So You're Thinking About Hosting a Con...
How to Put on a Beauty and the Beast Convention
way to ensure you meet your room block is to give fans an incentive to
come early and stay late! Explore simple-to-arrange add-ons like city
bus tours or dinner cruises. If there are tourist attractions in your
town which are not super expensive, find out if you can get group
Announce your add-ons well in advance of your con, provide an end date for sign-ups to fans, and collect funds from fans in advance so you can book the right size bus or buy the right number of tickets in advance. This also helps you defray your upfront costs. You may wish to increase each tour ticket price by a dollar or two to help raise money for a driver/tour guide tip or to raise a few extra dollars for the charity.
You may wish to put add-on “tickets” in the registrants’ envelopes to remind them of what they signed up for, but you should hold all the actual tickets yourself, to avoid lost or forgotten tickets later.
Keep a list of who is on which tour and consult it to make sure you don’t inadvertently leave someone behind (especially on a bus tour when there’s an off-bus bathroom break or something).
Figuring the price for your add-on activities might have some frustratingly circular logic involved. You don’t know how big a bus to order (and thus how much transportation will cost) until you know how many people are coming on a particular tour, but you won’t know how many people are coming until you tell them how much it costs and get them to sign up for the tour!
Con add-ons are often well-attended and likely to fill the bus, so if you pick out good add-ons, ordering the largest bus (50-60 passengers) might be the right choice (especially if you anticipate needing a wheelchair-accessible bus, which commonly is only a large one).
Definitely consider your con attendance though. Not everyone who comes to a con will go on the add-ons, but a few con attendees may bring a spouse or other family member along on the add-ons. Err on the side of charging a bit more to ensure you cover your bus rental costs in the event you do not fill every seat.
Note that some bus companies will do a direct hotel pick-up if you can fill a bus for something like a city tour, cutting down on the number of stops it makes and extending the time they have for their tour.
Keep in mind that when you schedule an add-on that does not offer hotel pick-up, it’s up to you to work out transportation of guests to the venue (e.g., to a theater). If you need to provide transportation (e.g., cabs), make sure that’s part of the add-on price, unless you can organize some folks to drive. If you have to do the latter, do not wait until the con to ask around for drivers! Ensure you will have enough drivers prior to the con.
To give yourself a break, you may wish to ask a con team member or trusted helper to lead an add-on tour (giving them the tickets to pass out on the bus and a list of fans going on the tour, and providing tip money to them). You very likely must do this for the pre-con add-on the day before the con starts, as you likely will be setting up the convention space that day.
If you know the fans will have a long drive on an add-on (if they are being driven to a destination where the add-on activity will take place), you may want to consider bringing along games to pass the time. B&B-related word search puzzles or crosswords or trivia contests are useful (remember to bring pencils). Ask when you set up your tour if your bus has a DVD player and consider bringing music videos or episodes to play during the drive.
If you must provide a wheelchair-accessible bus for a tour, be sure the bus company knows in advance, and have them tell you how many seats must be “removed” to accommodate the wheelchair ramp before you sell too many seats on a bus! At a minimum, the bus usually must take 4 seats out of circulation to allow room for a wheelchair. This is not a problem if the wheelchair user can walk onto the bus herself with the wheelchair stored in the belly of the bus, but if she is wheelchair-bound, it’s a necessity. You may need to discuss this with the fan to find out what her abilities are.
If you have options for such things as city tours, consider taking the tours yourself before you decide to offer one. You can then determine which is better overall (value plus fun factor plus sights included). Ask questions such as: does the bus have a bathroom or does the tour include bathroom stops, does the bus driver act as tour guide or is there a driver and a guide (important to ensure you bring enough money for tips), how many seats can you fill (a tour guide takes up a seat, if the bus driver is not the tour guide, and see above re: wheelchair accessibility reducing seat availability), how late you can book the tour, whether the tour company offers different sizes of bus, will the tour company pick up from the hotel or must your group travel to the site of the pick-up, and is there a fee for going over the scheduled time (usually there is).
If you offer a lunch option for a long bus tour, you will ask fans to select from a short menu that you provide them well in advance of the tour. You should check out places that provide lunches well ahead of that, to ensure they can box or bag lunches individually, that they can deliver (or you can pick up) the meals at least half an hour prior to putting fans on board the bus, and that they can write the names of the fans who purchase individual items on the bag or box beforehand. This is extra important to ensure that someone who needs a gluten-free or vegan option gets the right item. And it’s good to ensure you have two bottles of water per person for a long bus tour – give out one as they get on the bus and the other when the meal is passed out. You will need to have Styrofoam-type coolers you can store in the belly of the bus for both the lunches and the water. You will need helpers to assist you in getting the coolers and the lunches stored in the bus, as well, and to help you pass them out later.