Monday, March 31, 2014

PAX Preparation

I enjoy attending most conventions. They're a great place to meet people and feel like a part of the community, and it's always cool to visit new cities.

It's a lot of work to attend a convention, but it's usually worth it. Our biggest conventions are the PAXes, however, and we're not sure if they're entirely worth the amount of work we put into them.

For reference, it takes me a few weeks of on-and-off preparation to get ready for MAGfest, our next-biggest convention after PAX. We can effectively man the booth with just 2-3 people, and everything is back on the shelf and accounted for a week or two after returning to the office assuming I'm handling it all on my own.

PAX takes several months of preparation.

First, we figure out what size booth we want, a discussion that can take hours. If it were up to me, I'd likely run a booth there the same way I do everywhere else, but due to the high visibility of PAX the presentation becomes much more important. Because of that, I tend to leave that process to the people with a mind for that sort of thing.

The discussion of the size of the booth goes hand-in-hand with the discussion of the booth's layout, a discussion that I likewise remove myself from. The discussions tend to be very tedious, with several people each having different ideas, arguing their merits for hours on end. Being content to make due with whatever I'm given, I spare myself the headache and only chime in when requested to do so.

The booth layout discussion can drag on for months, as we see what spaces are available and, inevitably, a last-minute major change to the layout when the organizers move us without telling us or something along those lines.

To again compare that to MAGfest, I never know what my space is going to be like until I' actually there, so planning beforehand is almost useless. I like that sort of improvisational factor, but it sends some of my colleagues into fits.

Anyway, at some point, a few months before PAX, we have to figure out what new merch we're planning to get in time for the show and start putting it all into production. Once again, this involves lots of discussion which often lasts until the last minute, meaning we'll be receiving many things in a very short time just a few weeks before the show.

For every other show, I just kind of pack up what we have available. There isn't much extra planning beyond that.

So, in the weeks before PAX we find ourselves in a mad scramble folding shirts, packing pin sets and jewelry, and basically running ourselves ragged to get everything shipped off in time to arrive at the destination. Inevitably, one thing or another isn't ready in time for the shipping date, so we load that into our luggage for those of us who will be flying to PAX.

Mixed in with all of that merch preparation is the booking of hotels, figuring out travel plans, and finding enough workers to run the booth. I believe this time we have 12(?) people working the booth at PAX East? Maybe more? I'm not sure.

Often PAX strips the office of almost everyone in order to man the booth. This time only four of us full-timers are shipping out (plus Michael), with the rest of our workers being friends and volunteers from the east coast. We're going to be showing up in Boston a few days before the show, spending all that time building the booth.

PAX is an exhausting whirlwind of an experience, moreso than any other convention. Due to the size of our presence, the PAXes hold out attention collectively for over half the year. It's kind of nuts, when you think about it.

I'm not entirely sure it's worth it. Not in its current configuration, anyway. But maybe that's just me sounding bitter as I write this blog at 5AM with a stack of unpacked necklaces in front of me.

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