightest notice until we singled out Don from TROS and asked him, point-blank, for a demo.  I know it was Sunday - but the nifty conversations were keeping you from noticing potential customers.

 2a)  Because of the *lack* of a uniform, we couldn't really tell who might be ready to demo what.  Consider having the hats labelled with the products you are ready to demo.

So: the Forge mini-con is cool.  But it needs to take place elsewhere!!

Move the Big Demos into the RPG room.  Get a pair of tables and start a demo every hour, on the hour, to run for 2 or 4 hours.  Each demo gets half of a banquet tabel - in the minis rooms where we did AVT demos, you could fit 8 people at each table.

*Move the Forge Mini-Con to the RPG room.*  More people around the demo table helps generate buzz, and you can tell people when the next demo begins, or even run 5-minute showoff demos while standing around.  There may also be empty tables around you can temporarily colonize until their rightful owners show up; and this demo site won't close at 6PM.

Take a big stack of the Indie Booth Tour flyers to the RPG room and hand them out so people can find the sales booth.  We gave away a *lot* of these from the AVT demo table - not least because people liked the large-format map of the dealer hall!


In addition, running the major demos in the RPG room lets you crunch the booth demos into 5-15 minute showpieces without guilt.

Using the My Life With Master demo as the first example....

Paul's demo to us ran for about 40 minutes.  In that time, three of us got a short scene each.  We got an extended rundown on the mechanics of the game.

Revamp this demo!  The character sheet should be printed ahead of time with all the stats printed right on it.  Paul should have a highlighter pen so he can mark stats as they come up.

The demo should begin by telling players they play as minions of evil masters, and should now choose to serve one of four masters: A, B, C, and D - each of whom gets a name and one short descriptive phrase.  ("Wilhelm wants to be the world's greatest rock star but must drink blood to overcome his fear of crowds.")

The players choose a master.  No explanation of system is given - it's just *BANG* right into gameplay.  Rules get explained as little as possible; just "ok, roll this plus that, here's the dice".

Total demo time elapsed:  60-90 seconds.  High concept explained in the first sentence, game setup (choose a master) takes the next 45 seconds.  Introduce the minion character in 30 seconds - "Ralph is big and strong, but really ugly, and therefore despised.  However, he secretly loves Esmerelda and a puppy named Johan."

Now you designate one player as active, note that you'll cycle through them all in turn, and begin the first interaction with the Master....

Get players into the fun FAST, keep them there, and leave them begging for more - which they can get by Buying The Game and/or joining the RPG room demos.

The TROS demo is the second example.  It's a good setup for a combat demo.  It also completely ignores the SAs.  Change the demo by providing two sentences of setup: each of the fighters needs a reason to be in the fight, and that reason should be providing SA dice.  Ta-da - you're showing off another key Cool Aspect of the Game, doing it seamlessly, and in the process adding flavor and zest to the demo already in progress.

For the booth demo, the TROS demo should have only 2 combat exchanges.  Impose some deadline - the ship is sinking, you're fighting for the last boat?  And, as before, get them to buy the game, or join the RPG room demo, for more.




Overall rule for demos: whenever possible, don't *tell* me the game is cool - *show* me the game is cool through incorporating the Cool into your demo as seamlessly as possible.




To further enforce short demos, ditch the tables and chairs entirely.  You save money on furniture *and* reinforce the need for quick demos.  :)



And, finally, since much of the above has been negative:  I'm really glad you guys were there.  I'm happy to have finally met some of you and put a smile to the name; and I was pleased to see a crowd near the Forge booth, at least when it looked like mostly customers.

Andy Kitkowski

Hey guys- I wanna drop the sombreros thing, it was a joke. Truth be told, I got the idea by watching a demo of guys that were playing some German board/card game on the other side of the Mongoose booth (at a demo). I was walking by, and saw 5 guys crowded around one spotty, skinny kid, all of them wearing sombreros.  It was obvious that the game had a Mexico vibe to it, and the hats were demo tools to get people involved, but instead it made them look like 5 confused, slightly bored guys wearing sombreros (they might have been more excited had not the spotty kid been speaking in anything but a low monotone).

And that made me think back to the demos. Here's some more quick feedback:

Some of the demos were too long.  In my eyes, the demos should have been no more than, say, 20 minutes TOPS. The epitome of demo I saw when I went past Paul running MLWM. I was curious how he was going to run it, so I stood over his shoulder and watched:

"OK, guys, now normally we each have our own characters and play them out here, but since there's not enough time we're going to use this One Character here, and each of you will run him in a scene with me." Wow. Drop-dead perfect. Demo was probably, what, 10 minutes tops, including summary of game and plugging of its good points.

In many situations, this totally went down. Unfortunately, I can't remember the game or who was running them, but a few demos I swear lasted at least an hour. At that point, you're coddling the person. They've decided if they wanted to by at 15 minutes, and anything after that is just you either "finishing the adventure" or something. It's kinda like a hooker giving out a free trick.

If you've got a hard sale, make the demo last for up to 30 minutes, but by that time they should absolutely know if they are interested or not. At best, you're giving an uninterested person a "freebie".  

Again, my rec is 10-20 minute games at the Forge booth- a *bang* quick in and quick out, and if you want to run longer either take it to one of the open gaming areas (which AMAZINGLY were NOT filled with people simply resting and eating- There were plenty of open seats), or schedule a few open 1, 2, or 4 hour slot events at GenCon itself to run and showcase the game in the RPG areas. Because the GenCon registration system is so overflowing and fucked up that I guarantee that you'll have a full table (usually of people who couldn't get into anything else and chose your event as a backup- Which gives you a chance to really knock their socks off!).

And on the "demo materials" area- Tres cool idea, but I don't know how practical it will be. Ex: I can run Dust Devils in my sleep if the players generate their own characters. If I want to go for the *bang* quick in and out, I need to make pregens.  Matt Snyder handed me a, I think it was Ron's, demo pack for Dust Devils- 4 characters, their backgrounds, how each one was after another in some way, and the complicated events surrounding their relationships that we wanted to draw out over play.  I stared at it for like 10 minutes before I realized that I simply could not run that. I had to come up with my own stuff (retreating for about 20 mins to write up characters), after which I ran about 3 Dust Devils demos which worked for me (and got at least one person from each of the demos to then grab the game and walk to checkout).

You know how everyone has those adventures sitting in the back of their heads that they can simply just "go with" at the drop of a hat, and run them in their sleep?  It's like that. Comfort and all.  I figure that, if nothing else, if we can get some copies of the New Hotness to some of the booth monkeys about a month in advance, that gives them time to read, plot, and come up with a demo (and probably test is out as well with their local game group) for the con that they can run at the drop of a hat, from the top of their head.  That's the kind of demos we need to bring out at the booth. Demos where the GM is unsure of the rules, or stumbles a lot during the setup of the game, relfectively makes the game itself look bad.
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