Convention Setup 5.0, Simplified!

Convention Setup 5.0, Simplified!

Today’s hot take: It is possible to be TOO polished and professional at a convention.

Let’s explore that a bit, shall we?

Today I’m actually taking a step “backwards” with my convention display. I’m going to try and simplify it considerably, sell even fewer items, and cut down on my signage. Why? How?

I Want Weirdos

Maybe this is just me, but when I go to a convention I’m there to see new, weird stuff and interact with passionate creators. I don’t want buy a copy of Munchkin or Magic the Gathering.

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Big, shiny booths like this one are undoubtedly effective, and I’m sure they generate awareness and revenue…but I tend to avoid them. It’s unlikely that anyone working this booth can talk about their latest drafts or describe the art direction for the latest expansion. We can’t argue about a new mechanic or tournament structures.

This booth exists to reinforce an already popular brand. It would be weird if they DIDN’T have a giant impressive display at GenCon.

Same for booths that sell merch. While there might be some interesting things available, I can find all that stuff online. No one can tell me how they come up with their idea for the latest hololive plushy.

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There are a few exceptions, of course. This booth below looks too slick to engage me, but after a bit of research looks to be from a small(ish) team. If the creator(s) are there, then I’d love to pick their brain about stuff.

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Of course, because it’s so shiny it might be packed with people and I won’t get the opportunity for a good conversation.

The booth from Indie Press Revolution is packed with lots of lovely games, and their workers might actually be able to give me some good info. But they’re primarily here to sell books, not discuss RPG trends and give recommendations.

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To be clear, there’s NOTHING wrong with this. A lot of people go to conventions to shop for merch and buy stuff. And for the last few conventions I’ve been trying to attract those kinds of people: bigger signs, professional displays, more merch, etc.

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  • A clean-looking bookshelf to display my books. It’s vertical height should attract customers to the table.
  • Prices clearly displayed
  • A chest of cheap tokens to draw people in; they have nothing to do with RPGs.
  • Dice scattered around to signal that this is D&D-type stuff.
  • Signs EVERYWHERE. Even the books are little mini-signs.

And while all of those things make sense, I didn’t see much engagement with the books themselves. People seemed resistant to touch them. They look like display items, not interactive objects.

And I want people to touch my books! How can I fix this?

Simplify and Engage

To contrast the previous booth setups, I was enamored with these two setups from Spear Witch and Loot The Room.

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Look at this disagrace of a booth! Just one sign? Halphazard price displays? Books just plopped down on the table! Where’s the verticality? Where are the different kinds of merch?

And yet…if I saw this booth at a convention I would beeline for it! I’d want to hear about all the books, how they were made, what weirdness is contained within, etc. I’d want to pick up every book and flip through it.

Likewise, at a recent convention I loved these two booths from Brian Tenace and Nerd It Out:

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Both of these are laser-targeted towards getting passerbys to interact in some way. I envy how Brian’s setup encourages people to just start flipping pages. The little spinner from Nerd It Out gets people talking and engaging with the booth. It’s a simple thing, but powerful. It worked on me!

This is what I want from conventions: engagement and conversation. Now how can I modify my own setup to provide that?

Behold, the Obsidian Slant!

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Goodbye bookshelf. You did not encourage people to touch my books. Hopefully this slant will do much better in that department. There’s enough room to pick up a book and put it back without feeling awkward or shaky. And we still preserve some verticality.

We have Bones Deep set off to the side for now, but it could fit on the slant if it needed to.

Price stickers are right on each book; one less sign to deal with. I have a little book menu, but I still haven’t decided if I’ll display it or just hand it to interested customers.

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BIG HEAVY D20! This thing feels amazing to roll. And we added a sign to drive home that interaction. Hopefully folks will engage, win a decent discount, and then use that discount to buy something. I will write the discount on a business card and hand it to them; two for one style.

I even have some fun goodies for folks who roll a 1 and “fail forward”. You’ll have to visit the booth to learn what they are…

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The freebies return, as usual. They are such a powerful way to showcase what an RPG is and give people something to enjoy right off the bat.

I’ll be at Savannah ComicCon over the weekend, and afterward I’ll update this post with a sales report and feedback.

Wish me luck!