So You're Thinking About Hosting a Con...

How to Put on a Beauty and the Beast Convention

updated 2019.1.16


As our conventions have gotten smaller, it’s become increasingly difficult to fund guests. The simple fact is that often the choice is between paying the costs to bring a guest to the con and having funds to donate to the charity. Guests we have had often in the past have asked for at least $3,000 in appearance fees plus airfare, transport costs to/from the airports at both ends, and daily stipends for food and incidentals. Even those lovely folks who don’t charge an appearance fee have a right to expect their airfare, transport, hotel, rental car, parking and food costs to be borne by the convention. These costs can easily amount to $1,000 or more.

It is your call whether to invite a guest or guests to your convention. Know that this will make paying off your own liability to the hotel and raising funds for the charity more challenging, as you will need to collect more funds to break even. You may find the balance worth it, to provide a better experience for the fans.

In the past, groups used to sponsor a guest, but this hasn’t happened in a number of years. In recent years, on occasion an individual fan has offered to sponsor a guest, but contact the guest to work costs out beforehand.

Contact former con chairs who have invited guests for contact/contract information.

If you decide to invite a guest, remember that you represent all of fandom to that individual. As you will be too busy during the con, assign a reliable helper to coordinate with the guest, to do everything from helping them find their hotel room to ensuring they know when they should appear at the convention to finding a restaurant they might like, and everything in between.  [If you have two guests, assign a different helper to each guest.]

This fan should NOT leave the guest on his/her own unless the guest wishes it, and should in any case give the guest his/her phone number so they are available to the guest. It’s very important that the guest’s “host” understands this might mean opting out of activities he/she would usually engage in, if the guest needs someone to, for instance, go to the store for something for him/her.

Make sure you have an understanding with the guest regarding what you will and will not pay for. For instance, it’s wise to let the guest AND the hotel know that payment for telephone calls, mini-bar and room service are the guest’s responsibility, not the convention’s. [This has been an issue in the past.] 

If you are paying an appearance fee to the guest, you should also have a signed contract stipulating dates of appearance, activities required of the guest, the fee negotiated, etc. This will protect you in the case of a guest who perhaps misunderstood the amount to be paid and asks for more money prior to making the appearance, or who may have misunderstood at which days and activities he/she must appear. [This also has happened in the past.]

If you have invited guests, you will want to do an autograph session. Set aside at least an hour for an autograph session.

Be sure you have Sharpies (black, silver) available for the guests to use to sign things (they work on any surface and don’t smear). Consider limiting the number of articles to be signed to no more than 2-3 per person, to avoid long waits in line. Folks can always get back in line if they have more things they want autographed.

Fans will ask for photographs in addition to autographs.  Consider asking one helper to take those photos with the fan’s own camera/cell phone to make this process move more quickly.

Some guests may request that you sell their own photos for them to autograph, but usually the autograph seekers are on their own to bring items to be autographed. 

If you have invited guests, you will want to do a Q&A session with the guests appearing on the stage. Be sure to have a chair, a microphone and water/coffee nearby for each guest (up to 3 guests can share a microphone).

Try not to have the guests answer questions for longer than 45 minutes. [It is tiring for them to keep talking for longer than that, especially if there’s only one guest.]

Either solicit questions beforehand to read to the guests or have several thoughtful questions in your pocket to ask if the questions from the audience lag. You want to keep the flow of conversation going. [You may want to pass out some of your questions to friends in the audience so it’s not so apparent you’re seeding the Q&A with questions to keep things moving, in the rare event audience questions dry up. ]

When you’ve reached the 40-minute mark, say, “One more question” so the guests and audience know to wrap up.  Keep an eye on your watch, but if you sense things are really coming to a halt or a guest is tiring, consider saying “One more question” even if the time hasn’t expired.

Step onto the stage to thank the guests and signal to everyone that the Q&A is over. Resist the urge to let things go on longer than the scheduled time – the guests may be good sports, but Q&A is quite tiring and you don’t want to impose on your guests’ good nature.

At a break in the action sometime during the con, ask your guests to sign some con logo or “official” B&B items (a conzine, a poster, a bookmark, a copy of Great Expectations, etc.). You can sell or auction these items post-con to help you raise more money for the charity or to help offset shortfalls in your budget, or you can pass them on to the next con team for their charity auction.

See the Auction section for info about guests and auctions.