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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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Matt Gwinn

Reading through these 5 pages I have noticed that every viable problem the booth has revolves around one simple fact...we don't have enough damn space.  We really need to get a 20' x 20' endcap next year.   IMO a 10' deep booth is simply not deep enough for all the traffic we generate. Even with the 10' x 30' booth we had 2 years ago we were no better off in terms of crowding.  The standard 10' deep booth is designed to be walked past, not through.  Here is a potential floorplan I put together

http://errantknightgames.com/floor.pdf

I'm not opposed to paying a little more to sell my wares.  I think $150 for each game/supplement you have for sale (up to $600) is a reasonable amount.  If you can't sell 10 copies of a $15 game in a 4 day period you're simply not trying.  

Paying more on top of the per game price will get you extras, like more banner space($100), your own demo table($100), your own personal booth monkey($100), etc.  That means a primary sponsor with 4 or more books will pay at the most $900 and get his own demo table, space for a 30" x 72" banner, and their very own booth monkey to run errands like going to the hotel for more stock, getting your lunch, demoing your game, etc.

If it's still too cost prohibitive to get a 20' x 20' booth, what are the chances of us getting a booth across from one of the open gaming areas?  That's a ton of available space for running demos when there's no room left at the booth.  It would also give booth monkeys an out of the way  place to hang and chat while still leaving them available and within sight of the booth.

It would also give us access to all the people that stop to take a break, play a couple games of magic or sort through their recent purchases.  If they have time to sit around, they have time to play in a demo.

Another thought I had was limiting the number of workers at the booth.  We go over this every year and I think a big part of our problem is that no one is quite sure when they should take off and when they need to stick around.  Maybe some kind of system is in order.  

How about this, let's get  10 buttons made that signify that you're "on duty".  At the start of each day, 10 people take those buttons and the rest get lost for a while.  When an "on duty" person needs a break they take off their button, put it in a basket we'll keep behind the counter and get lost.  Anyone that is ready to put some time in should stop by the booth from time to time to see if there are any buttons available.  If there's a button in the basket, put it on and get to work.

Regardless, I think there should be at least 2 people at the booth at all times that are easily identifiable as being part of the booth and available to answer questions, etc.

,Matt
Kayfabe: The Inside Wrestling Game
On sale now at
www.errantknightgames.com

Mike Holmes

OK, at this point, I've read through all of the comments so far, and the following is the vision that I'm getting:

Booth Layout:
    [*]More space needs to happen. For about a dozen reasons. And I think it's viable. Next year we will have more folks selling more products, if history is any indication. As to what to get, definitely go with Matt's layout or something similar - but the peninsula, not the two booth thing.

    Why? The aisle thing, while appealing in terms of captive traffic, means that either you have to have two registers, or you have to send people across the street to pay. The former means you lose your overhead advantage in increasing the size. That is, if you double the size, but only have the same space overhead in terms of only one register, etc, you get an increase in the proportion of space for other things. For example, I think you could get ten tables on Matt's layout instead of 8. Or keep it more open in general. You lose this advantage with the split booth method.

    The latter method is just asking for product to walk off.

    [*]Framing, as Jasper said - we need this. Again, it should look, as has been proposed in past years, like the entrance to a coffee house somehow. Actually I'm thinking more like Italian cafe, with, perhaps, an archway. Or Ralph's arbor idea. The sooner this gets decided on the layout of the booth so that Jasper can start building, the better.

    If we can determine that it's legal to put up a second story, I think we should really look into that. Jasper, if money could be gotten to you, could you construct Andy's "monstrosity?" And transport it? That might make it possible to keep the smaller booth. Somewhat farfetched at this point, but why not ask?

    [*]Better furniture (and other features), as Mike Miller mentioned, should be bought. I checked into renting from local sources in Indy, and on a per day basis, it ends up being about the same to go with Fern - maybe slightly cheaper than that, but not enough to make up for the hassle of moving, etc. Meaning highway robbery any way you look at it (my ploy to get them at a discount could not be made to work, unfortunately).

    For the money spent on rentals we could easily buy the stuff we need as pointed out by several people. It's an investment that needs to be made (it will soon save $1000 per con, potentially twice that with more space), but it's hard to organize - especially with the "there is no Forge organization" policy.

    [*]The problem with the furniture and framing is the question of who owns the stuff once it's purchased? That is, either one party has to bite the bullet for all of it (and then we pray they come back year to year or that they donate it), or, it's a pitch in. But then who ends up taking the stuff home or storing it? Ken had some good ideas about the potential for storage and transport, etc, but that's all ancillary to the question of ownership. What if a partner leaves, does he get to take some of it with him?

    [*]Then there's the question of what to get. I think that optimally, we all would like to see the tall stools and tables. But, that's more items that have to be owned as a group. Danielle's idea for folding chairs is very economical, but runs the risk of people forgetting, or just not being able. OTOH, one can always run out to Walmart and buy a couple if we're short. Basically, if we can figure out the purchase of items for the booth, then I'd lean towards getting everything wanted including tables. If not, then the folding chairs may be a way to cut booth costs going with Fern.

    If we do have the tall tables, I'm not sure about whether or not to provide stools to demo-ees or not. Not hanving them is cheaper, easier to organize, keeps demo's shorter, and saves space, but I think that people like to take a load off when playing. Not having seating could make people feel less welcome. Again, optimally I think we should have them if it can be swung at all.

    [*]Credit Card machines cost money to get and set up (you have to pay extra for the hookup to the con, IIRC). Might still be worthwhile, however. Also, there are ways to make it work in terms of distributing cash if, perhaps, one or more of the big companies accepts the credit reciepts.

    That said, I think that Greg's wireless idea has some merit - many sites have paypal and the like and could process that way. The only problem would be cost - the wifi was charging like $25 a day or something? Anyone remember for sure? Not ridiculous, and still potentially cheaper than renting a machine. [/list:u]
    Marketing:
      [*]The 20x20 layout doesn't provide any more space on the curtain than we've had, and, in fact, puts it farther away from people. So the ideas to have higher signage, or corner banners would need to happen. Given "framing," too, this means even less visibility potentially, meaning that the banners have to go on the framing itself, or above. In any case, the above thing makes too much sense to not do.

      [*]Better racking needs to exist. One problem with the current rack is that it doesn't allow overlap of product up to down (and because it doesn't have high support, some of the more flimsy product falls out). It was perfect, IMO, when we had the 2003 amount of goods. It was crowded this year. Next year, I think it'll be overrun. In any case, even if we keep the current rack, we'll probably need more racking.

      [*]A whiteboard or flipchart with marker is, I think, not a great idea. Personally, I can't read them, period (OK, so I may not be normal there). But though I know we want to keep that indie vibe, a little nicer signage would be better. Something to fit with the cafe motif.

      [*]Price list/catalogue. We keep threatening to do this. A simple price list is nice, but a catalogue would be cooler, of course. This should be like a con programme, and tell people about our demos and such, so it stands in for the flyer as well. [/list:u]
      Personnel:
        [*]Hat's should be done. Maybe not sombrero's but how about something adventurous? I'm thinking Forge Fedoras. Or maybe those outback hats. With (as Jasper suggests), the red white and black Forge Logo on them. I don't see a logo that small as being overwhelming. As people have mentioned, for key personnel only.

        [*]For everyone else, buttons as mentioned, indicating what you can demo, or talk about sensibly. This might help people find somebody they can talk to, but more importantly it means that the booth personnel know who is who in these terms. Means you can tell someone affiliated with the booth from the potential customers. Yes, we give buttons to other people as well, but only after we're sure they've had the full sales pitch.

        [*]Training should be available for fully prepped demos. I really missed Ron's big book of demos this year. It's simple, each seller who wants people to run a demo should have one posted someplace well before the con so people can learn them. Then they need to have packets for people to use to run them. And, of course, they need to be tight. Hmmm, we could even mark the buttons of people qualified to run demos as such for easy identification.

        [*]Of course, none of this means that individual sellers can't wear their own t-shirts, etc. That's the advantage to hats and buttons.

        [*]Given enough space, I can sorta see having a boothbabe (right now it would be overkill). OTOH, I think that Danielle and Julie already do serve as booth babes. Yes, by Ron's technical definition, they don't show more skin than anyone else. Somehow I don't think it's mattering. That said, I am by no means opposed to more pretty women at the booth as monkeys or helpers, etc. :-)[/list:u]
        Events:
          [*]I say yes to the idea of seeing if we can't get a room to ourselves. Given the staffing we have, I think this isn't problematic at all. In fact, it would help give people more useful things to do. This would only be in addition to, not instead of, demos the way they are now at the booth.

          [*]A contest sounds like a great idea, Greg's right.  Anything that might get people back to the booth later (in addition to demos). That said, I think that most of these schemes don't work well. They have to be the "stop back later to see if you've won" concept, not the "drawing at 5PM" idea. Otherwise people just forget.

          [*]I'm sure we can come up with some other events to have at the booth. I really want to do an organized tournament for TROS next year, for instance. Other event ideas? Especially things that can be pulled out during lulls to draw attention?

          [*]The Polaroid for taking snapshots of the famous I'm not sure abuout. I like the idea at first glance, but what if those people don't come back because of it? Hmm. [/list:u]

          Some of the issues mentioned are organizational. They'll become better with time, and nothing but effort can solve them. This year was better than last, next year will be better than this one.

          Would it be possible for somebody with some pull to ask someone from GenCon to monitor this and other threads to help with questions? Heck, last year Peter himself came over to answer many questions. It would be nice to know when we're thinking of stuff that's out of bounds, etc, so we don't end up spending a lot of time chasing ideas that can't work. And they might answer questions when they come up, too. Just an idea.

          Mike
          Member of Indie Netgaming
          -Get your indie game fix online.

          ffilz

          Quote
          If we do have the tall tables, I'm not sure about whether or not to provide stools to demo-ees or not. Not hanving them is cheaper, easier to organize, keeps demo's shorter, and saves space, but I think that people like to take a load off when playing. Not having seating could make people feel less welcome. Again, optimally I think we should have them if it can be swung at all.
          As a customer, I appreciated sitting down for demos. Not only did it provide a rest, but it also was much more inviting (here, come join me for this demo). It also makes it more clear who is participating in the demo. Of course some of the other vendors have demos you stand around.

          Wasn't the idea of the tall tables to get rid of the chairs for the customers? I don't see an advantage of a tall table if everyone is sitting (in fact, it usually ends up being more of a pain to stash one's shopping bag or backpack beside a tall stool than beside a regular chair).

          If the wifi is just $25 per day, that with PayPal may be a bargain way to handle payments (and potentially credit cards if one of the participating companies is big enough to take credit cards through their web site). Credit cards can also be done on the cheap with a cell phone if you do it as a mail order (I've seen plenty of vendors at shows, including GenCon, do this). I've even seen people bypass the imprinter by using a pencil to make an imprint of the customer's card (sort of like taking a  grave rubbing). Of course electronic payments come with a variety of hassles and costs. Don't do them the potential additional sales don't justify the hassles.

          I like the idea of buttons and/or hats.

          Sounds like you folks have some cool ideas to improve on an already very good setup.

          Frank
          Frank Filz

          JamesSterrett

          If it's the same as the WiFi that was available to normal convention-goers, the WiFi was supposed to be $10/day, and enabling people to use paypal or setting up a credit card link is a great idea.

          *However*:

          1) The flyers advertising the WiFi did not show coverage into the dealer's room.

          2)  I was not able to log into the WiFi network - in fact, couldn't *detect* it - while the hotel's tech support could not help and the WiFi outfit's tech support used a machine to take ny name & phone number and then failed to call back.

          Upshot: Triple-check that your wireless kit and theirs are really going to work.


          Chris & Tammy Garland of timeline just use an old non-electronic machine for credit card sales (where you put the card in the mechanical device and pull a leverl for an imprint); I gather the assumption is that most cards won't bounce, and those that do will be pursued via a collection service.  This might work for you guys too.

          Andy Kitkowski

          Quote from: JamesSterrett2)  I was not able to log into the WiFi network - in fact, couldn't *detect* it - while the hotel's tech support could not help and the WiFi outfit's tech support used a machine to take ny name & phone number and then failed to call back.

          Worst case scenario, but perhaps viable nonetheless:

          CUSTOMER: Do you guys take credit card?
          JULIE: We sure do. Picks up cell phone, makes call to GORDON
          GORDON, in hotel room in front of wifi enabled PC: OK, I'm logged into CCNow, just read me off the CC number, name, ask her home addy and phone number...


          QuoteChris & Tammy Garland of timeline just use an old non-electronic machine for credit card sales (where you put the card in the mechanical device and pull a leverl for an imprint); I gather the assumption is that most cards won't bounce, and those that do will be pursued via a collection service.  This might work for you guys too.

          Yeah, I pretty much made my credit card bleed from overuse at GenCon. In fact, I think I only bought one gaming product outside of the Forge booth using actual cash- And out of all the places I went to, only two had the actual "swipe and register online" service going, all the rest were the mechanical "clack-clack, jot down CC number and License number" dealies.

          And that was probably the reason that I spent 40% more than I intended to at the Con. :)

          Again, Credit: The downfall of the middle and lower class. But it's sweeter than peach pie for conventions.

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

          Gordon C. Landis

          Just so we're clear on the CC issue, here's where (it seems to me) it becomes a problem for the Forge booth: accepting 'em is a risk that is very hard to share across the many publishers.  That is, without (and sometimes, even with) extensive real-time infrastructure, you don't actually know for certain that you're going to get that money until some time after the transaction.  Who's responisble for doing all the follow-up to make sure the payment really happens, and who has to swallow the loss if it doesn't happen?  Hard to answer.  This is why taking checks is always a case by case decision for each publisher to decide.

          I'd like to think this isn't really a problem nowadays, that credit card fraud (of various types) is rare and wouldn't happen at the Forge booth.  But 15-20 years ago, when I was in retail, rarely did a week go by without at least one of the CC transactions having some kind of problem.  Maybe things have changed, or maybe one publisher is willing to shoulder the risk - it sure would be cool to be able to accept plastic.  But I think we have to realize that credit is an inherently centralized process, and we are an inherently DEcentralized group.  That's where (I think) the big problem comes from, never mind infrastructure costs and technology headaches.

          Gordon
          (And Andy: yeah, I'll spend some time answering phones in a hotel room - if someone is running one of the usual Forge kick-ass gaming sessions in the room, too.  Hey, I like that!  All the fun of the after-hours games while the convention hall is open!  Credit-card phone duty might get TOO popular . . . )
          www.snap-game.com (under construction)

          Matt Gwinn

          ok, how's this for a credit card option.  One of us sets up a paypal account (or offers up one of our own).  

          Step 1:
          Customer gathers what he wants and brings it to the register.

          Step 2
          Cashier calculates price, bags up the product, labels the bag with the customer name and a number.  Customer gets a card with his customer number and the Forge Booth's designated paypal account.

          Step 3
          Customer leaves and pays via paypal either using his own PC or one of the PCs gencon has available foir internet access.

          Step 4
          Someone from the booth checks the paypal account writes down whcih customers have paid.

          Step 5
          Customer returns to the booth and picks up his games.

          Slightly inconvenient and  hurts the impulse buys, but doesn't cost us anything other than the Paypal fee.

          In most cases, con attendees browse their first day through anyway, so waiting a day may not be a big deal.  It also allows customers to pay at their convenience later in the day when they might have a better sense of how much cash they can shell out.

          ,Matt
          Kayfabe: The Inside Wrestling Game
          On sale now at
          www.errantknightgames.com

          Mike Holmes

          Has the time come to break this up into smaller discussions (or long passed)?

          Potential topics:
          Booth Layout
          Furniture
          Structure/Facing
          Racks
          Banner Presentation
          Catalogue/Flyers
          Hats or other Uniforming
          Boothbabes
          Monkey Wrangling
          Demo Prep and Presentation
          Forge Game Room
          Contests/Events
          Credit Card Acceptance

          Mike
          Member of Indie Netgaming
          -Get your indie game fix online.

          Ron Edwards

          Long past time, I think.

          New threads, everyone. Thanks.

          Best,
          Ron