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

How to Put on a Beauty and the Beast Convention

updated 2019.1.16

Con Programming

Organizing Your Con Schedule

There are certain things you know you must do at certain times: have an opening ceremony on the first morning of your convention (usually the cons start on Friday), offer a costume/talent/other event (usually held on the first night of a con) with some kind of fan participation (games, zine reading, talent show, etc.), hold a banquet at which you light Winterfest-like candles (usually held on Saturday night), hold a closing ceremony (usually held on Sunday afternoon) at which you “pass the candle” to the next con chair/team. Generally there is a charity auction (often held after the banquet) and a separate (or combined) art auction (if separate, usually held on Sunday morning). These are the anchors around which to build your schedule. However, don’t be hidebound! If you prefer to mix things up a little, do it! Just remember that most of your attendees have been attending cons for years and have certain basic expectations.

It’s become somewhat of a tradition for a “Top Ten List” to be read at some point during the con. Usually this is written by the con chair, but it can be written by someone else, and you could even hold a contest for submissions of top ten lists prior to the con, and read several of them over the weekend. They could be any kind of B&B-related “ten” things you’d like, usually hoping to provoke laughter and often silly.

Chesapeake Helpers have several traditional and fun panels that they are happy to offer - if you ask them prior to the convention with enough time to develop them.

Beast Bingo at least twice during the con is expected/anticipated; once each day is better. This type of fundraising really helps bring money in for the charity.

Several panels would be good – “B&B topic” panels, writing workshops, stamping workshops, calligraphy workshops, sign language workshops, and similar activities have filled our con schedules in recent years.

We have begun activities in recent years that have almost become traditions – pajama parties, Pin the Dangly Bit, White Stuff, zine readings. Be creative. Try to keep within the B&B “spirit” and plan activities which will allow fans to celebrate why they have come together. It need not be complicated, just fun! Try to keep each of the activities no longer than one hour.

The banquet evening can really drag on if not planned well. Keep the entertainment short if you have it – a song or two, a music video or two, plus your candle-lighting ceremony.

If doing the charity auction after the banquet, move right along to it while folks are still fresh and it’s not too late. Some conventions have a break so people can change clothes before the auction. This was a good idea when we had scads of stuff to auction and auctions ran for hours. However, these days our auctions seldom last longer than an hour. So consider going straight into the auction portion of the evening to maximize your audience and keep the evening from running too long.

You may also want to combine your art and charity auctions. Further, you may want to move them both to Sunday morning (after the brunch). Just give yourself enough time to process payments from auction winners before you have to break down the room to move out.

You will need to provide a break in your schedule of 1 hours or so if people must find their own lunch, 2 hours if people must find their own dinner.

Remember to plan time for talent show prep, when other fans must be out of the meeting room.

If you do a group story reading (zine reading) as part of your activities, it is imperative that you pick a “short” story, one that can be read within about 45 minutes at the most. To find one, read one aloud to yourself and time yourself.  There’s no easier way to do it to be sure. The extra 15 minutes will be used to shift from reader to reader, for folks to settle into place, etc. Anything longer and you’ll have folks falling asleep!

Not everyone will participate in every panel. Be sure you have a quiet alternative for the others, such as a card-signing opportunity (for absent fans – ask Vicky for more information), or have the dealers room open, or have a B&B-themed puzzle or coloring activities out on a table. Give people a reason to stay in or near the meeting room, even if they aren’t participating in the panel.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When you plan a convention schedule, it’s not enough to write down panel titles, activities and displays you’d like to have. Behind each one of those items is a LOT of WORK! For each individual element of your schedule, you need to determine who is in charge of it, what supplies they need, how much time it will take to present, where within your convention space you will present it, any costs the convention must bear to effect that plan, and the time it will take to set up and to dismantle that activity, if necessary. In some cases, several people will be needed and a significant amount of time to effect something you wish to include in the plan for your convention (e.g., art display, silent auction, dealers room, charity auction, costume display). Consider set-up and take-down time, storage before and during the convention so that items are accessible and easy to find when needed, etc. Try to think through each activity from beginning to end, writing down each step in order to consider all aspects; some will be simple, some will be complex, and to avoid surprises at the con, planning ahead is crucial.  Consult with previous con chairs, who have valuable insights to share on issues you may not be aware of.

You will probably want to keep the schedule a close secret until you pass out the schedule at the convention. This is for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to) because keeping some things known only to yourself /your team helps make the actual convention time more exciting for fans once they finally see the revealed schedule; a fan who promised to do a panel may not be able to do it due to unforeseen circumstances and you might have to do some last-minute switching or substituting of panels; you want as many fans as possible to plan on spending the entire convention time – all of the days – inside the meeting space to participate in all activities (the more the merrier!).

Beast Bingo

Judy Loyd invented Beast Bingo, which is an enduring fan favorite activity during conventions. You will be expected to provide a number of small prizes (in the $1-$10 range) for winners. Judy will provide the Beast Bingo cards and markers and will be the bingo caller, assisted by Karen Quattlebaum, but if you want them to do this, you need to ask Judy well ahead of the convention. Decide how many times Beast Bingo will be scheduled, and include it specifically in your schedule (at least twice is usually the minimum). This is a sure-fire fundraiser for the convention charity.

Con Traditions

First and foremost is the candle-lighting ceremony prior to the banquet, where someone reads Father’s Winterfest speech while the room lights are dim, and candles are lit (make sure each table has matches for this!).

Winterfest candles have, for many years, been donated by the Chesapeake Helpers Society of Beauty and the Beast, but you should request them as early as possible, to give them time to create the candles – asking at the current year’s convention for your next year’s convention is appropriate, or even earlier.

Another tradition is a banquet centerpiece. You may want to ask one of our fandom artists for assistance in creating a centerpiece. You should offer to pay for materials. One way to recoup your investment is to auction the centerpieces at the con. Another is to request sponsors of centerpieces pre-con, which can raise both funds to repay the artist and possibly additional funds for the con charity. You might, alternatively, ask fans to create unique centerpieces (figure out in advance how many tables you will have in use at the banquet and ask for that many volunteers to create unique centerpieces to auction for the charity).

A third tradition is “passing the candle” to the next con chair/team during closing ceremonies. Be sure you have extra candles and matches sitting by the stage or podium area in advance for this!

Also, during the con, it’s tradition to give the next con chair some time to promote his/her convention, show a video, pass out flyers and registration packets, take questions, etc.

Another tradition is displaying the fan-purchased Vincent costume. Contact a previous con chair for further information.

A tradition which you may wish to continue is to creating a new version of the “Gathering of Spirits” video used in recent years to end our conventions. This requires someone to insert photos from your convention into the video at certain points, in order to make it relevant to your convention. Talk to Laura Goist about how to accomplish this.

Contact a previous year’s convention chair and she will advise you how to access the special video that has been shown at all recent conventions.