How To Host A Convention Party
How To Host A Convention Party
- 1 i - Why this page was created
- 2 ii - Disclaimer
- 3 iii - Copyright
- 4 What is a Convention Party
- 5 Party Themes
- 6 Planning ahead
- 7 Things you may need
- 8 Shopping
- 9 Food glorious food
- 10 Non-alcoholic drinks (aw)
- 11 Alcoholic drinks
- 12 Before you begin
- 13 Ambiance - Decorating the room/s
- 14 Promoting your event, club, drunken debauchery, etc
- 15 Before You Open The Doors
- 16 Cleanup
- 17 Buttering-up Hotel Staff
- 18 Recouping losses
- 19 Recovery
- 20 Checklists
i - Why this page was created
My name is Grant and I am a member of SFSA (Science Fiction South Africa). At the ConJosé Worldcon (The 60th World Science Fiction Convention) in 2002, I planned to host a party. I had some exposure to hosting parties but was a novice and wanted some assistance. I turned to the folks on the SMOFS list (Secret Masters Of Fandom) and appealed for help and received masses of advice. In return for this guidance I promised to create this page so that all of their great advice would be available for everyone and anyone to see freely.
Please note that the name, “Secret Masters of Fandom,” is a joke. These folks are not any kind of secret society, and 'Master' is used in the sense of having mastered knowledge, not having mastery over fandom. They are simply a collection of people involved in the running of Science Fiction and Fantasy clubs and conventions.
ii - Disclaimer
Please use this advice at your own discretion. As with all advice on web pages, please be aware that it is subjective and cannot be guaranteed in any way. Neither myself nor the members of the SMOFS list accept any liability for any problems you encounter while following this advice. No collection of advice is ever complete so I would also advise that you seek additional advice from more experienced fans and the committee (or designated staff member) of the convention you will hold your party at.
iii - Copyright
You may not distribute this text for profit. Otherwise, please feel free to use this and distribute it in any damn way you choose, provided that you accept all liability and consequences (particularly the abducted by aliens part).
What is a Convention Party
A convention party is, well, it's just a party. Most often a party is an event hosted in one or more hotel rooms inside a designated party area within a hotel with whom the convention has negotiated a corkage waiver.
Hotels usually love hosting parties, provided you play by their rules. The biggest of these rules is corkage, as the hotel expects to do the catering for any parties held on their premises. Obviously the expense of this would rule out most parties that are run and paid for by individuals or small groups. For this reason most conventions negotiate a corkage waiver with at least one hotel. Here the hotel agrees to allow self-catered parties - generally in specific areas so as not to disturb other guests (parties tend to be noisy).
Parties generally are either simply social affairs, or they have some agenda - like promoting a bid or cause. A party generally offers drinks and snacks to all guests. Most parties are open to all of the convention's members, but many parties are by invitation only. It all depends on what your goals are, if you have any goals.
You might have flyers, fanzines, forms and more to use or give away, depending on your objectives.
All party themes must be approved by a central committee of neo-nazi fans. Okay, okay, so I'm kidding. Themes can be just about anything you want them to be. Most often parties have an agenda, generally to promote convention/Worldcon bids and sell memberships. Other parties promote fan funds, publishers, authors, gay fandom, MENSA, media, Libertarians, scientific communities, and so on. Some can even be part of a protest against the axing of their favourite character from a TV show. However there are plenty of parties that are entirely social in nature.
Common party themes include media (Babylon 5, Star Trek, etc), furries (um, look it up), filk (folk singing) and hoax parties (joke bids and other fun). In my case we wanted to introduce or club, Science Fiction South Africa, to Worldcon members.
Anyone failing to plan can be summarily executed by a horde of drunken Klingons. Well, perhaps not, but you will save yourself a lot of grief and stress by being organized.
Take a look at the web site of the convention at which you plan to host a party at. Look for all party information posted there. If anything is unclear, or if no web site exists, contact the convention directly. Usually you can find out where your party can be held as well as any additional requirements/rules. Some conventions allow no alcohol (or don't allow alcohol at open parties), hot food, etc. Generally you have to tell them you plan to host a party at the time you book your room. Make sure you are aware of all of the convention's party rules.
Find out what the conventions party rules are and take any steps to ensure that you are compliant. Some conventions have a party-maven that you can contact directly for this information, or alternatively you can check the convention's flyers, progress reports or web pages. Failing all that you might try contacting someone on the committee, probably the hotel liaison first. In most cases you are required to notify the convention about your party anyway.
When to host your party depends of course on your goals. Parties with an agenda often have multiple parties on multiple nights. Otherwise, check with the con runners to find out which night is their busiest party night, and choose your night based on this (some parties prefer a quiet night). The busiest night is either Saturday night or Sunday night at most cons.
Make your party room reservations as far in advance as possible. Some conventions a have limited number of party rooms that quickly get snapped up. Some conventions have a special area or floor reserved for parties, and others you might want to pick a suitable location. Many is the bid party that saved money on food by being close to the Con Suite (cheats). You might also want to be close to other parties or some other a high-traffic area, to avoid being missed. Sometimes this can be arranged beforehand.
You might also want to think about the size of the room you want. A bigger room will fit more people, but that also means more people to feed.
The more you can plan and accomplish in advance, the better. Avoid the mad last-minute rush. This would include collecting items you will use for ambiance, like posters, door stickers, membership forms, flags, table cloths, special outfits, fanzine copies, flyers, posters, party adverts/invitations, etc.
Make sure you have enough help lined up. I have been to a party or two with only one host where guests entertained each other. This may be perfectly fine, but usually you will need help - particularly if you want to enjoy yourself. Four of us hosted the SFSA party and for eight hours all four of us were constantly socializing. Several times, despite our best efforts, folks left without getting to talk to any of us, something we regretted enormously. Imagine what it would have been like with less than four. However if your aim is simply to collect a group of Buffy fans in one place, then you might not need any helpers.
Some bigger parties, generally those with a serious agenda, will even appoint a party captain. This person will ensure that everything gets done, and it can be a form of training for later management responsibilities. For most smaller parties though, a group of experienced fans will pretty much get things done on their own.
If your party has a theme then you might need to plan special food as well. In our case we wanted to bring in some South African foods. Conventions promoting their particular area, have done the same. For general food, try to find out in advance where the reasonably priced stores near the hotel are. The same applies to places to purchase alcohol. Some conventions have a party-maven that you can contact directly for this information, or alternatively you can check the convention's flyers, progress reports or web pages. Failing all that you might try contacting someone on the committee, probably the hotel liaison first.
Have a checklist of things you need, and need to do--both before and during the convention--and check items off, rather than keeping them in your head.
As a broad rule, try to keep both the afternoon before your party (setup) and the morning after your party (sleep catch-up) free. Parties generally start somewhere between seven and ten in the evening, and end between midnight and dawn. Decide on your times beforehand and try and stick to it (if you want to, hell it's a party). Be aware of check-in and check-out times for the hotel, if they affect you. Leave yourself plenty of time for cleanup.
Early on the day of your party--or earlier if the convention caters for it--remember to notify the convention staff about your party, so that it can be included in any distributed lists or publications about planned parties. There might also be a notice board where you can list your party's details. Also be sure to order your ice in advance, if you are ordering ice from the convention. If possible, volunteer to help at someone else's party first, as this will expose you directly to good ideas and habits.
Things you may need
This section contains a list of items you might need to run your party. Many of them are covered in more detail in later sections.
- Door jam (to keep the room door open)
- Boxes (highly useful when carrying shopping, plus for later cleanup)
- Pegs or safety pins (attach poster/flag/etc to curtains)
- Artists' or Painters' tape (for sticking posters to mirrors, picture frames, without damaging them)
- Tablecloth/s (protect vulnerable hotel surfaces and minimize mess)
- Serving dishes, bowls and/or plates
- Serving utensils
- Paper towels (utility purposes). You won't need a whole roll of these, and flat-fold ones pack more conveniently.
- Paper Napkins (for messy guests)
- Utility knives (bread knife, cheese knife, butter knife, etc)
- Bread boards (bulky) or ultra flat cutting mats (take up virtually no room in a suitcase)
- Disposable (paper/plastic) small plates and cups and plates (small portions mean supplies last longer, less is wasted and smaller messes, should an accident occur). It's easy to buy too many cups. Remember: you won't need more cups than you have drinks!
- Plastic trash bags (for trash and general utility)
- Shower curtains, or cheap cooler boxes (for ice - could use trash bags instead)
- Cloths, dish cloths and safe cleaning solutions (for cleanup)
- Party advertising posters (let everyone know about your party and where it is)
- Tape that does not stick to carpets plus plastic sheeting (protect carpets from stains - probably not needed for non-bar non-hot food party)
- Static cling sheets to stick posters on walls without damaging them
- Regular tape (just in case)
- Spare pens
- Note paper
- Business cards
- Door badge stickers (for sticking on badges)
- General utility knife or pen knife (Swiss Army rules!)
- Thick Black Marker/s
- Small hand-held vacuum cleaner (luxury item)
- Stereo or PA system, if you want music or if you will need to make announcements
You might also want to pool resources with other parties that will be held on different nights to yours.
For groups that hold regular parties, generally a party pack is prepared. This can be held in a box, a suitcase or even a cooler box (dual purpose). How big this is depends on what your needs are. Generally this is a static pack of items, like those above, needed during the hosting of any party. These items are amongst the items you have decided on, for example, knives, serving bowls, scissors, artist's tape, bread boards, etc.
The size of this pack, or even the practicality of the pack, will be determined by how far you have to haul it. A suitcase might be the best option if you plan to take the pack on a flight, preferably one on wheels. Remember that this would have to be checked luggage as it will likely contain knives, scissors and other items that are not allowed in carry-on luggage.
Keep a list of all the contents within, stuck on the lid. This list can be used when taking inventory, both before and after the party. This approach makes it highly unlikely that you will ever forget anything. Always check your inventory before a con, and don't forget to arrange for someone to take the pack to the convention.
If the convention is not in your area, you will not be familiar with local stores. Ahead of time, try to find out where the nearest stores are, and then which of them is more reasonably priced and which ones have better quality products. Most parties strive for a balance between cheap and tasteful. To gather the information contact any friends in the area, the convention (many even have a Party Maven on committee) or you can also try the hotel.
If there are no nearby stores that suit your needs, then you might need to rent a car or van to do your shopping. Sometimes small moving trucks can be rented cheaper than cars. This gives you access to more stores so you might save enough to cover the cost of the car. A well planned trip will see you hit all your stores in one trip, but be sure to buy perishable items last. Also be sure that you have somewhere to keep perishable items until the party, so that they will not spoil before you use them. Most of the time, a cool hotel room will suffice.
Dollar stores and bulk-discount stores are a great source of cups, plates, serving bowls, throw-away ice containers, knives, decorations and more. Sometimes they are a good source of food too, but most often you will want to look elsewhere for better quality food.
If you can, take some boxes with you for your supplies. Getting hordes of shopping bags to a room is no fun at all, but boxes are more convenient and can be stacked on a bellman's trolley (bags fall off too easily).
Food glorious food
Parties mostly have simple finger foods. This would include fruit, chips, dips, cookies, crackers, cheese, candy and so on. Things that don't get stale/dried out are often preferred, like M&Ms, skittles, etc. Some parties go the extra mile and include sandwiches, cakes, pies and such. Finally there are parties with hot foods, like meatballs, hot cheese dip for chips, hotdogs and so on.
The more complex the food, the more you will need: more helpers (keep food hot, stirring, topping up, etc); much more organizing (pots, locations near electric outlets but away from fire detectors, etc); higher expenses (utensils, serving bowls, paper towels, etc); and greater cleanup (more dishes, worse stains, etc).
In general a simple party would strive for as many finger foods as possible, where these foods are least prone to mess.
Don't put out too much food, where that food degrades quickly. Cut fruit gets mushy quickly and breads/cakes/cookies dry out quickly too. Cheese should be covered and let folks slice their own, as cheese dies very quickly in a hot room (and it's an ugly death).
For hot food, be sure that it is allowed, as many hotels forbid heated food in rooms - particularly where smoke detectors might be affected by smoke or steam. Check with the hotel and convention for details.
If you're traveling to distant city to promote a convention, try to bring a few local food specialties with you to give people a taste of your region and to make your party stand out from the other parties.
In the USA, it is prudent to plug all appliances into the GFI outlet of the bathroom that services the hair dryer (has own trip switch). It is also prudent to use a construction grade heavy-duty power cord (15 amps) - per the National Electric Code (in the past hotels used 10 amp circuits). This is why there are now dedicated outlets for hair dryers (as well as for GFI ground fault interruption electric shock protection).
Non-alcoholic drinks (aw)
Firstly, if you plan to have any hot drinks, then read the above food section - about electric appliances. Like hot foods, hot drinks pose more problems and create more work.
Use small cups in order to minimize wastage and maximize your supplies. Smaller cups also mean smaller messes, should an accident occur.
Generally one offers carbonated drinks like Coke and Pepsi. For these all you generally need to do is put some out and the guests will help themselves. My personal preference is for two and three litter plastic bottles. They are less trouble and worry than glass or tins. Also try to provide as much of a selection as possible, including diet and caffeine-free drinks, but also rival brands and flavours. Only use recognized brands as unknown brands can create a tacky image, and might be ignored and wasted anyway.
With plastic bottles you cab then use the bath to hold your ice (in bags over towels) and people can use the ice to chill the drinks. Another option for holding ice is a nice big cooler box, which can be kept in the bath to save space. Further options include cheap buckets lined by plastic bags. Some will even use double plastic bags inside a regular small dustbin, as most hotel dustbins are clean. Cheap Styrofoam coolers are available at many grocery stores and can be discarded/given away at the end of the con. Separate coolers allow you to have drinks outside of the bathroom, should you want to do so - possibly to allow guests to use the bathroom.
Two forty-pound bags of ice will be enough for most bathtubs and most parties. Ice can be bought from stores or sometimes from the convention. Generally one tries to avoid using the hotel ice machines as you could inconvenience other hotel guests, though in my experience you can get away with this at smaller conventions.
If you use cans then generally you have to keep them in ice, or in an icy water mix to keep them chilled. You might think that all you need to is pile the ice and drinks into the bath, but this can cause damage to the bath, something the hotel might bill you for. Even if they don't, one should really make every effort not to damage hotel property. Generally we try to protect the bath by laying down some kind of protective layer. Line the bath with towels (soft buffer) and then cover the towels with some kind of waterproof layer. This layer can be large plastic garbage bags or even a cheap/old shower curtain. Then add the ice and finally add the drinks. Make sure that the plug is in, so that the cold water will not run out, thereby keeping the drinks cold for a longer time. It is important that the bathtub be left in the same condition that it was in when you first checked into the room.
Glass bottles present many of the same problems and advantages of tins, but broken glass can ruin a party. The advantage of cans is that the drinks never get flat and you don't need cups. The disadvantage is that there is a higher expense and there can be a lot of wastage.
For plastic bottles, you might want to pre-open and then soda bottles to minimize the initial fizz, and therefore potentially minimize mess. Remember to close them again afterwards, as these drinks go flat quickly. In either case, the bathroom is an ideal place to serve drinks, as it has no carpets and plenty of wipeable surfaces, along with running water.
If you want happy guests, then you should also supply plain water, carbonated water/seltzer water and fruit juice. Not everyone likes the super-sweet carbonated drinks.
More on Ice
- Start the process at least two hours before the party's scheduled start.
- Line the bottom of the tub with towels to reduce the risk of scratching, but don't block the drain.
- Cover the towels with plastic bags/sheeting or some other kind of waterproofing - even a shower curtain.
- Now lay down a thin layer of ice.
- Place cans/bottles of soft drinks and/or beer in the tub, grouping types of drinks together.
- Top it all off with some more ice, enough to cover all the drinks.
- For large parties you might need to top-up your supplies and/or ice periodically through the evening.
- If you have any foods that you need to keep cool (fruit, veggies, cheese) then place a plastic sheet/bag topped by a towel, over a portion of the ice, and then place these food items on top of the towels. Remember that your room will heat up during the party, so this is more important than you might think.
- Never leave water running unattended.
I cannot help you with alcohol as I am a religious fanatic, or at least I try to be when I'm not drunk.
First, read the previous section on non-alcoholic drinks, as much of the advice is the same.
One yard of ironing board cover fabric makes a great bar cover (padded underside and water-repellent surface). You might want to protect the bar area with plastic sheeting on the carpet. As before, small sized cups can save you a lot. If all you want to do is offer folks a taste of some unusual drink, then purchase small sample cups, and some of them are as small as a thimble. This will also save you a small fortune.
You will be responsible for any liquor served at your party. Be aware of all the local laws on alcohol. Contact the convention or the hotel for information. In most countries it is illegal to serve alcohol to minors (in some cases it is okay if you are their parent), and it is up to you to card your guests. This means careful scrutiny of some form of legal id, as well as some common sense. The minimum drinking age is generally between 18 and 21, but be aware that some states/provinces and even some counties, have their own laws and might even have made public alcohol consumption or the sale of alcohol illegal.
The hotel themselves might have rules or limitations in this regard, as might the convention. Make sure you have all these details before you make your plans.
Only use recognized brands as unknown brands can create a tacky image, and might be ignored and wasted anyway.
Before you begin
Look around the room and plan how you will use the room. Try to rearrange furniture to allow for more space for socializing, and places for more groups to gather. Clear certain objects from surfaces that you will want to use for food. Hide anything that might be removed by your guests, like the phone, phone book, TV remote, all hotel booklets, hotel glasses, toiletry (except soap for washing hands), and so on. Hiding the telephone also means that you prevent charges for unwanted phone calls. Put anything that might be broken in a safe place.
If you are in a hot area with sun-filled windows, then close the curtains to minimize heat from the sun, and then turn the air conditioner to a cold temperature. Later on your room will likely overheat, with loads of warm bodies and an open door. The best way to prevent this is to keep things as cool as possible, as you don't want to be sweating in front of your guests, or have them sweating. For the same reason you might want to wear something light, like shorts and flip-flops, to keep you cool.
If you are wearing some kind of costume, try to hang out right next to an air-conditioning unit. There is nothing quite like a nice cool breeze up your sleeves or under your shirt, when you are getting hot and sweaty. Check during the party that no one has turned the A/C off, or if handbags, zines, or other items are blocking the A/C vents. If it gets too hot anyway and it is cooler outside, then you might want to simply open some windows - just don't open them wide enough to be a hazard to your unsuspecting guests.
Get a bellman to help you move stuff in - you won't have to scrounge a cart and they'll be eager for the work in the middle of the con. Remember to tip well.
Ambiance - Decorating the room/s
This ranges from nothing all the way through to egad! Some parties have more balloons and paper streamers than the average political convention, while others have no decorations at all. Remember rule number one - what goes up must come down.
For us we had African tablecloths, posters and shirts. This created a mild African feel. We also had copies of our club fanzine, South African brochures and even a couple of South African flags and maps.
Some parties feature elaborate costumes, loads of interesting ornaments, funky lighting, music and so on. Worldcon and other bid parties feature tourism handouts and other regional touches.
When sticking up posters, never tape them to walls, as these can be very easily damaged. Rather affix the posters to mirrors, mirror-covered closet doors, tiled bathroom walls, windows or glass-covered art using artist's tape (available in stationery supply stores). It covers the artwork (probably out of theme anyway), promotes your theme and makes for easy cleanup. Also, use those mirror-covered closet doors for promotional material with lots of details you want read/seen.
One can also purchase static (glue free) cling sheets that adhere to walls without doing any damage. Light posters can then be attached to the cling sheets.
Most parties have someone at the door who sticks stickers onto convention membership badges. These stickers serve two purposes, namely to help you keep track of the attendance at your party and to provide your greeter an excuse to chat up the party attendees or direct them to someone to chat them up in the course of promoting whatever it is your party is trying to promote. To a lesser extent the stickers also advertise your party and show how many parties you guest has been to. Every convention has a group of people who just love to collect stickers. I am one of them.
Many parties don't even have a doorman and keep things simple by leaving the stickers near the front door, so that those interested can simply help themselves, hopefully to just one each.
Funded parties generally have their own stickers printed by a professional print shop. These stickers need to be pretty small, preferably smaller than a postage stamp, otherwise badges fill up really quickly. For the rest of us we have several options. For your own customizable stickers, you can sometimes purchase sheets of stickers from your local stationery store. These sheets can then be used with your home printer, along with your own personal design. Sometimes it can be hard to find stickers that are small enough, so you might have to search a little. You can also simply purchase stickers that are fun or in theme with your party.
I was given some animal stickers and I also purchased some stickers of my own. Animals were fine for an African theme. Stickers are found in a wide variety of stores (stationery, retail, etc), including web based stores, but a large variety can be hard to find. Amongst the best places to find a large selection of stickers are party stores and gift stores, but the hands-down champ is a teacher-supply store. Here you can find stickers in just about any theme you can think of, and pretty damned cheap too.
One advantage of having a doorman sticking stickers onto badges, is that it gives you a way to ensure that only guests of the convention attend your party. If you have an unusual sticker then people will ask, "Hey, where did you get that cool sticker?" which brings you a few more guests.
Parties promoting an area along with a bid or theme, often use regular tourism paraphernalia to give people a sense of their home town. While tourism brochures and leaflets can be found at many travel agents, the best source for this kind of handout is government, either city, state/province or national. In our case the South African embassy provided us with posters, calendars, CD-ROMs, brochures and maps. Other parties have featured pins, magnets and other knickknacks, from their country or city.
We also had copies of our fanzine, while bid parties generally have copies of flyers, progress reports and more.
Tablecloths and wall hangings are an easy way to enhance the ambiance of a room, as they can be draped over anything. Serving bowls, serving utensils, plates, cups and so on, can all also be purchased within your theme, if you have the budget for it. Party stores are a great source of themed items that cover every utensil you can think of, and more.
If you have a message then you might create your own flyer, or even flyers. Many parties field two, one short and sweet with a URL and other contact details, along with a short description and little else, and the other more detailed for those who want a more detailed look while they are there. Flyers can be created using any word processor or graphics package. They can then be printed at any print shop, or on a home printer. Generally 200 will be more than you need for a regular party, fifty might even do the trick. For a bigger affair that will generate more interest, you will want more copies. Mostly it's just trial and error. Flyers can be handed out at the party, left on bulletin boards, left in gathering places (like the Con Suite and Fan Lounge) or even distributed to passing crowds.
Many parties even have their own t-shirt printed. These create a "team" effect, and can even be sold to raise funds.
Promoting your event, club, drunken debauchery, etc
You may want to put signs/posters up telling people about your party, including theme, hotel, floor and room number. These signs should be clean and legible, after all, this is advertising. Coloured paper can draw more attention to your poster. Most often you will have to write in (use thick black marker pen) the room number onto your poster, after you know what it is at check-in time. Be sure to be neat and legible. Poster placements are often dictated by the convention and/or hotel. Often there are special boards on every floor. At other times, the same rules apply as for posters in the room. Not damaging hotel property is a priority.
If you will have incentives, such as door prizes or event discounts, for party attendees, be sure to mention these in your signs/flyers.
At the ConJosé Worldcon, I noticed that some parties had an advertising poster on every floor of the party hotel, a poster at every other Worldcon hotel, posters on various bulletin boards and also had flyers in the Con Suite, Con Lounge and several other gathering places. They even had several posters down the corridor on their floor, with arrows drawn on them to point the way to their party. It all depends on how much exposure you crave.
Many conventions also have a party notice board and/or distribute a party list. Generally one has to notify the convention about one's party, in order to be included. Many conventions simply put up a list and let everyone fill in details about their party.
Put posters up early on the day of the party so as to maximize your exposure, and you get the best spots on the boards. If posters from the previous day are still on the boards, feel free to remove them, but never remove or move anyone else's posters for the same day as yours. That's just plain bad manners. For best results, place posters at about eye-level if possible.
Stick the posters up with artists tape, to minimize the chance of damaging anything, but be sure to use enough tape as you don't want your poster to fall off the wall. Remember that posters should only be stuck in designated or allowable areas, and should never be affixed to wall paper or any other easily-damaged surface. If you want to go the extra mile and make your poster a little more attractive, then only place the tape on the back of the sign, one piece in each corner.
Good places for signs are:
- On the convention's party board.
- In the ConSuite.
- Near the entrances and exits of major events, like the dealers' room, art show and principal meeting room areas.
- At every elevator bank, preferably just above the buttons - if this is allowed. Sometimes there is a designated area for posters.
- Although most hotels forbid this, you may be allowed to place posters in every elevator.
- At every point between the elevator and the party where people will have to turn a corner. Arrows should be drawn on these to indicate the direction.
- In stairwells, because most conventions with a sizable party scene have elevator problems and many will instead use the stairs to get from one party to another.
- If attendance to your party is very important then you might want to periodically send someone out with a few spares to replace any posters that have disappeared.
If you plan for your party to be more exclusive, then broad advertising like this will not be for you. You might want to print up some invitations and hand them out by hand to people that you want to attend. More broadly, you could include invitations with flyers, or inside fanzines/handouts in the Con Suite or Fan lounge. In some cases, party hosts invite people by name and only allow guests in if they are on the list. Sometimes, the method of choice is to give everyone involved in the party (plus any other helpers) a stack of invitations to hand out, to people they know or at their discretion. Help from a few well-connected fans here could be valuable.
Before You Open The Doors
Before opening the party doors to your guests, start at the front door/s and take a look at the party layout. Take a walk through your room/s and check that everything is in place and that all is in order. Pretend that you are one of your guests and make sure everything is where you want it for best traffic flow.
There is always some cleanup. You have to carefully take down all posters and decorations. Food must be cleared and messes must be wiped. Sometimes there are dishes to wash. Furniture must be returned to their original places.
Remember that the hotel can bill you for excessive mess, should they have to take special steps to clean up stains.
Try to pick up spilled foods all through the evening, as this minimizes carpet soiling from ground-in mess, as people trample over the spillages. Also clear away used cups, plates and other mess all through the evening, if you get the chance. This keeps your party looking better, and also reduces the amount of cleaning your tired body has to deal with when the end of the party arrives.
Include cleaning liquid and cleaning rags in your supplies, as well as dishwashing liquid, pot scrubbers, etc if required.
Remember that a tip to the hotel maid after the party is essential. The more mess, the bigger it should be.
Buy a bottle of club soda or seltzer water to clean up soda stains on the carpet quickly. You pour the clear fizzy on the stain, which bubbles it all up out of the carpet fibers and then absorb this with the hotel towels (they're white so they can be bleached for easy sterilization so those stains will come out quickly) or with a clean utility cloth.
Most conventions consider cleanliness to be very important. The hotel is not their property, but they do have a relationship with the hotel that will usually be ongoing, so they want you to be considerate and be more careful than you would be at home about messing things up. If you have a big party, you are encouraged to bag most of your own trash. Yes, the maids are there to clean up but if they only need to vacuum, make up beds, and other general cleaning that will help them get through their designated floors within something close to reasonable time, allowing them to take care of everyone. And if you keep the maids happy everybody wins.
Remember, if your room is damaged during your stay, then you will be held responsible and will be required to reimburse the hotel for repairs and tough cleaning.
Buttering-up Hotel Staff
Conventions generally put a huge burden onto hotel staff. Try not to pick at them, if you can help it. Everyone's performance suffers under pressure, and the more pressure you pile on them the worse you make things. Conversely, a kind or encouraging word can put some extra zip in their step.
A large tip to a bellman can make it easy to acquire extra ice and maybe some other things you might want to borrow from the hotel. Also, they can of course help in lugging in the party supplies.
Part of keeping the staff happy is tipping; their salaries are figured with the assumption that people will tip them. So tip generously and often. This will improve your personal service and the service level to the whole convention. Suggested USA tips are $1.00 per bag to the bellman, at least $2.00 per day per bedroom and $15.00 per day per parlour for the maids.
A tip to the hotel maid after the party is essential. The more mess, the bigger it should be. If you create a spot on the rug, at least $5.00 is appropriate for the care and tending needed to clean each spot. Remember that their job is light cleaning, changing linen/towels, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms and dusting. Heavy-duty cleaning is not only above-and-beyond the call of duty, it also delays them, thus keeping them from servicing other rooms within their allotted work day.
Many parties are selling memberships to a convention and therefore can expect to possibly make a profit. For the rest of us parties are an expense. There are several ways to recoup some funds.
Many parties have their own t-shirt printed, and these can be sold to raise funds. Similarly, fanzines fanzine subscriptions and other items can be sold.
Donation buckets are not uncommon. Sometimes there are even two of them, one by the food and one by the bar. You can recoup a substantial amount this way, with a generous crowd.
Get some sleep!
Checklist of Things To Do Before the Convention (it's never too soon)
- Make sure you have a big enough team and that you know who everyone is.
- Determine whose room will be used for the party, or if you will have a special party room. This is more important than it sounds because some folks object to parties being held in their room.
- Prepare party advertising poster, and make copies.
- Prepare your flyers, and make copies.
- Decide who has to bring what, and further who has to go on any shopping trips.
- If you have a Party-Pack, then make sure that it is fully loaded and that someone is assigned to get it to the con. Do this well before the con, giving you plenty of time to replace anything missing.
- Find out what the conventions party rules are and take any steps to ensure that you are compliant.
- Make your party room reservations as far in advance as possible.
- Find out where all the nearby stores of interest are.
Checklist for the Day of the Party
- If you want to be extra careful then you can contact the party maven or hotel liaison to find out if anything has changed since you contacted them before the convention.
- If you are not using an existing room booking then:
- Be sure you know what hotel check-in time is. If you need to get in early, ask the hotel as they can sometimes accommodate you.
- Check into the party room - sometimes done after shopping - depending on your available time and priorities.
- Check in as soon as possible as this could give you more flexibility to change your room location, if you are not in a high-traffic area (or whatever your preference is). Don't be afraid to be demanding and to ask to speak to the manager if necessary. You are paying for the room for a purpose and thus have the right to fight for a suitable location. You might only know that the location is unsuitable after you see it, so don't be afraid to go back to the front desk and get yourself relocated.
- Ask hotel housekeeping or the front desk for additional towels. You will need towels for icing the bathtub, keeping the bar area dry, as well as for general chores like wiping up spills. Keep at least one by the basin for drying washed hands.
- Confirm the locations of the stores you plan to visit - preferably before the day of the party.
- Arrange for transportation to and from the supermarket - a rental, a cab or a bummed ride - preferably before the day of the party. It is not recommended to use public transport.
- Buy your party supplies, preferably with helpers, though not too many helpers.
- Either confirm, or plan to get your Ice. Often this can be purchased from the convention, but you might have to buy ice from a store. Only at a small con will the hotel ice machines suffice, but remember to be considerate of other guests. Mostly you will not want to order ice from the hotel/room service as it is too expensive
- If the con has a daily newsletter and/or convention list, then make sure you are listed.
- Make sure you know how to get in touch with the concomm during the party, should problems arise.
- Put up your party signs.
Checklist for Party Set-up
- Start at least two hours before party start time, more if you are paranoid.
- Set the air-conditioning to cold.
- Determine your room layout.
- Place ice in the bath.
- Do your decorations.
- Post a "no smoking" sign. This keeps non-smoking guests happy and also makes it easier to keep the room clean and minimizes the chance of carpet and surface burn damage.
- Unplug the TV set; cover it with a decorative tablecloth, flag etc.
- Hide anything that might disappear, including ashtrays, remote controls, etc.
- Hide the phone/s
- Lay out refreshments
- If there is any damage to the room or carpet, report it to the hotel before the party starts - otherwise they will blame it on you. If possible take some photos for proof.
- Create a strong first impression. Let the first thing guests see be the most impressive sign or poster that you have.
- Freshen up before you open the doors. You don't want to be all sweaty when your guests arrive. If at all possible, spend some time simply relaxing so as to be at your personal best, and not a frazzled wreck.
Checklist for the Party
- Go through your checklists.
- Make sure you are presentable and relaxed.
- Take one last walkthrough to ensure that everything is in order and in its place
- Have your stickers (if any) ready.
- Open the door/s and wedge them open with door jambs (unless this is a closed party).
- If you have alcohol, be sure to card anyone who even vaguely looks underage. Take no chances, but don't go overboard either, when age is obvious.
- Keep topping up/refreshing refreshments. Don't leave perishing items out.
- Redo any decorations that fall-down or get otherwise spoiled.
- Keep an eye on the A/C, ensuring that it does not get turned down or blocked.
- Empty filled trash bins.
- Pick up spilled food items before they get crushed into the carpets.
- If a bad spill occurs then call housekeeping immediately. Like wounded humans, stains too have a golden hour and are much easier to remove before they have soaked in or dried. If necessary tackle the mess yourself, but blot don't rub. Rubbing just makes it worse.
- Allow helpers (you too) regular breaks.
- Make sure you are in compliance with all hotel and Con rules, at all times. If there are any complaints (noise, crowding corridors, etc), then heed them.
- Close at the prearranged time, unless everyone crashes. Play it by ear if you are still crowded at that time, and keep going if you like. Remember that the person sleeping in the room has the final word on closing time. #Also remember that you still have cleanup, so don't only close when you are all running on fumes.
Checklist for Cleanup
- Maybe one final toast for the victorious team!
- Pick up and bag all the garbage.
- Take down all decorations, taking care not to damage them - you may need them again.
- Clean any surface mess.
- Dispose of/distribute leftover supplies, or put them into storage if you have another party later in the con. #Anything you can't handle or that will soon perish, can probably be donated to the ConSuite.
- Repack your Party Pack, if you have one (cleaned stuff only). Use your Party Pack inventory to be sure you are not missing anything.
- Leave a tip for the maid. The bigger the mess, the bigger the tip.
- If someone is sleeping in the room, put a sign on the door that tells any late guests that the party is closed, to discourage unwanted knocking.
- Get some sleep!