This weekend, Tara and I were at Westercon 64 in San Jose. There was some drama surrounding the site selection - which makes my job as Westercon 65′s site selection administrator more interesting. But, there are also lessons that I learned from my position very near the playing field: I was involved in the running of the other hoax bid (OK, I was the other hoax bid), and was watching closely as next year’s site selection person.
But the lessons I am talking about are lessons for bids – probably both Westercon and Worldcon bids.
Lesson 1 – really the main lesson (the rest are support): Even if your bid is unopposed, you need to promote your bid well, fully and often. As near as I can tell, the biggest mistake the Portland bid made was to not do much promotion. Honestly, their promotion was somewhere between bad and non-existent. Their web page was static (until it went down), they had taken out no ads in any con publications I saw, and were not at the one major west coast con I regularly attend (Loscon).
Lesson 1a – make sure your spokesperson is a good salesperson. I don’t doubt that Gene Armstrong is a competent and experienced convention runner and chair. But, he didn’t come across as someone easily able to sell his bid. At the fannish inquisition, Tara noted – and I could not disagree – that he sounded like he was more apologizing for the bid than promoting it. Now, he did own up to the mistakes, but he didn’t do enough to show how strong his case was. You cannot sell your bid if you are always on the defensive. And have an idea what will sell your bid, and use that in your promotion.
Lesson 1b – parties at the voting convention can swing the vote. Kevin and Andy who ran the “Olive Country” bid are party people. They know how to throw a good party. (Heck, if I were ever in the position to need to run a bid, and I could get them as my party team, I probably would). On the other hand, Portland’s party was pretty basic, and had nothing memorable. People came away from it, and might not have been able to remember which party it was (Tara couldn’t – and I’m not sure which one it was).
Ideally, a bid party should have a theme: either for the night, or for the whole promotion period. Having a memorable theme will help the party and the bid stick in people’s mind.
Lesson 2 – get out the vote. While I don’t know if there were any problems with Portland (and nearby) fans who were at the con and didn’t vote, but it was clear that voting wasn’t that heavy. As also learned from the Chicago in 2008, if your supporters aren’t casting votes, you are loosing votes. I know that the voting fee – and for people who aren’t already members of the convention holding the vote, the supporting membership in that convention – can be a stumbling block for some people, and a true obstacle for a few. But you should make an effort to make sure that your bid committee votes.
Lesson 3 – try to not let site selection feel personal. I suspect that there are more bad feelings out there than there should be (and probably some in here as I’m quite friendly with people who are friendly with the Portland bid, and so some of their feeling rubbed off).
I also know that my job next year has grown as well. Now, in addition to administering the vote I need to do a lot of voter education. Bobbi has told me that she has asked for the material that Kevin and Andy prepared for their bid so that I can adapt it into neutral material. I also will need to get signage and do plenty of other things to get out the vote.
I’ve been thinking I’d try a “Filk the Vote” campaign, but I don’t know how many voters that would reach- and who I could get involved. I’ve also thought of putting together some “Uncle Sam the Fan” posters about voting – but I’d need to get the artwork (Tara said she might be able to do something, or I may have to commission something from other artists I know)
I also want to make sure that the site selection area is easy for everyone to find.