Avoid Getting Burned: Choosing the Right Cons to Grow Your Business

With Guest Contributor: Stephanie Cole, Social Media Expert

  Image by Tunechick83  cropped to fit

Image by Tunechick83 cropped to fit

“Universal FanCon,” slated for April 27th-29th in Baltimore, was postponed (though many believe it’s essentially cancelled) with less than a week’s notice to attendees, vendors, and artists. Even volunteers involved with the planning of the event were blindsided. And this is not the first time something like this has happened. Last minute Con postponements, cancellations, or severely poor planning aren’t just frustrating for excited attendees; they can be financially devastating for vendors, especially those from out-of-town.

Vendors at conventions – artists, performers, writers, game developers, costume designers – are mostly small, independent, and focused on creative work. They rely on these events to grow their business, sell their merchandise or art, and cultivate repeat customers or clients for the future. And whether they have a table at Artist’s Alley, appear on a panel, or do professional photo shoots with cosplayers, they all invest a great deal of time and effort traveling across the country to attend these things.

And even if the organizers are being honest and Universal FanCon really is only postponed, vendors who had non-refundable expenses almost certainly won’t be able to return on an unspecified future date; in short, it’s unlikely that they will be able to get even a sliver of reimbursement for the money they invested in working the Con. And for businesses as small as these, those losses can put their business in danger of failing entirely.

Choosing a Convention to Attend

Conventions can be great ways for artists and other creators to market their work and grow their business, but it comes at a cost, so you need to be careful when deciding what Cons you should invest in attending. So here are some factors to consider:

Is the Con well-established

Well-established Cons are those that have happened multiple years in a row and have a track record of running smoothly (well, as smoothly as any huge event can run). To be clear, a well-established Con does not need to be large, it just has to have a track record of being well run and reliable. Another benefit to more established Cons is that you have the added benefit of knowing what the attendance numbers will look like. You don’t want to spend money to attend a Con only to find out that you won’t have enough potential customers to make it worth your time.

Working at a new Con is not necessarily impossible, but you need to do a great deal more due diligence then you might otherwise. The first questions you need to ask are who is organizing this event and do they have experience running events of this magnitude in the past. If the organizers are complete amateurs, that is a serious red flag. But there are other factors you should consider as well.   

Is the Con transparent with news and updates

Check on a Con’s social media for panel and guest confirmation, location details, and other regular updates. As they progress in their planning, a proper event will utilize their social channels to be as transparent as possible. They should be excited about their new event, so they’ll want to share whatever they can – that’s what social’s for, after all: To get people excited. And a lack of excitement will almost always translate into slow ticket sales, which in turn can cause sponsors to pull out - a death knell for any large public event.

Another thing to watch for in any news or updates you receive from the Con is whether they seem reasonable in their goals. Con organizers, especially first time organizers can sometimes be so excited about their new Con that their dreams end up far outstripping their actual means . Organizers of failed Cons are not (always) malicious, sometimes they’re just in over their head. So as you see plans forming and find yourself wondering how are they going to pull this off, seriously consider the possibility that they won’t. Trust your gut, especially if something seems off about the planning.  

Require your contract have a full refund policy

If you decide to work any Con, but especially a new one, you absolutely need to have written terms and conditions from the Con that fully explain a few key points:

  1. How much you’ll be paying to participate.

  2. What benefits or services the Con will be providing to vendors.

  3. What rights the Con will have to any pictures of your work that are taken during the Con

  4. Whether the Con can or will use you or your business in promotional materials (which can be a very good thing if managed correctly).

  5. What happens if you need to cancel for any reason, and finally, and most importantly.

  6. What happens if the Con gets canceled or postponed such that you can no longer attend through no fault of your own.

If the terms of the agreement are not clear or if there is no agreement at all, that is a very bad sign. And yes, you need to read the entire agreement; clauses that excuse the Con from refunding money in the case of cancellation or postponement may be buried deep in the “boring” legalese, but you need to make sure to find it.

Do a little sleuthing if it’s a new Con

Before ordering tickets, or securing a booth, it doesn’t hurt to do a small bit of digging. Contact the con and see how quickly they respond, and check on what they have confirmed so far. Also, contact the convention center or hotel that’s hosting the Con, and determine the stability of the contract. They can’t give you confidential information, but since the Con is brand new, by telling the location you just want to verify before securing a booth at a new event, the details they can provide, they probably will.

In addition, as the planning of the Con progresses, keep a close eye on the policies and procedures that are (or are not) being put in place. Do they have appropriate crowd control and security arranged? Do they know how the lines will work? Do they have accommodations for disabled guests? All of these are signs that a Con is being well planned. If you reach out to the organizer they should be able to at least tentatively answer these questions. If they brush them off as unimportant, you should probably brush their Con off as unimportant as well.
 

Hope and Change in 2018: Congratulations to my client Katherine K. Rice, now Mayor Rice of Geronimo, Oklahoma

To begin the year, I wanted to take a moment to highlight one of my clients who is creating change in her world, anyway she can.

Katherine “Kylila” Rice founded her not-for-profit corporation Poetic Change in 2014 with the mission to “Break Barriers with Poetry and Performance. Build bridges through the arts, education, and innovation.” After attending West Point as a cadet, Kylila had turned to poetry, performance, and various other forms of art to help with her own emotional well-being. She learned the power behind it, and wanted to share how someone could use that power to make change, in themselves, in their community, and in the world. She also wanted to highlight other artists who were using their work to effectuate change. She wanted her own voice to be heard.

And it is a brilliant voice. When Kylila performs, her light shines.

And now, Kylila has stepped up in an even bigger way to make change and improve her community: This past November, Katherine K. Rice was elected mayor of Geronimo, Oklahoma.

So, I wanted to open the New Year by congratulating Kylila on her win; Kylila’s election was a ray of sun in what was frequently a bleak year. Not just because Kylila will do great work for the people of Geronimo, but because Kylila is part of a movement sweeping the nation of more women and people of color running for office at all levels of government.

Local politics don’t usually make national news, but local elected officials control a lot of our nation’s most critical institutions: they run our schools, they set police policy, they control how local court fees are set, and they determine how our elections are run and how our electoral maps are drawn. So as I look forward to 2018, I am hopeful. Because we desperately need more people like Kylila running all of those things with both passion and compassion, and I am hopeful that she will be the vanguard of a much larger movement.

So, congratulations, Mayor Rice. May your achievement shine bright as an example to anyone who doesn’t think their voices will be heard. We hear you now, and we’re listening.

 

Source: http://shop.poeticchange.org/item/visual-m...

But, I don't own any intellectual property...

There are three main types of intellectual property protected by the law: patents*, copyrights, and trademarks. While most people are familiar with these erms, they frequently confuse what each one means and what they protect. There are many excellent resources out there that define and differentiate patents, copyrights, and trademarks; I find these definitions from the USPTO to be especially helpful and clear. This post will focus on copyright - the most widespread and common intellectual property - which most people have no idea they own.

Copyrights: Once you have created an "original work of authorship," you have an automatic copyright by virtue of the creation alone. So, if you have taken photos, published a story, or written a song, you have a copyright as soon as the work is "created and fixed in a tangible form." But be careful to make sure that ou are the actual creator of the work; for example, the copyright on a picture belongs to whomever hits the shutter. So be careful that you don't let a monkey get a hold on your camera.  For many people, their copyrights simply exist but are never acknowledged or enforced; until, of course, their original work is misappropriated for profit or simply without credit. It is at that point that you need to consider the value of your copyrighted work (whether it is monetary value or personal value) and the costs of enforcement to decide whether to take any action to protect your copyright. In a brief consultation, I can help you determine which, if any, enforcement actions make the most sense for you.

Once you have decided that your copyrighted work is valuable enough to protect, I can help you find a variety of legal solutions that can hopefully prevent misappropriation in the first place, such as, registration and clear, written contracts whenever copyrightable work is being created, sold, or licensed to another person. But if your work does get stolen, I can help with enforcement, especially with DMCA takedown notices and other cease and desist letters.

My next post will cover how to determine if your company name, slogan, or icon (amongst others) are trademarks protectable under federal law.

*My legal services related to intellectual property focuses on copyright and trademark because patent law requires scientific or technical knowledge that I do not have. If patent issues arise during the course of my representation of a client, that work will be referred to a patent attorney.