Jumping into the Deep End

My introduction to Arisia began in May of this year. That’s when someone suggested that I might be a good fit for the Events Staff. The Division Head for Events contacted me. We met, and I really liked her and what she had to say. So I joined up.

The Arisia staff is divided into 15 divisions. My division, Events, is responsible for the Wandering Minstrels, various activities (including “sharp, pointy objects” and a number of theatrical performances) and the Masquerade. I expect to be spending time over the next few months e-mailing and phoning acts, seeing who wants to return after a great time last year, and finding new groups to participate. I’m an “Assistant Division Head”, which means that I don’t have to know anything … yet .. and that I’m not ultimately responsible because, of course, I don’t know anything yet!

In June all the Div. Heads and Assistant Div. Heads got together with the Arisia Con Chair to go over everything that we have to do this year. I carpooled with four others, and we spent the 45-minute drive discussing food. Once we arrived, of course, we were fed! Lunch, and enough multicolored goldfish to fill a good-sized pond.We discussed knotty problems that included how to feed the Staff so that we can all work long hours and not spend time waiting in line. We discussed changes to the room assignments for events, forums, authors and so forth. We discussed the special issue of Tech Staff, who tend to need to work right through normal meal times. We discussed the fact that we are starting to burst at the seams, but there’s no larger hotel in the area. And then we started solving all these problems. Most of the problems will be solved through discussions at another time, but everyone is aware of the major issues now. I was impressed by how very opinionated most people were, and how they managed to be respectful of each other and listen regardless.

And then we moved on to the Master Schedule. A remarkable amount has to be completed by early September, including contracts with businesses and lining up a rough draft of performers, authors and artists. The schedule only gets busier, with final deadlines, people sending copy to the printer, the gathering of tech equipment, and finalizing arrangements with the Guests of Honor.

During the week from 12/25 – 1/1, I’m told that we all sit back and breathe. And that’s a good thing, because there will be no more time for breathing until Arisia is over. The Thursday before Arisia we start “put-in”. All the lights and mics arrive, get hooked up, and then we have our Staff Dinner.  On Friday we know what to do: we are scheduled to move people around, to shepherd speakers and Guests of Honor, to be on-call for problems, to do what it takes to make this Arisia the best ever. On Monday we breathe again. Arisia ends, so those who’ve signed up to strike take everything down, return what was borrowed or leased, put away what we keep, and go over this year’s Con to figure out what worked, what didn’t, and decompress. I am told that the debrief happens sometime in early February, when we all get together for food and commenting about what happened in January. I’m not sure what happens then, but by May most of the Staff will be back, sometimes in the same position, sometimes in new ones. New Staff will be brought on board. And then all us volunteers get to do it again.

Beth Kevles

Arisia ‘18 Events ADH

Art show changes

You’ve probably heard that Arisia’s Art Show had some big changes this year.  The biggest were changing our artist application process from first come first served to a lottery, and replacing our eBay-style mixed auction and Quicksale with fixed prices only.

Anecdotally, fixed prices were popular with artists and attendees.  But Arisia is a data-driven show, so we don’t have to rely on anecdotes here.

Before the show, we planned to collect three measures of how fixed prices worked for us.  First, we planned to measure overall dollar sales in the show.  Second, we planned to measure same-artist per-panel sales.  Finally, as a bellwether, we picked one artist with a mix of open and limited edition prints and originals, a consistent pricing scheme, steady sales, and a devoted fan base.  We planned to make her experience as similar as we could.  We gave her the same amount of space, in the same spot in the show, and hung her work as similarly as we could to the previous year.  She obliged by sending work in similar quantities, sizes, and themes, and by setting her prices equal to the previous year’s Quicksale prices for work of the same size.  At our request she sent multiple copies of her limited edition prints instead of single copies as she had done in the past, the ability to sell more limited edition prints being one of the major benefits of fixed prices.

Our bellwether artist did as we expected, selling three originals for a total of $650, compared to four for $565 the previous year.  She sold multiples of some of her limited edition prints instead of single copies in the auction, in all selling 13 copies for $400 compared to 10 for $297 the previous year.  We were expecting her open edition print sales to be similar, since their pricing didn’t change, or possibly slightly down if a few people had been buying those because her limited edition prints had mostly sold out, in which case those buyers would step up and buy limited edition prints instead.  This is precisely what happened, as she sold 91 open edition prints totaling $765 compared to 94 for $811 the previous year.  In all this artist’s sales were up by about 8.5 percent.

Returning artists sold $17,565 worth of art from 76 units of space or $231.12 per unit, up from $221.06 per unit the previous year, or 4.5 percent.

But overall sales in the show were down about 2%, to $30,753.  Why was that?

Briefly, because increasing overall sales is only one of the goals of the show.  It’s reasonable to measure the success of fixed prices through sales, as that was the reason for making that change.  But the show has other goals, some of which, like artist development and overall artistic interest, are more important than overall sales.  For an in depth discussion of many of the possible goals for an Art Show see Bruce Miller’s excellent writeup at conrunner.net.
Three of our goals in particular were important enough to us that we let them affect overall sales.  All three were related to our application process.
First, in an effort to have more artists represented in the show, we limited the space assigned to each artist.  Those returning artists had higher sales per panel, but they had less space, and thus lower sales overall.

Second, in an effort to have a more novel show, we gave a lottery bonus to first time artists.  We probably would have had a good number of first time artists without this bonus; with it we had many more than we’ve had before.  That made for a very interesting show for the attendees, but it often takes new artists a year or two to learn what sells well at a particular convention, and for attendees of that convention to build up to a big ticket purchase.  So, having more first time artists than usual hurt our overall sales this year.  It might have been good for overall sales in the long run, but that’s not why we did it.

Finally, in 2016 (the year we’re comparing to) we gave waiting list preference to 3D artists because we had a 3D guest of honor and we wanted the show to reflect her work.  We compromised a bit on aisle width (2.5x the ADA minimum instead of 3x) to make this happen.  This year we had a 2D guest of honor so we removed that bias (and also that compromise).  Compared to last year, we wanted a show with more panels and fewer tables, and also with wider aisles and better accessibility.  Our tables are 6′ wide and our panels are only 4′ wide.  Other conventions consider a table to be equivalent to 1.5 of our panels.  Counting tables this way, this year’s show was physically smaller than last year’s.  In other words, we let the amount of space in the show shrink a bit in order to have a show which was easier to get around, and into which the Guest of Honor’s work would fit more naturally. In hindsight, it’s clear that making all these changes in the same year made it harder to measure the impact of each.  We’ll be running some numbers on how the show might have turned out with first come first served, and also with different bonuses in the lottery.  But those numbers will be pretty speculative.  And sales numbers aren’t everything.  So, we’d also like to hear from artists and attendees about their experience of the Arisia Art Show.  Please send any feedback you might have to artshow@arisia.org

Nicholas “phi” Shectman and Megan Lewis
Arisia 2017 Art Show Directors

Improvements In Registration Process

What better way to test-run the new and improved registration process than with a LARP?

As part of our effort to learn from the registration situation that understandably frustrated many of our attendees last year, we have made several improvements to the process. Some of the changes we made include modifications to the Code of Conduct acceptance procedure, and plans for splitting the registration line according to the various needs of our attendees, as well as increasing registration stations.

This year, the Code of Conduct acceptance process was embedded into the online registration process. This has removed the need for kiosks, printing forms at con, and bringing a printed form from home, as well as allowing attendees to indicate acceptance of the Code of Conduct prior to arrival at Arisia and within the comfort of their own homes.

Furthermore, we have formulated a plan to split registration lines to include separate lines for attendees with access issues, and for Arisia contributors (staff, program participants, and so on) who need to get where they’re going in a hurry in order to create a wonderful convention for everyone to enjoy. We’re also working with other divisions to ensure that this latter line is used only in the rare cases where folks arrive late for their events, usually for reasons beyond their control.

In order to test out these changes, at the November 13th Con Com, we invited all in attendance to grab a character card and help us stress test our system. We asked everyone to keep track of the time it took them to make their way through the line and the registration process, until they were badged and ready to go. The character cards included a range of situations and complications that typically arise during the reg process at Arisia – for every “complicated” situation, there were four “standard” registrations.

Division Heads LARPing as a family with small (and impatient) children

Based on our analysis of both total time in line and physical line length during the LARP, we will be increasing the number of both registration desk staff and registration managers. We are also excited to be assisted by Sharon Sbarsky and her line management experts to help us make sure the line moves as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Our registration division is still looking for more volunteers to help us accomplish this task! If you are interested in volunteering, please check out the Registration Staff job description at our Help Wanted webpage, http://arisia.org/VolunteersWanted#regstaff.

Welcome to the Arisia blog!

Hello there, Arisians!

As you may see, we decided to start a blog, and I am here to welcome you to it. As this year’s conchair I am super excited to add this to our assortment of social media presences. My goal in writing this is to welcome you all and to invite you to explore Arisia, and participate in it fully.

We are hoping to have a number of blog posts happening, to let you in on the back-stage parts of the process, as well as to tell you some of the exciting things happening at Arisia 2017.

As you may have seen elsewhere, there are some super awesome Guests of Honor coming this year. We have Ursula Vernon coming as our Author Guest, and Stephanie Law is our Artist Guest. We also have Krypton Radio as our Radio Guest and Graykell Dutton as our Fan Guest. I am personally incredibly excited to have these fine folks joining us, and I hope those of you who are as familiar with them as I am are also excited, and those of you who are not familiar will get to know them and their work at the con this year!

So, once again, Welcome to the Arisia blog one and all, and welcome to the Arisia family!
-Anna

New England's largest and most diverse science fiction and fantasy convention!

UA-1841041-20