Comic books have been around for a long time, but modern “geek” culture has grown into something new.
As superheroes, gaming, and anime have risen into public view, the fan convention has become an unstoppable beast.
Make no mistake, fans love their cons. If you’re a fan yourself, you may be thinking about your own comic con or similar expo. Of course, this leaves the question of how to start a fan convention.
Let’s ease into the basics as we explore the process of fan convention planning.
Maybe you are still wondering about the appeal of such an event. We’ll just remind you that nowhere else will you see six Wolverines dancing in a conga line. Priceless.
As you begin, you’ll want to check your expectations. Why do you want to start a fan convention?
And by a little, we mean a lot.
In fact, profits ought to be something of a background concern. The true motivator for a convention organiser is passion. Conventions are labours of love, and if they end up filling your wallet, great!
But conventions should be approached by organisers with nothing more than this in mind: A quality event aimed at pleasing the fans.
Tip: Think it through! We recommend this guide to the proper mindset for convention organisers.
When in Rome…
Rome, Gotham City, wherever. Watch what other conventions do. If you’ve never attended a convention before, it’ll be tricky to plan one.
Specifically, look at your local area. What works in your community? Where do interests seem to peak? Games, comics, sci-fi, or something else?
Tip: Before you start a fan convention, visit some cons and take in the scenery. Directories can help you pick out any local conventions as they arise.
In terms of focus, there are a lot of directions organisers can take. Let’s cover some of the main themes in the convention world.
We know you saw this coming. Comic books, Marvel movies, action figures, illustrators, costumes, and everything that comes with the comic book territory. Comic conventions will include events and merchandise that revolve around all of the above.
Speaking of big business, board games aren’t going anywhere. They have actually made a shocking comeback over the last decade or so. Forget Candyland and Monopoly. These days, board games are complex social entertainment for grown-ups.
Tip: With the rise of the board game cafe, you have an ideal location for hosting a gaming convention.
This stylistic Japanese animation has become its own genre. Anime and manga are big business. There is plenty of material to draw from as you plan an anime convention. From mature, philosophical shows like Ghost in the Shell to lighthearted favourites like One Piece, an anime convention is like the ultimate crossover. Everyone is dressed as their favourite character.
The world of horror is filled with cheesy B-movie screaming. But it also offers sinister psychological thrillers. At horror conventions, it all comes together for the sake of fearful fun. Creepy makeup, mini-museums, and film director panels can make an appearance here. Perfect for selling monstrous merchandise.
Some of the biggest fan conventions in the world are held in big, impressive locations. Convention centres and other huge buildings are not uncommon.
Your new con will probably not take place in one of these.
But there are still plenty of options as you start a fan convention! Open spaces are a must. Wandering is important for your guests. They’ll also want to be able to look around and take in the view, what with all the costumes and collectables.
Tip: Book smart! If you decide on the convention centre route, there are some booking basics you should know.
Your folks were right: Money doesn’t grow on trees. Unless you have a superhero friend with the power to excrete cash, this is one of your trickiest steps.
The organisers behind popular fandom event “Intervention” recommend saving between £4,000–£8,000 for a multi-day event.
You may take a net loss for the first few years, so let’s be straight about that. A fair chunk of money will go into starting your own fan con. But the more you invest, the better your con will be. And that will be super helpful in drawing a crowd over time.
What to budget for?
A few items stand out in the budgeting arena. For fan conventions in particular, here are a few things to consider.
Fan cons are exciting festivals. There will be enthusiasm. There will be passion. These things mean potential damages of one kind or another. An attorney is helpful for good event prep. And liability insurance custom-made for events? Yes, please.
This may not be a serious concern until your con grows in renown. At the same time, a good celebrity appearance can take your convention several notches up the popularity scale. Depending on the celebrity, this may cost upwards of £1,000.
Unless it is a convention for fans of bland interiors, theme is critical. Think along the lines of posters, colourful vendor stations, performers, costumes for staff, and so on. It goes a long way for fans if they get good vibes just entering the building.
Oh, the thing about decorations? They cost money.
Tip: We’ve got you covered for basic training in the finance department.
Yup, event promotion will cost you. But with the right marketing tools, you don’t have to heft a bundle of flyers across town.
That being said, flyers can’t hurt! Comic book shops, video game retailers, and board game cafes are all good areas for a little paper advertising.
Building a website to promote your convention is not a bad idea. You may also want to think about advertising through directory websites. The closer a directory aims toward fan conventions, the better.
Tip: Want to get creative? Check out our handy list of masterful marketing tips.
As mentioned, the early years can be a bit of an uphill battle. Charging an entry fee is a good way to recoup some of your investment.
Platforms like Billetto can make ticket sales quick and simple. You can sell tickets in advance and keep track of guests digitally. You can even register them at the door with a simple scan. The benefits of event ticketing sites are tough to overstate.
Fan the flames
At the end of the day, hosting a fan convention is about one thing: The fans.
Remember that your love of the convention material will show. Are you a fan yourself? Then you’re already on track to drawing locals to an awesome comic con. Or a similar event. You know, whatever the fans demand.
Tell us about your most memorable convention experiences in the comments section below!