As I mentioned earlier, I was approached by Chris Birch to help manage Modiphius‘ Gen Con 2015 Exhibit Hall Booth, much like I did for Chronicle City back in 2013. Chris and I are friends, and I have been blessed with some great freelance projects with Modiphius, so I am glad I can help with his first booth.
Having managed two similar-sized booths now, I thought it might be interesting and helpful if I shared the my process and experience managing an average size (10 x 30 ft) Gen Con exhibit hall booth for Modiphius. Perhaps one day you will be asked to manage a booth for publisher, and this list might be useful. At the very least, reading this will help you understand and respect all the work involved the many publishers who have booths at Gen Con. Having experienced two 10 x 30 ft booths, I can only imagine what it is like for the managers of the booths of the larger publishers (like Fantasy Flight and Mayfair Games).
- November last year – Booth Reservation. – If you meet requirements, you can register for a booth right after Gen Con closes. The requirements are changing for 2016. Modiphius did not have a booth in 2015, so Chris had to be on the waiting list and was lucky to be assigned a booth as requested (10 x 30 ft).
- February – Work with publisher to make hotel reservations for staff and supported volunteers. This year, my daughters are coming with me to assist in the booth. Also time to start drawings of possible booth layouts.
- April – Allocate Exhibitor Badges. Begin talking to possible booth volunteers (including publisher partners, publisher freelancers, and friends).
- May – Learn booth location (2530) and orientation. Rethinking booth layout drawings accordingly. Work with publisher to fill out the necessary forms and supply required proof of insurance. Work with FERN on furnishings. Set up Google Sheet with booth schedule and ask booth volunteers to select work times.
- 1 Month Before – Order items for booth that take time to create and ship (tablecloths, signage, etc). Finalize plans for booth layout, knowing they might change when we arrive and see our location in person. Panic a bit when you realize you still don’t have enough booth volunteer staff, so you start prodding the publisher and other potential volunteers until you have enough.
- Two Weeks Before – Purchase consumable items for booth such as water, snacks, cleaning supplies, zip ties, and packing tape. Request reimbursement. Purchase additional Exhibitor Badges for final booth volunteers.
- One Week Before – Pick up Petty Cash for booth retail cash box. Working with an international publisher means it is more difficult for them to acquire US cash for Gen Con. As I live in the US, it was easy for me to acquire the cash, and Chris will reimburse me for it.
- Two Days Before – Pack personal luggage, tools to help with booth setup, and bins of booth items I am bringing including the consumables purchased earlier, some stock that was shipped to me, and some furnishings Modiphius purchased from Chronicle City that I had been storing in my garage since 2013.
- Day Before – Load van with booth items and personal luggage.
- Tuesday Afternoon – Drive with daughters to Indianapolis for Gen Con.
- Tuesday and Wednesday – Unload van. Set up booth, which includes likely rethinking the layout as we see it in reality. Receive stock and furnishings from Distributor. Set up retail area. Pay for and configure wi-fi on device for taking credit cards.
- Wednesday Night – Attend the Diana Jones awards and catch up with friends in the industry.
- Thursday through Sunday – Clean the booth each morning before doors open. Work the booth. Keep the publisher happy and free up his time to be with the fans and meet with other industry insiders. Keep booth volunteer staff happy. Find alternates or fill-in for staff who are unable to work scheduled shift. Enjoy interacting with the fans and the general Gen Con attendees. Socialize and play games in the evenings.
- Friday Night – Attend the ENnies, catch up with industry friends, and perhaps celebrate awards with the publisher.
- Sunday Morning – Check out of hotel and load luggage into van. Fellowship and worship with the Christian Gamer’s Guild. Work the closing hours of the exhibit hall to enjoy the end of the convention.
- Sunday 4 pm – Say farewell to the final attendees and begin booth tear down. Chat with the various publishers with booths around you. Perhaps do some game trading. Pack up items to take home.
- Sunday Evening – Lots of hugs and farewells, then the drive home exhausted but exhilarated.
If you are going to be at Gen Con 2015, please stop by the Modiphius booth (2530) and say hello. If you would like to know more details of what it is like to manage a Gen Con booth, send me an email or find some time to chat with me at Gen Con. As exhilarating as running a booth has been these past two times, this will likely be my last year managing an Exhibit Hall Booth for a publisher. In 2013, I had the time to do it, but this year it has been a struggle to balance my work on this booth for Chris with my day job, freelancing, and my increasing caregiver duties at home. Next year and beyond, I do plan to find ways to continue to work or volunteer my time at publisher booths at future conventions, just not with the same time and responsibility commitment as a booth manager.
What type of work have you done at Gen Con or other conventions? Do you volunteer to work in a booth or demo games? Have you taken on a leadership role such as booth manager or demo team lead? I would love to hear about your experiences working at Gen Con.