Care and Feeding of Dealers 101

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					Care and Feeding of a Convention Dealer
              Room 101
I. Planning the Dealer Room
    A. Room and Table Size
    B. Facility-related issues
         1. Measure the room yourself!
         2. Hotels will lie about the type, quantity and size of tables they have.
         3. Hours of occupancy (including setup and teardown) need to be in the hotel
         4. Evaluate the potential security issues before you sign the hotel contract
         5. Some Critical Questions To Ask
              a. Food (for dealers)
              b. Snack sales
              c. Prohibited merchandise
              d. Restricted merchandise
              e. Phone line
              f. Electricity
              g. Internet
    C. Tables or booths?
    D. Balance
    E. Location
    F. Accessibility (for dealers)
    G. Accessibility (for customers)
    H. Table cost
    I. Including memberships
         1. Membership and table cost separate
         2. Membership included in table cost
    J. Charging extra for electricity
    K. Table covers
    L. Safety and courtesy
    M. Get enough information on the application
    N. Room layout
         1. Fire Escapes
         2. Wall corners
         3. Entrance space
         4. Traffic jams
         5. Spaces should never overlap
         6. Customer space and Dealer space MUST be clearly separated
         7. Allow enough aisle width, and ENFORCE IT
          8. Don't place dealers with similar merchandise next to each other
          9. Let the dealers know who their neighbors will be as far in advance as
     O. Hours of Operation
II. Before the Con
     A. Send out advance notice early
     B. Have a dealer agreement
     C. Answer e-mail queries
     D. Deposit dealer payments
     E. Update your map to show each dealer's location as the space is assigned
     F. Have at least two rounds of pre-con e-mails for paid dealers
     G. Stick with your announced cutoff/notice dates
     H. Make sure you don't over-book the room.
     I. Logistics
          1. Supplies
          2. Personnel
          3. Pipe and drape
III. At the Con
     A. Pre-Setup setup
     B. Chairs
     C. Setup
     D. Dealer Arrival and Check-In
     E. Hours of Operation Signs
     F. Breaks & food
     G. Security
          1. While the room is open
          2. After hours
     H. Teardown
     I. Pre-sale of next year's space
IV. Other notes
     A. Big-name guests
     B. Autograph tables
     C. Dealer Row?
     D. Non-dealers in the Dealer Room
     E. Get dealer involved in promotion
     F. PROMOTE!
     G. An unusual Dealer Room arrangement
     H. Open to the public?
     I. Respect your dealers' time.
     J. Can your event support a dealer room, really?
          1. If you bring them, will they shop?
          2. Is there time, really?

The dealer room is an important part of the event experience for many
attendees at fan-oriented and affinity-group gatherings. They expect to find
more depth of specialty merchandise than their local stores are likely to
carry, as well as things that just qualify as "cool stuff". Those who have been
attending such events for a while may be looking for specific dealers,
especially non-local ones. Having a good mix of dealers, and a well-laid-out
room, will help both the convention and the dealers to prosper. Before
deciding to have a dealer room at all, see IV J. below.

Much of this document is geared explicitly toward the type of dealer room
found at science fiction conventions (called "cons" throughout the text), but
most of the principles and topics are applicable to a broad range of non-
trade-show events with an indoor focus. Many of the same dealers who
appear at cons are also active at other types of event.

I. Planning the Dealer Room

   A. Room and Table Size – The size of your room should be in
   proportion with the number of people you expect. When in doubt, it's
   better to err too small than too large; if there are too many dealers
   splitting the available funds, everyone goes home hungry, and some of
   them won't be back next year. (Even if you're only planning to have a
   one-time event, it's still good to plan as though you will be doing this
   again; you might find that your event is so successful that you will have
   to repeat it... and when you get "volunteered" to do another one later,
   you'll have a good reputation backing you up.) The smallest practical
   size for a dealer room is 10-12 tables. Beyond that, look at 1 table per
   10-15 attendees for a small con; 1 table per 15-25 attendees for a
   medium-sized con; 1 table per 25-50 attendees for a large con.
   Gargantuan cons such as Dragon*con get into a different level of
   planning. (Note: this is tables or spaces, not dealers; a fair number of
   dealers will want more than one space.)

   B. Facility-related issues

        1. Measure the room yourself! It is difficult to overstress the
       importance of this. Never trust the facility's documentation to tell you
       everything you need to know. Hotels and convention centers have
been known to omit details like huge support pillars in the center of
the room, or to have official dimensions be as much as 10 feet larger
than reality because they include a cute little bay on one side of the
door. Also, the location of entrances, fire exits, columns and other
features may make a significant difference in the number of tables
you can fit into the room. Make your map carefully; any mistake
may bring significant grief when setup starts.

2. Hotels will lie about the type, quantity and size of tables they
have. To them, a table is just a table; they do not understand how
essential the exact dimensions can be. Get them to explicitly check
and make sure that they do, in fact, have at least the required quantity
of the specific tables that you'll need. If this is your first time at this
facility, try to re-check this a few days ahead of the event. It's not
uncommon for tables to get damaged and/or replaced, and sometimes
the inventory levels of each size may shift in the proess. One magic
phrase to specify in your discussions with the facility may be
"banquet tables", although even that is not sufficiently exact in some
cases, as a few instances have been seen where "banquet" meant
"round" in a specific hotel's lexicon. It's best to be specific about the
dimensions both in width and length, and ALWAYS tell your dealers
EXACTLY what they're getting no matter what size the tables – or
booths – are. Hotel tables come in several sizes; these are the most

         6'x30" banquet tables – This is the most common size used
          in a dealer room.
         8'x30" banquet tables – You can generally charge more for
          an 8-foot table than for a 6-foot, but fewer of them will fit in
          the room.
         6'x18" and 8'x18" buffet tables – Two of these, long sides
          together, can substitute for 1 banquet table, but some dealers
          will find them less suitable due to the center seam. Others
          will appreciate the extra 6" of depth.
         5'x24" conference tables – These cannot substitute for a
          standard table; they are both too short and too narrow. Many
          dealers have layouts specifically designed to work with a
          standard 6-foot table; all are likely to find this size to be
          unacceptably scant.
         6' round dining tables – This is a disaster; almost no dealers
          can rearrange to work with a round table, and those who
          have bought multiple tables will be expecting linear space.

3. Hours of occupancy (including setup and teardown) need to be in
the hotel contract. In particular, it needs to specify that occupany is
continuous from the beginning of pre-opening setup until the end of
move-out. This will prevent situations in which the hotel sends
someone around on Sunday morning to say, "By the way, we need
this room cleared by 3:00 so we can set up for a wedding at 6." See
notes in III H below about time required for teardown; it's important
to secure enough time for this when negotiating the contract, and it's
essential to get it in writing in the contract itself.

4. Evaluate the potential security issues before you sign the hotel
contract – a space that can't be securely locked up at night is not
suitable for use as a Dealer Room; you must be able to secure it when
the room is closed. (See additional comments under III G – Security
below.) An open area in a public space is simply not acceptable
unless your dealers are willing to strike their setups at the end of each
day and move their mechandise to their rooms. Some cons have an
"artist alley" space which operates in this manner, but most dealers
can't and won't accept such space. (But see IV G – An unusual
Dealer Room arrangement.)

4. Some Critical Questions To Ask – Hotels and convention centers
can have many hidden gotchas that will cause problems if you don't
find out about them soon enough. For dealer rooms, these include:

   a. What is the facility's policy regarding food brought from
   outside? Many dealers will bring a bag lunch and keep a small
   cooler under the table so that they can both control their costs and
   reduce time away from the table at lunch. If the hotel strenuously
   onjects, it can cause problems. It is possible that the "official"
   policy may be "no" but that they will quietly admit that it's not
   strictly enforced; this is common, and most dealers will
   understand a spoken request to keep a low profile on smuggled-in
   lunches and drinks, but don't put that in writing!
   b. What is the facility's policy of sale of edible items? Some
   dealers sell specialty snack items that are popular with certain
      groups (such as Pocky at Anime conventions). If the hotel
      prohibits such sales it is ESSENTIAL to disclose this
      PROMINENTLY in your dealer agreement and any notices sent
      out to prospective dealers concerning space availability.
      c. Are there any classes of items whose sale is prohibited on
      the premises? Treat this the same as in the note above about
      edible item sales.
      d. Are there any classes of item whose sale is permitted but
      which require special handling? For example: Many facilities
      will permit the sales of bladed weapons provided that the item is
      sold in a sealed box, and that the buyer takes the box directly from
      the dealer room to their hotel room or vehicle, and does not take it
      out of the box on the premises. Once again, any such requirement
      needs to be explicit and clear in the Dealer Agreement.
      e. What is the availability and cost of a phone line in the dealer
      room? Most of the time, this will be prohibitively expensive, but
      if you place the information in the initial dealer information
      packet, the few dealers who might have wanted such service will
      have less of a basis for gripes.
      f. Is there a charge for the use of low-drain electrical usage in
      the function space, and if so, how much? Can the convention
      include this in the contract explicitly, and what would be the
      cost? Most hotels will not levy a charge for use of electric power
      from the wall plugs that are present in the room. Nearly all
      convention centers, on the other hand, will levy a substantial fee
      for such services, and will usually insist upon charging the dealers
      individually or will want an amount equivalent if you try to just
      include it in the space fees.
      g. Does the dealer room space have no-charge Internet access?
      Usually, the answer will be "no", but you might get lucky, in
      which case this becomes a feature to tell the dealers about.

C. Tables or booths? – Large conventions, and those whose dealer
room is likely to include a lot of dealers who need substantial space,
usually find that it's a good idea to offer both tables (with a fixed but
usually fairly limited amount of space behind them) and booths (whose
size is generally 8x8 feet or 10x10 feet). Booth spaces at large
conventions will be expected to be delineated with pipe and drape,
which is usually going to be supplied and erected by a professional
decorating company working from your accurately-detailed layout map.
If you don't plan to adhere to this, it becomes ABSOLUTELY
ESSENTIAL to have your own crew lay out the booth space markings
on the floor before the first dealer arrives. This can almost never be
safely delegated to the hotel; they will nearly always get it wrong,
sometimes amazingly so. Usually, a booth along a wall or along the side
of an island is provided with one appropriately-sized table included;
NEVER set up booth spaces with tables that extend past a booth
boundary, as the dealers who buy booth spaces will usually want to
move the table within the booth to conform to their preferred layout.
Corner booths with two-side access generally can be priced slightly
higher than booths in a row. The pair of corners at the end of a double
row of booths is often sold at a slight premium as an "end cap",
particularly when it faces a high-traffic area.

D. Balance – Don't have too many dealers selling the same kind of
merchandise. How many is "too many" depends a lot on the specific type
of con, its size, and the audience it attracts. At a gaming con, it's hard to
have too many dealers selling games as long as they aren't all selling
exactly the same items; at a general-purpose con, you probably don't
want more than 1 or 2 of those. Seven jewelry dealers is too many for
anything smaller than a Worldcon, no matter how big your room is. You
can have more dealers selling a specific kind of merchandise if they
don't go head-to-head; for example, a new-book dealer, a used-book
dealer, and an audio-book dealer can coexist more easily than 3 new-
book dealers who are all likely to have the same merchandise.

E. Location – Always keep all of your dealers in a single, readily-
accessible and convenient large-enough room rather than splitting them
into two rooms, if there is any way to make it work. (The capability to
do this should be a major factor in facility selection at the start of that
process.) If you must split them, then it becomes absolutely essential to
make sure that neither of the rooms suffers from a lack of adequate
traffic. One small gaming con that was being held in empty storefront
space in a strip mall tried to put some of their dealers into the storefront
next to the main room; almost none of the attendees went over there, and
the dealers in that room came away empty-handed and unlikely to return
- or to have anything nice to say about the con! By the same token, in a
hotel or convention center situation, don't stick the dealer room way off
at the end of a hallway with nothing else nearby. If the location of the
room is not possible to put in close proximity to the main attendee travel
paths, schedule some popular con activities in the same area, to draw
walk-ins. Autograph sessions are especially good for this; they can be
held in the dealer room itself, or at tables just outside if space for the line
is an issue. If possible, place your autograph tables in the back of the
dealer room; this has the advantage of drawing the crowd past the
dealers. Don't do it if you're expecting half of the attendees to get in line
at the same time, though. (And see Notes about Big Name Guests

F. Accessibility (for dealers) – There needs to be a cart-accessible
pathfrom the vehicle loading/unloading area to the dealer room itself. If
you can arrange for a covered loading area, that's great; it's not always
possible. But forghodsake don't make dealers go up and down stairs,
ever! When laying out the room, don't have long rows of tables with no
gaps; this is both awkward for the dealers and a safety risk in the event
of fire. Generally, there needs to be a gap of at least 18 inches at one side
of each dealer's space; one gap can serve two dealers, so you don't need
a gap between each table. At the same time, if one dealer has three tables
and his neighbor has two, you can usually place those all in a row. All
dealers use their behind-the-table area as storage, working space, or
both; some also fill some or all of that area with vertical displays which
may be impossible for their neighbors to get past; that's why you can't
get by with a long uninterrupted multi-dealer row. There should be at
least 4' of backspace behind each table; see the section below about
Room Layout for additional important considerations.

G. Accessibility (for customers) – Aisles between rows of tables must
be a minimum of 6 feet wide, and 8 or more is better for large cons. Part
of the reason for this is that you will have attendees who use mobility
assists; if your aisles are less than 6 feet wide, it becomes difficult for
them to get through when there's anyone else in the aisle. Perhaps more
important, however, is that a surprise visit from a Fire Marshall (and yes,
these do happen) could cause a room with narrow aisles to get shut down
immediately. Leave enough space and arrange things to reduce traffic
jams; if the room clogs up, people can't get in, and neither the customers
nor the dealers are happy. Don't put your biggest draw right at the
entrance. Sometimes it is useful to employ the grocery-store strategy: put
the dealer everyone wants to visit at the back of the room, so the
customers have to walk past all the other dealers first. On the other hand,
a familiar and well-liked dealer within clear sight of the entrance doors,
   or a dealer with an intriguing display in that visible area, will also help to
   draw customers into the room who otherwise might have walked on by.
   If you have autograph tables in the room, the back row is often the best
   place for them. One tactic that helps in several areas at once is to place
   the convention memorabilia sales table (which can double as the dealer
   room control and dealer check-in table) just inside the room entrance;
   this table seldom will build up a crowd, and it's good to have an
   information source ready at hand for the attendees who are in a hurry to
   find something. Also see additional notes below under Room Layout.

   H. Table Cost – Should also be proportional to expected attendance.
   Some concoms add a constraint that the cost of the dealer tables should
   pay for the rent of the dealer function room, but that may not be a
   practical consideration, especially with startups. Some cons offer
   discounts for multiple tables. Others, where space is tight, charge more
   for extra tables; many impose limits on the number of tables any one
   dealer can buy. Most dealers look at the cost from a return-ratio
   standpoint; they'll pay more for a table at a con with high attendance of
   spenders, but they'll turn down a con that wants $100 per table with an
   attendance of 300 nearly every time. If you want the established, well-
   known dealers, you're going to have to provide them with the value they
   require. At large conventions, dealers may be willing to pay a premium
   to get an island corner booth; if you're not that large and you're selling
   your space via the table model, that island corner should cost less than
   two in-line tables because it's got a lot less space behind the tables. If
   you know that you have a lot of dealers that sell only from the tabletops,
   you may still be able to get full price for each of the corner tables, but as
   noted in the section below on room layout, overlapping spaces are
   usually a really bad idea, and will cause big problems for many of your

    I. Including Memberships – There are two main schools of thought on

       1. Membership and table cost are separate. This has the
       advantages of keeping each cost explicit and letting the individual
       dealers decide how many tables and memberships they want to buy.
       A small number of conventions, recognizing that many dealers
       literally attend and participate in nothing at the convention at all, will
       provide the dealers with a no-charge badge that permits access
    ONLY to the dealer room if the dealers do not intend to participate
    in the rest of the event.

    2. Membership(s) included with tables. This is the most common
    arrangement; the cost of the table includes 1 or sometimes 2
    memberships. Combining this with a discount (equivalent to the
    membership cost) for multiple tables will be useful for many dealers.

J. Charging extra for electricity – This is a bad move unless the venue
is charging you extra to provide it. It's fine to ask dealers whether or not
they'll need it if that makes a difference in the layout of the room, but
avoid taking their application and then springing an extra fee for power
on them later. If the hotel or facility wants to charge for power, see if
you can arrange a bulk buy and build it into the table cost; if that works,
everyone's likely to be happier. Note: If the facility will be charging the
dealers directly, make sure that this is clearly stated, and that any forms
required (and the schedule for submitting them) are supplied WITH the
space application; if there's a deadline for submission which causes a
substantial price increase, the forms need to be in the dealers' hands at
least 45 to 90 days before that deadline. This detail was overlooked by a
certain Worldcon that shall remain nameless. It has not been forgotten
by the dealers who were there.

K. Table covers – These can be omitted if the hotel or facility will
charge more for tables with covers and/or drapes than for bare tables, but
be sure to note their absence in both the Dealer Agreement and the pre-
con e-mails. Most dealers are quite willing to bring their own fabric to
cover the tables. One caveat: In certain cities, the Fire Marshals may
require that all table covers be made from fire-retardant material. If that's
the case in your area, then having the covers provided by the facility or
the official decorator is probably wise. This isn't often an issue, but it's
something to be aware could happen.

L. Safety and courtesy – Some dealers are engaged in selling things
that will literally make others ill (perfumes and incense), and others will
demonstrate their wares in a manner which interferes with the dealers
around them (videos) or produces a safety hazard (candles, swords, etc).
It is wise to include prohibitions on anything involving combustion (you
might try to make an exception if you're planning to have a glassblower)
and loud demos or video players. Perfumes and incense are difficult to
limit without prohibiting, but hard to cope with at the same time.
Fortunately, smoking is now prohibited at most public facilities; if this is
not the case at yours, ban it in the dealer area anyway, as the smoke will
permeate and potentially damage many types of well as
driving off the customers who can't tolerate it. Swords and knives are a
real problem; in the hands of someone who is careless or thoughtless,
they're deadly. Developing an effective weapons safety policy is not a
trivial task; there are several examples on the Net to use as models in
devising yours...and DO NOT just ignore the subject if you plan to allow
a sword or knife seller in your dealer room.

M. Get enough information on the application – Just the dealer's
name and address isn't enough. Get email addresses, main phone and cell
phone numbers, space type requirements (wall/island/no preference,
straight line/corner/doesn't matter, with or without power, etc) and "other
requests". Believe it or not, both email and phone number info is needed.
Some people are next to impossible to catch by phone, while others still
don't use email at all. You should definitely ask for a description of the
types of merchandise sold and the percentage of the display devoted to
each category, as some dealers will consider themselves to be in one
merchandise line but will actually have many. Collect the applications in
a binder or folder with backup copies in the hands of at least one other
person who will be present at setup; if something goes wrong, the
dealers who have not yet arrived will greatly appreciate being called to
tip them off about such issues while they're still packing or in transit. It's
also a good idea to call dealers who haven't yet arrived when less than an
hour is left before opening. Note the hours of operation on the dealer
application, and explicitly ask if they're going to be able to arrive and set
up prior to the time that the customers are allowed into the room. You
may want to position known late-arrivers close to the freight entrance to
reduce problems with late setups.

N. Room layout requires special consideration.

    1. Fire Escapes – Needless to say, these MUST NOT be blocked
    by dealer tables or displays, and MUST NOT be locked while the
    room is in operation, but MUST be locked after hours.

    2. Wall corners – If you have tables along both walls leading away
    from a corner, DON'T run the row of tables up to EITHER wall. If
there's a fire exit which must be kept unblocked, the resulting open
space usually does not constitute a valid traffic aisle that will allow
another table to be shoehorned in; the dealer who ends up in such a
cul-de-sac is often going to go home very hungry. If the fire escape
lane is very wide and fortuitously positioned, you may be able to run
the row up to the wall containing the exit, but this is seldom the case.

3. Entrance space – Avoid placing a dealer table immediately next
to the entrance of the room; allow an open space at the entrance so
that you don't get a traffic jam there. The first tables or booths should
be at least 8 feet in from the entrance unless you're putting the
convention's own memorabilia sales table there, which (as noted
above) generally works well. Having the space unblocked also gives
you a place for security or your door trolls to sit.

4. Traffic Jams – Avoid placing two extremely popular dealers
across from each other; the traffic jams that result will block the

5. Spaces Should Not Overlap – In practice, the space behind the
tables on the corner of an island will end up getting shared by two
dealers if you don't sell that whole space as a package. NEVER
position the tables so that the end of one butts up against the back of
another unless you're selling the corner as a package, and MAKE
SURE that you are VERY EXPLICIT about any overlap that will be
present. While you might look at this as two standard-size tables,
many dealers (as noted above) also use the back space for display
and storage of merchandise; two tables with overlapping back space
are bad enough, but two tables with part of the back space of one
being physically occupied by the other is just intolerable. Similarly,
if a dealer pays for three tables along a wall, that means THREE IN
A ROW, not three in a U-shape or three in an L-shape. If possible,
always sell island corners as a package at a price which reflects the
reduced back space. Two tables in an L do not provide as much
selling space as two in a row, and the price should reflect this. (Also
see notes about booth spaces.)

6. Customer space and Dealer space MUST be clearly separated
– Never place tables in isolation in the middle of the room;
ALWAYS form them into islands with a clearly obvious interior and
exterior, or make them into rows along the walls. The reason for this
is fundamental security; the customers should NEVER have access
to the space where the dealer keeps his cashbox. At one event we've
seen, tables were placed in back-to-front rows like classroom desks
down the middle of the room in such a way that there wasn't a clear
division between one dealer's "front" and the next dealer's "back",
and the customers literally could not tell who they had to pay for
what they wanted to buy.

7. Allow enough aisle width, and ENFORCE IT – For a small or
medium-size event, the aisles for customer access need to be at least
6 feet wide everywhere. For larger events, ask a Fire Marshall; you
may want to submit your proposed room layout for approval before
selling dealer spaces so that you can get the fire exit accesses and
aisle widths approved in advance. Bear in mind that a Fire Marshall
may show up to inspect the premises at any time, and they have the
authority to shut down the dealer room until you fix the problems
they find. You DO NOT want to risk this; one large Anime
convention had its dealer room get shut down for about 4 hours on a
Saturday when a Fire Marshall discovered that two fire exits were
blocked by dealer booths; the room had to be cleared of attendees
while the dealers were moved to unblock the doors, and at least one
of the dealers ended up having to be moved into a space in an
adjoining low-security area due to lack of usable space in the dealer

8. Don't place dealers with similar merchandise next to each
other – Thereare several reasons for this. First and foremost,
customers often can't tell where one table ends and the next begins,
even when the dealers have worked hard to make themselves easily
identifiable. If two book dealers are on adjoining tables, customers
will keep trying to pay the wrong person for their purchases. The
same goes for jewelry, costuming items, T-shirts and other
categories. Know what your dealers sell, and make it easy for the
customers to see which booth ends where. (The gaps between the
tables mentioned in section F above also help with this.)

9. Let the dealers know who their neighbors will be, as far in
advance as possible. – Certain dealers just don't get along with
certain others, and you may not know what all of the current feuds
   are. To avoid having issues that you weren't expecting, it's a very
   good idea to tell the dealers who will be on each side of them and
   across the aisle from them well in advance. If they say that they can't
   have a certain dealer as a neighbor, there's probably a good reason;
   both you and the two dealers involved will probably benefit from
   taking care of this before the con. Although publishing a room map
   on your website is a good idea in helping to get the word out, it's not
   100% effective; as noted elsewhere, not all dealers are net-literate,
   and many don't regularly check con websites for updates once
   they've paid for their space.

O. Hours of operation – By and large, you'll get the most bang for your
buck with the following schedule:

   Thursday – Unless you're running a truly huge, long-established
   event like Dragon*Con or WorldCon, there is no need to have the
   Dealer Room open to the attendees on Thursday AT ALL, and not a
   lot of reason for setup unless the hotel will let you have the room on
   Thursday afternoon for early-arriving dealers. If you've got
   programming on Thursday, then you probably should have Dealer
   Setup as well, but leave the opening of the room to the attendees
   until Friday. Essentially no one is going to spend a dime in the dealer
   room before then. (And a special note for con planners in general:
   Unless you expect well over 2500 full-weekend memberships, it's
   wise to stick with the Friday-Saturday-Sunday format; you just don't
   have enough people in attendance to justify a fourth day of facility
   expenses, and you don't have enough customers to make it profitable
   for the dealers to spend another full day on the road.)

   Friday – open at 3 or 4 PM, close at 7 or 8 PM. There's almost never
   a good reason (or any need) to open the room before 3 PM on
   Friday, and even 4 PM is generally going to be well ahead of the
   arrival of the crowd; the attendees mostly won't be there until late
   afternoon. Running later into the evening gives the people who come
   in after work a chance to drop in and look around. And shutting
   down at 8 still leaves the dealers time to go out and get some dinner.
   Exception: if your con starts on Thursday, then it makes sense to
   open the dealer room at Noon on Friday.
       Saturday – 10 AM to 6 PM. This is the main shopping day, but
       Saturday night is also when most of the major evening activities
       happen. Some of your dealers may want to attend said activities.
       Don't force them to make a choice between food and the con.
       Running the room to 7 PM essentially cuts them out of having a
       chance to do anything but get dinner and hit one or two post-
       programming parties; they might be back in time to watch the
       masquerade, but with a 7 PM (or later) shutdown they have zero
       chance of participating in that or most of the other main activities.

       Sunday – if Sunday is the last day of the event, then run from 10
       AM to 2 PM. Teardown takes time, and many dealers have day jobs;
       let them get back on the road at a reasonable hour. And by 2 PM,
       people are pretty much shopped out; many are already leaving. If
       you're running through to Monday, then Sunday hours can be 10AM
       to 6PM, just like Saturday.

       Monday or whenever the last day of the con will be – 10AM to
       2PM. The same notes about teardown mentioned for Sunday are still

       Dealer access hours – The dealers need to have access to the room
       for about an hour prior to opening in the morning on non-setup days,
       and for at least half an hour after closing. They use this time to
       straighten up their displays, put things back in order, set up their
       cash register or cash box, get rid of trash, move items to and from
       their vehicles, restock, and generally take care of business. Plan for
       it. Never assume that everyone can leave within 15 minutes after the
       room closes to the public; some dealers just can't shut down that fast.

II. Before the con

   A. Send out notifications of table availability with full details at least
   4-6 months in advance, the further the better. Most dealers have to plan
   their schedules at least 3 months ahead, and the largest dealers book
   dates a year ahead if they can; if they don't hear from you until 2 months
   before the con, they will very likely have made other plans for that
   weekend. The larger the con, the longer this lead time should be. For a
   Worldcon, if you're not selling dealer spaces for the upcoming
   convention at the one held immediately prior to it, you're probably not
making preparations for your event far enough in advance, and the
chances are good that some of your most desirable dealers will have
made other plans for the date. Merely letting people know that the event
will be held on a certain weekend is not enough; dealers need to know
the costs, the exact location, the booth or table size details, all of the
ancillary costs (such as memberships, drayage and electricity, among
others) as well as the full disclosure of the regulations and restrictions
under which they'll be operating. Announcing that you're having a
convention, and then waiting until 60 days out before telling the dealers
that they can't sell knives or swords (or, at an Anime convention, snack
foods) will guarantee that you'll have problems. Having all of these
details ironed out and in print well in advance will allow the dealers to
make the most informed decisions.

B. Have a dealer agreement; this will save you endless hassles. It
should specify (at a minimum) things like setup/teardown and operating
hours, table limits if applicable, prohibited types of merchandise and
display (you really want to have a "no-bootlegs" clause and a strong
weapons safety requirement), and space-cost refunds policy. Check with
the hotel and local law enforcement about sale of sharp pointy things,
check with the hotel about sale of snacks and beverages, and verify with
the hotel whether there is a limit to the height of displays, or any
problem with backdrops and signs. See also Safety and Courtesy

C. Answer e-mail queries in a timely fashion. This should be a no-
brainer, but there are several well-known, long-running cons whose
dealer contact e-mails are essentially black holes. You don't want to hear
what we say about them, and you don't want us saying it about YOU.
Have a backup method of contact posted in case your mailer goes down;
one medium-size convention alienated large numbers of its fans and
dealers by going completely incommunicado for several months while
they tried to cope with unexpected website problems.

D. Deposit dealer payments in a timely fashion, preferably within 48
hours of receiving the check. If you aren't guaranteeing space with
acceptance of payment, STATE THIS IN YOUR INFORMATION, and
refund the payment PROMPTLY once the decision has been made to not
accept a specific dealer. Don't take their money and sit on it for 6 months
before deciding, either. Dealers are subject to cash-flow fluctuations.
We'll make sure there's enough money to cover the check when we send
it. If you let that check gather dust for 3 months... the dealers won't enjoy
what sometimes happens any more than you will. Taking PayPal will cut
down on this sort of problem, if you can do it. Also, designate one
person whose job it is to inform dealers that yes, their check has arrived
and will be deposited shortly, and they do have tables. If you're not
guaranteeing space at the time the application is sent in, then consider
requesting a deposit (half of the table cost is a good figure) with the
balance to be paid within 45 days after the space is confirmed or 90 days
before the event, whichever is earlier.

E. Update your map to show each dealer's location as the space is
assigned – You'll find that a lot of dealers like to request specific spaces
from the layout; having your map established well in advance, and both
posting it on your website and including it in hardcopy information
packets will make it easier for them to see if you have the space they

F. Have at least two rounds of pre-con e-mails for paid dealers – In
addition to contacting them to confirm receipt of their application and
payment, have an email that goes out about 30 days before the con to
remind the dealers that they have space (yes, sometimes we forget) and
to reiterate the setup times and basic rules, and one about a week before
the event to confirm that everything's on target and to let them know
about any blips and glitches. For any dealers who don't provide an email
address, make sure that the 30-day notice goes out via snailmail at the
same time that the email is sent.

G. If you have announced a date or schedule by which applicants will
be informed as to whether or not they have tables, stick with it.

H. Make sure you don't over-book the room. – If you sell more spaces
than you actually have, bad things happen. Although you might be able
to cope with it by shifting things around at the last minute to slip the
overbooked dealer in, the usual result of trying this is that both this
dealer and the ones partially displaced end up with less space (or less
useful space) than they paid for, which is something that they will not
soon forget. Remember, some of these people will have spent two days
(or more) on the road driving to your event; they will not take it kindly if
they find that they aren't getting what they paid for.
I. Logistics – What you need to have ready at hand

   1. Supplies – Essential to the operation of any room is a supply of
   gaffer tape (it looks like duct tape, but it's easier to remove without
   causing damage), extension cords (3-prong, as heavy as you can
   afford), and power strips. Although most dealers will bring some of
   these along, some conventions have adopted the policy of pre-wiring
   the dealer room with cords and strips that place electricity within
   reach of every space where it's needed. This prevents problems with
   a late-arriving dealer needing to string a cord to a distant wall outlet
   past or through six other dealers' spaces. Also highly recommended,
   if the hotel will provide them, is a supply of additional tablecloths
   for the dealers to use in covering their tables at shutdown. This
   practice makes it easy to identify who's ready for customers the next
   morning, and who's not. Try to have at least two sturdy flatbed carts
   and a couple of large hand trucks (NOT appliance dollies!) available
   for the dealers to bring their stuff from their vehicles. Not all dealers
   bring their own. Sometimes the hotel will have carts that you can
   borrow, but not always...and the typical luggage cart isn't all that
   useful for this.

   2. Personnel – During setup, have at least two volunteers available,
   preferably with the sturdy flatbed carts or large hand trucks
   mentioned above, to assist dealers in moving their merchandise into
   the room. One should maintain security on the public door if that's
   left open during setup; the attendees should NOT just be allowed to
   wander in during this time. The faster that the dealers are loaded in,
   the better. The same is recommended for load-out at the end of the
   con. During operating hours, keep one or two people on door troll
   duty, checking badges (if that's needed for your operational policies)
   and generally giving the appearance of being ready to respond to
   whatever's happening. (And knowing who to call, and how to get
   hold of them, if they don't really know what to do.) During pack-up
   and load-out, if the public-access door isn't kept closed, a door troll
   needs to be on duty to keep the public out the same as during setup.

   3. Pipe and drape – If you sell booth spaces instead of tables, it will
   be expected that there be cloth drapes at the back of the booth, and
   table-high cloth partitions between dealers; this is done with pipe
   frameworks specifically made for the purpose. Some hotels have this
       available in-house, while others rent the needed equipment from a
       decorating service such as Freeman. It may not be practical for a
       convention to buy their own for re-use every year, but it's a cost to
       examine and evaluate. If you're selling booths with no pipe and
       drape, make sure that's noted in your dealer agreement!

III. At the Con

   A. Pre-Setup Setup – Before the dealers arrive, have your own crew
   carefully measure out the spaces, position the tables, and/or lay out the
   booth locations as per your map. Marking booth spaces via strips of
   masking tape on the floor is one way to avoid turf wars during setup. DO
   NOT expect the hotel to get this right; they won't, no matter what they
   might claim. If you let them set up the room, you will end up with tables
   that are too close to the walls, tables with gaps that are missing or in the
   wrong places, islands that are the wrong size, in the wrong place, with
   the corners arranged incorrectly, and with aisles that are too narrow.
   There will be also end up being tables with tablecloths or decorative
   drapes that span across from one dealer to the next, which is a problem
   because some dealers will want to replace the table drapes and/or covers
   with their own, or change the position of the table in their space. It's OK
   to allow the hotel to come in and set up the tables unarranged, and place
   one tablecloth on each, but YOU need to do the accurate positioning of
   them. If you miss this vital step, you will find yourself with dealers
   setting up in spaces that are in the wrong spot, and then having to move
   their entire display; sometimes this means breaking down and re-erecting
   things like gridwall...and you might not be able to get their cooperation
   without big problems. If the spaces are clearly and correctly delineated
   to begin with, you don't have to worry as much about space conflicts.

   B. Chairs – This seems like something that should be easy, but nearly
   every convention gets it wrong. Most dealers (especially those with
   multiple tables) really don't need two chairs behind each table, and
   placing them there when setting up the room just makes more work for
   everyone when the dealers start to move in. It is better to simply have the
   hotel place a stack of chairs adjacent to each load-in entrance and in each
   corner of the room, and tell the dealers to take what they need.

   C. Arrival and Check-In – Have the dealer coordinator, or a designated
   and fully capable assistant, in the room to check in dealers and direct
them to their tables. If possible, have each table clearly labeled with the
name of the dealer that will be occupying it; at the very least, have the
tables explicitly and clearly numbered in the same way as your layout
map. This can be critical if something goes wrong... and the most
inviolable law of the universe is Murphy's. Some cons have their dealers'
membership packets at dealer check-in; others keep all the packets at con
registration. The former is greatly preferred, as dealers chafe badly at
having to stand in line waiting for a badge before they can begin setup,
and they absolutely loathe having to leave their stuff unguarded while
they do so.

D. Setup – There should be a minimum of 4 hours of setup time before
the room opens to the public, even for a small con; the larger your event
and the more dealers you have, the more time you need to allow. A
typical arrangement that works well for many events is to have setup run
from 9AM to 4PM on Friday. During Setup, have a security volunteer
posted on the entrance to make sure that non-dealers aren't allowed to
enter; if you can provide a load-in path that isn't accessible to the public,
so that your "front door" can simply remain closed, that's even better. A
few dealers will probably be waiting for you when the published Setup
period starts, but some won't arrive in time to set up before the room
opens, particularly if the Friday operating hours begin before 3 PM. If
you have to close the main loading-in doors when you open to the
attendees, try to arrange for an alternate access that doesn't go through an
active lobby and is as short as possible.

E. Hours of Operation Signs – No matter what hours of operation you
decide upon, make sure that they are clearly posted at the door of the
room and are easily found in the program guide for the event. And make
sure that everyone publishing information is on the same page! If
your program guide, your website, and the sign at the door don't agree,
you're going to annoy people (both dealers and attendees) when they find
that the room isn't open when you said it would be. Additionally, make
sure that you LOUDLY AND CLEARLY make announcements in the
dealer room at about 20 and 10 minutes before closing, to advise the
attendees to start finsihing up their shopping. And at closing, gently but
firmly clear the customers from the room. The dealers can't really shut
down until the customers are gone, and the dealers would very much like
to have time to get dinner. (Some conventions - and certain dealers -
have made it a practice to make these announcements humorous; this
seems to help to keep spirits high whille still getting compliance.)

F. Breaks & food – Solo dealers can't easily leave their tables to visit
the restroom or grab lunch. Having con volunteers come by every couple
of hours to see if they need a break, and mind the table until they get
back, will be greatly appreciated. So will a lunchtime distribution of
snacks, drinks, and/or sandwiches from the consuite, along with a list of
the nearest fast-food takeout places. If you can make a deal with either
the hotel or a nearby sandwich shop or other reputable source (NOT
McDonald's!) for a boxed lunch at a reasonable price, and if you've got
the manpower to be able to collect the orders long enough in advance
and transport and deliver the lunches, you'll probably find that the
dealers will welcome the opportunity to take advantage of it. Flip side: If
you don't provide or arrange for a lunch or lunch delivery service, then it
is essential to ensure that the hotel is not going to bar the dealers from
both keeping their own snacks at the table and bringing in food from
outside for their lunch.

G. Security –

   1. While the room is open – it is wise to position a security
   volunteer at the entrance to provide a visible deterrent to people who
   might otherwise prove troublesome, even if you're confident that
   nothing will occur. If your room is open only to event attendees (see
   IV H below) you will need someone checking the attendees' badges
   as they enter in any event, and you may need two people manning
   the doorif your crowd is big enough.

   2. Locking up after hours – This is critical; you must be able to
   secure the room after hours, especially if there are back doors or fire
   escapes that open into a hotel service corridor or the exterior of the
   building. While most hotel employees are trustworthy, some are not,
   and an unmonitored or unsecured (or passkey-accessible) access
   point is a temptation. If necessary, bring your own chains and
   padlocks (if that will work); check with the Fire Marshall before
   doing this, because the hotel will certainly object if the Fire Marshall
   doesn't approve, but may be more willing if you've already verified
   that there's no potential violation. In most locales, if there's no one in
   the room while the chains are on, you can probably get an okay. If
      the room can't be effectively secured, then the room is a poor choice
      for the intended purpose; when evaluating a hotel as a potential
      venue for a con, it's essential to look critically at the issue of security
      for the space that will house the dealer room. Assuming that you've
      done due diligence in this area, if you still feel that there is the
      slightest reason to believe that the lock-up procedure will not be
      reliable, then plan on having a trusted volunteer (who is a very light
      sleeper) remain in the room for the entire time that it is closed; a roll-
      away bed can generally be secured from the hotel to facilitate this.

   H. Teardown – Give the dealers at least 4 hours for teardown and
   load-out; provide for more time if your event will be attracting the larger
   dealers, as some of them may need 6 hours or more to strike their
   displays and move them out. If you can't do this, do not be surprised
   when some dealers start tearing down while the room is still open.
   Dealers know how long it takes to be out of a site, and if you give them a
   hard deadline they'll do what they must to make it... but many of the
   largest and most sought-after dealers simply can't get packed up and
   moved out as fast as you (and the facility) would like.

   I. Pre-selling next year's tables at this year's event – Some cons do
   this and some don't. If you do, have the dealer room coordinator (or a
   designated assistant) available with forms and a receipt book from
   opening on Sunday until everyone who hasn't signed up is out of the
   room. Don't just hand out the forms and then make us figure out where
   we have to turn them in! And don't forget that this automatically shuts
   out the dealers who might not have been able to come to your event this
   year, which may not be a good idea.

IV. Other Notes

   A. Big-Name Guests – Many dealers will tailor their merchandise to
   cater to the opportunities presented by the presence of well-known
   guests, be they authors or actors or whatever. Make sure that your
   website and promotional flyers ACCURATELY reflect the guest list.
   Don't list a celebrity unless you are 100% certain that you're going to
   have them present; if you have a celebrity or other guest booked who
   cancels out, update your online information immediately. If you
   announce 6 big-name guests in your first flyers, and then replace them
   all with third-string names a month before the event because your pre-
sale level missed its target, don't expect sympathy and kind thoughts
from the dealers OR attendees. And if your expensive guest has a policy
of not autographing anything that wasn't purchased from him or her, the
dealers need to know; a few of them are in the business of selling
licensed photos for autograph hounds, and their trade is dependent upon
not being caught in such a situation. Also, don't underestimate the impact
that a tremendously popular guest will have on the flow of money at the
event; a really popular media guest who has a stiff autograph fee will
siphon off substantial amounts of what would have been spent in the
dealer room. Many dealers can relate tales of sitting around wondering
why no one at such an event was buying anything, only to hear later that
the media guest had departed with revenue well into five figures. Having
a first-rate media guest may actually blunt many dealers' interest in
selling at your event.

B. Autograph tables – it is common for autograph tables to be placed at
the back of the Dealer Room if space permits, but beware of building a
convention around a famous celebrity guest whose autograph session
will soak up the entire con attendance as everyone stands in line. (And
see the notes in the section immediately above; the presence of a big-
name guest may have other unintended consequences.) If you're going to
have such a celebrity, establish multiple sessions with a fixed,
manageable number of line passes for each, and get attendees to commit
to a specific time slot before giving them a line pass for that slot. This
keeps the dealer room (and other activities) from suddenly getting
deathly silent when the celebrity is signing. Most important, if the line
forms through the dealer room or some other important space, this
prevents the area from becoming inaccessible to anyone who's not
standing in line.

C. Should you have a Dealer Row instead of a Dealer Room? – This
entire document has focused on the details of having an enclosed,
communal vendor space, but there is a competing concept which is used
by a small number of conventions; the Dealer Row. Essentially, instead
of having a function space dedicated to sales, the dealers are booked into
a specific block of contiguous rooms in the hotel, and they set up and
sell their wares from those rooms. Sometimes, this block of rooms is
also the party area. The advantages (for some dealers) include a potential
reduction in expenses by not having to pay separately for space in the
Dealer Room and for a hotel room, with the ability to operate at hours of
the dealer's choice. In practice, the cost issue is often moot; dealers that
are large enough to be a good fit for a Row will tend to need a second
room in any event so that they don't have to strike substantial parts of
their display every night and then put it up again in the morning just to
have a place to sleep. The disadvantages of a Dealer Row (for the
dealers who don't have a second room) include having to put up with the
amount of setup and teardown each day which is necessitated by making
the switch from living quarters to sales layout, and the fact that
customers don't really walk past your display unless they come into the
room first... and drawing them in is not all that easy. One important
consideration for anyone contemplating the adoption of this plan is that
many hotels expressly forbid the use of accommodation rooms as sales
spaces; if you want to try the Dealer Row concept, you'll need to spend
additional time in the planning stages shopping for a hotel that will work
with you to make it fly – and this effort is beyond the scope of a 101-
level treatise.

D. Other things in the Dealer Room – Many times, you'll get asked
about the possibility of dedicating space or making room for such things
as the Artist Guest of Honor, small-press promotion tables, other guest
tables, and other non-dealer presences. Be careful not to overdo this; it
will seldom be the case that any given guest will spend much time at a
table in this area (though professional artists may have a helper to sit
there for them; that's great!) The one thing that you don't want to do is
have this area become a ghost town; nothing is worse for sales than
empty tables (except, perhaps, 15 single-book self-published authors)
when the customers come in. If you feel it's necessary to include such
space, keep it to the absolute minimum that can be kept populated with
guests most of the time. It's a good idea to have assigned (and well-
publicized) time slots for these tables so that the fans will know who's
available and when they can catch them.

E. Get your dealers to promote your convention – This is really very
basic since you and the dealers both want your convention to be
successful. Most dealers attend multiple conventions; ask them how
many flyers they would be willing to place on the freebie tables at other
events, and send them an adequate supply.

F. PROMOTE YOUR CONVENTION! – Yes, this is a discussion
topic all by itself, but dealers in large part evaluate the prospects for your
event on the basis of how well you're promoting it. Don't expect your
website to be the thing that makes the con a success; an informative but
very plain website will usually be every bit as effective as one that's fully
loaded with bells, whistles, gongs, calliopes and carillons. Websites are
usually where people go to find out about the convention when they
already know it exists; your job is to get the fact that it exists in front of
them to begin with, and this requires a LOT more than a website. On the
other hand, in the information age, the lack of an informative website
will make your event seem much less than credible... and whatever you
do, DON'T make the fatal mistake of failing to keep the website up to
date, even if things are going horribly wrong and you're in the middle of
massive damage control efforts due to some unexpected disaster. Keep
your con-goers informed, and they'll generally work with you or even
pitch in and help; treat them like mushrooms, and they'll assume you're
slinging the stuff that mushrooms are grown on.

G. An unusual Dealer Room arrangement is the one employed by
OwlCon at Rice University; their dealers are positioned along the walls
of their main function space. This space is filled with activities from
early morning until late at night, and most of the dealers do not stay open
for the entire time; the con provides security personnel in the room to
ensure that any closed dealer's space is roped off and not approached by
the attendees. (During the period from Midnight to around 8AM, the
room is locked up.) Owlcon is unusual in large part; their physical layout
in the room makes it easy for security to watch things, and the crowd in
attendance is remarkably honest and not pilfer-prone. This same
arrangement would most likely fail horribly at a lot of other types of
event, and attempting to emulate it is not recommended.

H. Should your Dealer Room be open to just anyone who wants to
browse? Must it? –In some locales and venues, you may find that there
are requirements with respect to either the venue's rules or the
regulations governing your organization which will mandate that you
can't refuse to allow the general public to enter the room and make
purchases. This is usually not a significant problem; typically, all that
will occur is that a few curious members of the general public will
wander in (as well as some of the hotel or facility staff) without incident.
To protect yourself, check with your legal counsel (if you have one) and
the facility administrators to see if there is any requirement that you
must allow general public admittance. Even if there is such a
requirement, you probably do not have to advertise that the public is
welcome even on your own signs identifying your function spaces.

I. Respect Your Dealers' Time. – It is not possible to replace time; if
something causes the dealer room to be effectively closed during hours
when it was supposed to be open, that is selling time that is lost, and
revenue lost for the dealers as a result. Sometimes such things happen
unavoidably; if the power for the hotel fails for several hours, there's not
a lot you can do about it. But don't think you can close the room
unannounced just because you've decided that you want to for some non-
emergency reason, as one convention did for several hours on a Saturday
once. This will infuriate the dealers, at the very least...and they have long
memories, and a lot of ways to let their fellow dealers know that they are

J. Can your event really support a dealer room? – Although this has
been left as the very last thing to explicitly address, it might really
deserve to be the first thing considered.

    1. If you bring them, will they shop? If you are planning a multi-
    day event that will have programming scheduled which is pretty
    much guaranteed to soak up everyone attending the convention for
    the entire time that your Dealer Room is open, the dealers are going
    to see very few shoppers, and they'll be going home empty-pocketed.
    Tech-themed events (like conventions devoted to Linux), gatherings
    of professionals or social-organization members, and other closely-
    focused conferences and celebrations (particularly those with just
    one programmed topic for the attendees at any given point) tend to
    encounter this problem.

    2. Is there time, really? If your event runs for just one day, or part
    of a day, there may not be enough selling time available for the
    dealers to produce an adequate profit. In general, the barest
    minimum of time that is worthwhile for dealers to set up is 8 hours,
    and if the crowd will be nearly 100% focused on your event's other
    activities during that period, the chances are very slim that the
    dealers will have a chance to make a profit.

Consider everything in advance, then plan accordingly...and well.

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