Back from Sheffield, my first ever Chillcon and really only my second ever show, after PAW in February, and so far my plan is working perfectly! Muahahahaaa!
Seriously, though, I began this year with the plan of attending as many shows as I could afford to, as widely as I could manage, to try to learn about what going to events involves. I wanted to see what other traders do, to see what struggles I would encounter and to find out what things would arise where I would say "oh, b****r, I forgot to bring my [fill in blank here]".
With only two shows under my belt, the learning curve feels huge but at the same time, the lessons are coming thick and fast. So I thought I'd write a blog to summarize those lessons for my own benefit and to give folk the chance to disagree or, if they're entering into the same kind of experience, to share in the learning.
1. Greet everyone with a smile
Being at a show is hard work. You're on your feet most of the day, and - let's be honest - wargaming doesn't attract extroverts as a rule, so engaging with all those people is draining. But that doesn't mean you have to look miserable all the time. People are there to have fun. Plus, smiling makes you feel better about yourself. So put on the sunshine. As people walk past your stand, say "hello!" or "good morning!" or whatever. Give them a smile.
2. Plan your opening gambit
Nothing will shut down a sale like an awkward silence. So keep a stock of conversation starters in your head: "where have you come from today?"; "are you here to game or shop today?"; "what sort of game do you like?" Note that none of these are "so what can I sell you today?" For some traders, this is going to be fine. Your product is well known and your market well established. But for small-time start-ups, like Precinct Omega, people don't know what I sell or why I sell it. They don't know if it's going to be for them. So what you're selling, first, isn't the miniatures or books or whatever, but yourself.
3. Talk about whatever they want to talk about
These are our people! They are gamers, like us. You will have tons of common ground with every single person who walks past your stand, whether it be a favourite dice or a movie you hate or friends in common. Whether a person gives you money or not, you should send them away with a positive experience, so meet them where they are and give them your time generously.
4. Don't monopolize
This is especially true if playing participation games - and I got to run a bunch of participation games of Ballmonsters! at Chillcon. Let them know up front "this game can take a little while; I'd love you to play it to the end, but if you just want to get a flavour of how it plays then head on, that's completely cool". Or if you're just in conversation, make sure you're talking about what they want to talk about. By all means, slip in news about forthcoming releases, plans or ideas. But keep it short. We love our customers and, if we love something, we must let it go. If they come back, sell them more stuff!
I'm sure I have lots more to learn, but I had a great day. I think I more or less covered my costs but, best of all, everything I sold was Ballmonsters! stuff. I've never been happier to not sell Horizon Wars. HW was a bit of a crutch at PAW, where it made up almost 50% of my sales. Chillcon is clearly a more relaxed, casual gamer sort of place, whilst PAW is a bit more serious, button-counting wargaming (in the nicest possible way, folks!).
I will certainly be trying to get a table at Chillcon Derby in September, so I hope to see you there!