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

How to Put on a Beauty and the Beast Convention

updated 2019.1.16


Pre-con Setup

Try your hardest to secure permission from the hotel to allow you to get everything set up on the day before the con starts (the earlier the better).

NOTE: This likely will mean that you cannot attend an add-on on that day, as you will be busy in the hotel setting up, so ensure you have a dependable person to take on that day’s add-on “wrangling” for you.

Pre-con set-up will include:
  • transporting convention materials to the hotel from your home/storage facility

  • moving your boxes of materials into the meeting room (via hotel carts or your own)
  • ensuring the hotel has your tables/stage set up for you as pre-arranged (some to be used for dealers room, some for art display, some for silent auction, and at least two left empty for Beast Bingo and displaying donated B&B baskets)
  • recruiting dependable helpers
  • setting up the dealers area (ensuring everything has a price tag with the seller’s identity)
  • setting up the art display (building racks, hanging art, attaching bid sheets)
  • setting up silent auction items (with bid sheets)
  • setting up the costume display
  • setting up Bubba, any decorations around the space, and table decorations for the first day of the con
  • pulling together boxes with items needed for the first day’s panels/activities, ensuring boxes with other days’ needs are stored strategically and logically together for ease of use later during the con
  • tote bag stuffing/setting out pre-ordered merchandise & registration pick-ups
Set up everything you can, in as organized a manner as you can. You want as much done as possible, because on the morning the convention starts you will want to focus on the impatient fans who are waiting to get the party started!

If possible, get a table or two set up in the hallway in front of the convention space doors and use them on the morning the convention starts to hand out tote bags, registration materials (like name tags), and any pre-purchased con merchandise (e.g., con tees). Hopefully many of those will have been picked up by then.

If there’s any way to get a lockable room near the meeting space for a store room, you will be very glad you have it. Auction items, centerpiece materials, etc., can stay there and be out of the way and out of your hair until needed. It’s not essential, but it’s nice to have.

Registration Pick-up at the Convention

Registration pick-up used to be held formally on Thursday night and on Friday morning pre-con, but lately, as our conventions have gotten more informal, we have handled registration fairly informally, as well, handing out nametags and registration packets and even con tote bags pre-con on an ad hoc basis.

The days of selling registrations at the con itself are pretty much over for us, since we usually offer meals during the con and must account for enough tables/seats for all attendees, and thus need firm head counts significantly prior to the convention.

It’s helpful to give your attendees the pre-con schedule as soon as possible, so that those going on the pre-con add-ons will know when and where to meet. You might do this by providing information packets to the desk clerks to pass out as fans in the room block check in. Also, you may want to post on the con Facebook and Yahoo pages what time/place to meet for the pre-con add-ons, and what time the convention starts, to spread the word early, before fans leave for the convention.

However you handle registration at the con, have envelopes arranged alphabetically in boxes and two people assigned to pass them out. You will want your pre-stuffed tote bags available to hand out, as well. [You may choose to put meal selections and add-on trip information on little slips of paper tucked into each attendee’s name tag instead of giving them each an envelope.]

The following are usually provided to registrants at the hotel: a con name tag, name tag clip or lanyard, and any “tickets” for add-ons, banquet meal selections, or any other items which people had to sign up for. It’s a nice touch if these look fancy/pretty, but they can just be different colored strips of paper with identification such as “Beef” or “Chicken” or “Thursday City Tour” or “Monday Museum Visit” on them.

Talent Show

Before the con, ask fans who are attending if they will be performing a skit, a song, a reading, or other talent. They must bring their own music and you must ensure you have the electronics to play what they’ll bring. You are not required to provide musical equipment (e.g., a piano), but if several fans wish to use one and it’s within your budget, try to provide it. At a minimum, though, you should have a CD player and microphones. Easier is getting music in .mp3 format from your perfomers that your talent show manager can play from their laptop.

Provide time within your con schedule when you empty the meeting space so that the talent show coordinator (you will have one, right?!) can organize the event and so that performers can practice. Depending on how many performers you’ll have, provide at least an hour for them to practice, and don’t schedule the practice so that they can’t have a meal when others do – be as flexible as possible so they can still enjoy the convention.

The talent show is fairly simple to run (believe it or not!). Having a coordinator will relieve the con chair from having to deal with it. You will also need an emcee for the show. Possibly the coordinator, possibly a fan who is good at that sort of thing (like the auctioneer), possibly a guest. It's good to have someone who can keep the crowd interested and enthusiastic. You can just have someone do basic introductions, but that's not nearly as much fun!

This is briefly touched on, but you will also need someone to run the media equipment. On the whole, this doesn't amount to much more than inserting a thumb drive or CD and hitting the "Play" button, but there may need to be adjustments to volume and such. The best solution is to choose someone who is not participating in the show itself, so you don't have to worry about switching out. Also, someone who is somewhat media equipment savvy, if possible (though, again, it's usually pretty straightforward).

Although you can put feelers out ahead of time, you generally won't know exactly who is participating and what they'll be doing until they get to the con. The best way to deal with this is to have some time set aside for all participants to gather. This should be mandatory for all participants to avoid any craziness later!

You can do several things at once:
  • Confirm who is performing
  • Confirm what they are performing (type of talent and title of song, etc.)
  • Confirm how long their performance is (particularly if time is an issue)
  • Have them write up brief intros about themselves (optional, but it's nice to have some info to give to the emcee)
  • Have all performers rehearse at least a part of their performance to check mic/sound levels, note CD tracks, find out what props or assistance they may need, and just let them get a feel for the stage
  • Write down this info so you can easily set up tracks, props, levels, etc. during the performance.
Once you know who is performing and what they are performing, the next thing to do is arrange the order of the program. There are several factors to take into account. First, you want to open strong and, particularly, close strong. Try to mix up types of performance (i.e. break up the song numbers with dance, readings, etc.), unless you need to keep certain performances together because of logistics (dealing with large props, something you have to move off/on stage, etc.).

Also, consider how long each performance is. They really should be 5 minutes or less. If you have a skit or reading that goes longer, okay, but if someone has a 20-minute routine, it tends to drag down the show. Attention spans just aren’t what they used to be! Should someone come to the rehearsal with a performance like this, you'll probably want to take them aside and ask if there is any way to cut it down a bit. Time constraints would probably prohibit that length, and the performer will likely adjust once he/she realizes that.

Judy L and Karen Q have traditionally ended (or next-to-ended) the show with their skits based on BATB characters. If not them, then CHSBB has usually ended the show. They may not want to run their skits in front of the other performers to keep it a surprise, so either have them do it after everyone else has left or just find out what, if anything, you need to do to assist (music, etc.).

Most performers will want to keep their thumb drives or CDs and props in hand right up to the show so they can practice, so ask them to show up at least 15 minutes early to give you their media, set up props, etc.

Then on with the show! That is very straightforward. Give the emcee a list or set of numbered cards with the order of the show, the performers' names, and what they are performing. Emcee does a brief intro to each of the acts, they do their thing, and that's about it. Usually the show takes less than an hour, but it depends entirely upon how many acts you have. Unless you get an extraordinary number of performers, an hour should be plenty to budget for the show.

In the recent past, the talent show has been followed by a "slumber party" and/or readings and games, though it has also been followed by auctions, ice cream parties or whatever else fits into the timeframe.

Banquet Issues

The usual method for assigning banquet seating is by putting out a table chart and/or sign-up sheet early on – usually the day prior to the banquet – and announcing when table sign-ups are available. There’ll be a mad scramble to sign up, so if you have guest, charity representative, or con team requirements, be sure you put those on the sign-up sheets before the sign-up sheets are open to the congoers.

The table sign-up sheet should list table numbers and have numbered lines for the number of seats at each table (usually 8 or 10 – whatever the hotel catering department tells you their set-up is). 

You will have to clear the meeting space for a period of time prior to the banquet so that the tables can be set up by hotel staff. You should already have the centerpieces, Winterfest candles, and any other decorations you will need stored in the meeting room by this time. Arrange with the hotel beforehand regarding when you and some volunteers can enter the room pre-banquet so that you can set up the centerpieces and any other special decorations you wish to add (such as placing a con candle by each table setting).

Unless the centerpieces require a lot of set-up, generally you and three or four helpers can set up the decorations/con candles in about a half an hour. You all will have to be dressed for the banquet beforehand, so build this into your personal schedule. 

At some conventions the candles are placed by each plate; at some conventions they are handed out in the lobby just prior to the banquet.

Make sure you have matches or lighters at each table.

It’s a VERY good idea to pre-light the candles so that the wicks will catch faster during the actual candle-lighting. Also, CHSBB individually wraps each candle, so allow some time to unpack them all before the banquet set-up time. [And make sure to set aside enough of them for the “passing the candle” ceremony during closing ceremonies.] You may wish to sell any extra candles to help raise funds for the convention charity.

Ensure you have a written version of Father’s Winterfest speech and have arranged for who will read it. At some conventions the footage from “Dead of Winter” is shown or the soundtrack played instead of having a reader.

Dim the lights in the banquet room for this, so that when the candles are lit, the candlelight is the brightest light in the room. If there are windows in the banquet room and it’s still light outside, arrange with the hotel to close drapes or otherwise cover the windows, if possible.

When it’s time to be served at the banquet (or really, during other meals, but particularly the banquet when we’re being waited on), it’s a good idea to instruct the wait staff to serve all other tables before they serve yours (the con team’s). At one con, the kitchen ran out of one of the entrees and one table had a rather long wait to be served. In such an instance, it’s better if the con committee’s table is the one left hanging than some of your guests.

AV [audio-visual equipment]

At a minimum, you will likely need a laptop, an LCD projector (to show videos), an 8x8 screen, one wired microphone (two is better), and a four-channel microphone mixer. 

You may also wish to rent a stage or at least a podium from the hotel. These are usually included on the hotel’s AV rental sheet.

If you are emcee of the con, you cannot also run the AV equipment. Ask someone used to doing such things to assist you. This is why you have a con team – to spread the work around!

Name tags

Generally name tags display the attendee’s name (or fandom name – ask their preference on the registration form) and city/country. These are given out during registration pick-up. You will likely wish to ask someone to craft nice nametags, and you should do this well in advance of the con, giving the maker the list of attendees as soon as you can. You can provide the list and then add to it as people continue to register, to allow the maker flexibility in making them. You should offer to pay for materials.

You can also take on this chore yourself, if you have the time and ability. Avery, for example, makes name tag kits that make it relatively easy to design the badges in your word processor. Avery 74459 is one example. If you look through old con photos, you'll no doubt see some name badges.