Last week I circulated this message to some of the people who were nominal leaders of the Community that has produced IMA in the past. This week I am posting it for public discussion. The short version is that after looking at last year's attendance, the economy, attendance patterns and falloff in other events, and the overall situation, I am strongly inclined to cancel IMA. We have until 27 September to cancel without prejudice, and only about two refunds to issue. My recomendation will ultimately be based on the replies here.
I want to get the tone of the message across. This is not a "ZOMG my Con is dying please HALP!" message. If anything the Con is dying largely because my other project, Threads is more wildly successful than I would have expected, and that an two other events, one of which I also organize, are making IMA obsolete. So I'm not weeping here.
What I want is a calm, realistic Community Discussion to determine for how many people IMA serves a special need that is really not met by any other event.
I ran two projections on IMA
The first showed 85 attendees, with 45% GM attendees (comped) and 65% paid attendees, splitting to 35% at the post September rate. This yielded $1425. A better case, with a 33% split in every category and an attendance of 100 showed $1980 in revenue.
In running expenses, the Hampton, which we fortunately have good information on, yields a base cost of $2176. This can be cut to $1688 if the Convention does not have any suite rooms in which to run. With food the cost is $2776. That’s using a very low food projection, about 2/3 of a Threads budget. No money is budgeted for supplies of any kind, because Intercon uses Threads existing infrastructure.
So at best case:
My actual projection of the shortfall is $1165 which is a not inconsiderable sum.
Intercon Mid Atlantic has 6 bids, all of which are good:
- 10 Bad LARPs: C-Section Nat Budin
- Callahan's Continuum Shane Amerman
- Limbo! Aaron Vanek
- Office Party Carolyn Grodt
- The Ducetown Diner James MacDougal
- Veteran's Day Tegan Hendrickson
It’s worth noting that Callahan’s has been seen at an Intercon before. That leaves 5 original bids.
What is Wrong with Intercon Mid-Atlantic?
I want to do a little analysis of what is wrong with IMA, and what it would take to continue to operate it.
1) It is nobody’s priority
I think we need to be realistic. This Convention is nobody’s priority, including mine. In practical fact it takes a backseat to Threads, other local Campaigns (not currently an issue but likely to be an issue with Source next year), and increasingly the Roast. Even though I am moving away from acting as the sole central administrator for Threads, I do not realistically see it becoming less of an issue for my time before the end of 2011.
I need to be blunt about the reason I began serving as permanent Chair. It is no more helpful to have a “new chair” for Intercon than it would be to have a “Guest Executive Producer” for Threads. It means the same things get done by a new person who doesn’t know how to do them, so they take twice as long, use about as much of my time (since Stephanie or I are the only available teachers), and often make the volunteer in the leadership role feel invalidated, when they cannot do the job as well as someone with 10+ years of experience. I think this is a factor of learning curve, not of competence. Perfectly competent people like Shelly Mohnkern discharged the job admirably. Nevertheless, functionally, Intercon took no less of my time, effort, and money in that year than any other, because of the nature of the specialized work.
The only time it has worked well to have Intercon under “different management” is when someone who already had a strong knowledge of event production like Mike Young stepped forward to be involved. Otherwise “new leadership” has been little more than an exercise in having a “Ritual King.”
it would be very good if someone with 10+ years of event organization experience and a very strong understanding of LARP structure and promotion stepped forward to take over Intercon. People with less experience could step forward in support roles, if their intent was actually mostly to do support work, not mostly to hold a title like “Vice-Con Chair.”
I’m going to add one personal note here. Since 1993, the losses for any southern Intercon, even when it was an “ILF” Convention have come out of my pocket and Stephanie’s when they could not be met at the con by volunteerism. None of the Conventions since 1998 have actually been profitable, so much of the overrun came out of my pocket. One reason I took over complete management of the Convention was to give myself more control over the overrun. Before the early 2000s, I was in the position that Intercon came out of my pocket, but I was not always in charge and could not do anything to really ameliorate the hit that I took.
Note that ILF dues were never substantial and that all dues money was lost on Metagame during the last two years of production, so I was at that point the sole financial backer for the southern convention. LARPA was theoretically a partner, but it should be noted that from 2000 on, LARPA had exactly one source of income - a tea at which I paid $500 for food to raise $280 or so in contributions.
I don’t want to seem mean, or stingy, but like Threads, IMA must be brought into a situation of at least *controlled loss* and I am unwilling to surrender “final authority” to anyone who is not willing to accept “final fiscal responsibility.” I don't want somebody generously running a disaster I then have to pay for, with me unable to do things to staunch the loss because I'm not in charge.
2) The recession
I do not think there is any question that the Recession is pounding us. There is room elsewhere to investigate why the Northern Con had its biggest surge of membership ever in the teeth of the recession. I think there are various really good structural reasons for that which unfortunately do not apply to IMA.
Our losses last year in membership were actually less bad than might be expected. A major local kink event in the same time frame was down 33%-40% on membership and revenues. We were only down about 20-25%.
The problem is that the recession is merely the straw that broke the camels’ back. It is taking a convention that was never profitable and cost a lot of personal money to produce, and adding $400-500 to that price tag, taking it from “expensive” to “ridiculous.”
Unfortunately there is no immediate sign that the recession is going to end and things go back to normal. Maybe by next year, but not this year, and there is no really good projective data.
3) Local Crowd breaking up
I think we also have to look at the fact that events tend to follow a core audience. If you look over the core attendance of IMA (or Millennium) at the turn of the Century, it is very much the core attendance of Dark Summonings, MMFC, or the first years of 1936. Mixed with that is a crowd of graying 40-something LARPers who came out of the last four years of the heyday of TSFL, and never really bridged to campaigns.
The 40somethings are now 50something and staying home. They’ve been out of touch with LARP so long that once a year doesn’t cut it to stay involved. Unlike the Delaware crowd, their social group is not focused on IMA.
The group that was then the 30something core are now the graying 40somethings. If you look around Threads, that core group has fallen off by about 70-80%. There are a few attendees who entered 1936 as 30somethings but by and large that is not the core demographic.
Threads, because it is an exciting and vital campaign, has picked up a new audience, driven by 20somethings and current 30somethigns, and is doing very well. But that momentum did not convey to IMA.
One of the big draws of IMA was that it was a place where the “Current” LARP crowd of 2004 could meet their friends who had been “out of the scene” for a bit since the death of TSFL in 1998. Realistically this crowd can now be counted on the fingers of one hand.
4) Redundant to Threads
With the fading of the “Crossover” Old-School TSFL crowd as a major driving force, that leaves IMA heavily dependent on the Threads Community for its core attendance. If every regular attendee who went to Threads went to IMA, and we got a few more people, the con would be fine.
But Threads players, even locals, are not actually drawn to supporting IMA in any drastic numbers. That may change this year with IMA back in DC, but I have concerns and doubts.
The core problem is this. The heart of IMA is alive and well but it is Threads of Damocles.
At the turn of the century a typical 1936 or Dark Summonings episode would have a brief period to socialize Friday night, with players mostly working out IC issues. The rest of the weekend would be an adventure, and Saturday night usually found the players hiding behind barricades and fighting monsters.
IMA was often billed as “the place you can come and actually meet and talk to the people who you game with all year.”
From 2004 on, through 1948, Brassy’s Men, and Threads, that changed. Evenings were increasingly given to parties or socializing. Brassy’s Men formalized that with the Texas Embassy, and Threads Oasis was designed specifically to fill the niche of the Texas Embassy.
So suddenly people have five chances a year to hang out IC/OOC without much pressure and talk, hang out, socialize and have a drink.
The Intercon Party drove IMA from Millennium through 2007 – but now it has been replaced with the Oasis Party at Threads, and the extra chance to see a few people that most of the local crowd doesn’t know is not worth the extra expense.
5) Redundant to Threads Ontology
I think it's also important to realize the extent to which Threads has sapped even the basic premise of Intercon. Through 2007 if you wanted to play a game in the Washington Metro region that wasn't about Adventure in the Mid-20th century, you came to IMA. Now someone who is really excited about running an event about Pirates or Cyberpunk Corporate Wars can do that just as easily through Threads as not. And the efficiency is stunning. Producing a module takes 40-80% less time than an Intercon Four Hour.
While there are a dwindling handful of players for whom this flexibility and tradeoff is not sufficient, to the vast majority it satisfies the need not to be 'stuck in one genre.' That has undercut IMA...and even travel to the Boston Convention...more than anyone would have anticipated.
It's hard for me to be sad about this. The fact that We've designed a service model that is tremendously successful is something it's hard not to be proud of, even as it marginalizes an older service model.
6) Redundant to the Roast
To make matters worse, we’ve also created another LARP event which is a party which is drawing the old line LARP crowd together with newcomers. The Roast, in the same window as IMA is clearly sapping some of the urgency of attending IMA. Since the Roast is currently more successful, damning it to try to keep IMA afloat seems a foolish move.
7) INE and Splash
I think it’s worth also making a note on the impact of Intercon Northeast and Splash. For three years the core LARPA staff gathered volunteers and pushed hard to make INE work, to bring Intercon into a major 1000+ attendee venue.
We’ll never know if that would have been a success or a failure. I am inclined to say that the experiment was already a failure when it ended. There was simply no traction for getting more than a slender handful of new people involved in the LARPs. We might have done about as well promoting without a major con – the 10-15 people who ever showed interest are about the number of random attendees the better attended Intercons usually got stand-alone. To say the least the ROI was making it hard to justify the expense and effort.
But the INE experiment ended when personal issues caused the Dexcon proprietors to choose not to continue to work with some of the LARPA staff and discontinue their support.
Along the way, during three core years for promoting and transiting IMA, the LARPA staff was putting heroic effort into pushing INE, and letting IMA get the dregs of attention. During those years IMA might have built a new audience to replace the graying crowd, but it was not heavily promoted because INE simply required too much time and labor to allow IMA to be focal.
Intercon Splash becomes no more than a nail in the coffin. Last year, the proximity of a large cruise event damaged IMA attendance which was already bad. If it continues, Splash will draw the graying 40’s LARPer crowd completely out of IMA. At this point however, that would seem to be the “least of our problems," and we can consider that it is a good destination for that group, giving them a firm home.
Splash has troubles of its own, and is currently postponed but not cancelled. If IMA is withdrawn, it has a better chance at success.
7) Northern Convention
I’m very reluctant to mention the Northern Convention for reasons that become obvious, but I think we need to look at a few things realistically. I expect that 90% of the comments this gets on my blog will be people waging a "defense" against something that is no more than a bland statement of fact about a minority of people.
Marketing Position – it’s worth realizing that everything that is promoted needs some sort of marketing position or marketing message. This describes the niche it fills to people who are looking for a product. Nobody markets a Boffer game as “just another bunch of people running around with PVC fighting generic monsters.” The only basis for marketing generica is in a market where rate is important enough that “lower prices” is a convincing marketing tool. Thus generic medicines and grocery store brands prosper.
I’ve experimented with several marketing positions with IMA that spoke to the niche it already occupied. To market the Convention as very party-heavy (at a time when big parties were popular and a major attraction) and to market the Convention as a focal con for intellectual activity and writers. Overwhelmingly we’ve tended to market the Convention as being risqué, edgy, and friendly . During the early 90s this was a very successful marketing position for us.
Impacts of the Northern Convention
Artificially Low Rates - The Northern Intercon charges much less than we do for Threads, and we cannot raise the price of our Intercon to meet the actual cost of our site, and still attract any custom from that direction.
We run in a Threads venue, for Threads rates, at “everybody come as cast” prices. CCP and SWC carry Threads budgetarily. Intercon can be run more cheaply than Threads, but not *infinitely* more cheaply than Threads. We could cut expenses by offering less hospitality in terms of food, and drink. Unfortunately if we do that we are undercutting what is left of the audience from our early 90s marketing position.
People are not generous. People may say they “understand” if Intercon cannot provide the meals that Threads does. But if “low end food” like dogs and mac and cheese falls to “chips and dip” and they end up having to go to Bob Evans for dinner, they are going to hold it against the Con, and they are going to consider it a problem.
When we looked at hotels closer in and within walking distance of food, we generally saw a really substantial markup in function space. So we are in a “Catch-22” in regards to space. If we could get a site near a good selection of fast food, we could probably cut back on food expenses. But if we did that, we’d still get complaints from our core audience and we’d pay higher function space bills, offsetting our gains.
To make matters worse, 300 can eat more cheaply than 100. A LOT more cheaply. Originally IMA served much better meals than the Northern Convention. But the work of Renee Cyr and eventually a focused staff, experience, and economy of scale have begun to allow the Northern Convention to do more with less money per attendee. Renee improved the food drastically and made the Con Suite something to be proud of. Because the Northern Con is bigger, it has an economy of scale that IMA simply cannot realize.
Promotion - the Kiss of Death
I had some interesting interactions at the recent Northern Con that reinforced a theory I have had for several years. The New England Convention is tiny by “real convention” standards (where 700-800 are threshold) but is huge by LARP standards, reaching 300 recently. Thus to LARPers the New England Convention is “the big LARP convention” and the Northern Convention markets that way. In ten years, I have heard a number of superlatives used in Shameless Plugs promoting the New England Convention.
The problem we have is that the 300+ audience of the Northern Convention is the largest target group of recruits in the country for our event. We are in front of a group of people probably 25% of whom have travelled a considerable distance to attend a LARP con. That’s target.
Unfortunately it is difficult to promote the Convention there. Obviously when we say “We have a great party” (I’ve been very careful never to actually use a superlative), we are trying to set up marketing position. In terms of how focal it is, the Party at the Northern Convention does not occupy as prominent a place, often not starting until 12:30 as opposed to our 10:00 start. There is no formal Friday night party. That's just realism, not being mean. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the Northern Party. It's simply not as focal.
Unfortunately when we say “ours is good” I might as well say “best” because that is what sensitive ears hear. In fact it’s another Catch-22. The more effective we are at identifying places where our con is different and has a unique marketing niche the more likely we are to hit a “sore spot” with someone in the North, because if it really is an area where IMA is stronger that provokes resentment.
The result is that to mention IMA in the north is to risk about a 1 in 10 chance that someone will “bristle and snort” indignantly. It's not everyone, it's not even most people. But that doesn't matter. It's a small and noisy minority that are consistently offended that we dare to say anything positive at all about IMA, becuase to do so is to implicitly criticize the Northern Convention.
Now, if you have a cause that is not of burning importance to you, that is not your bread and butter or life and death, and about once in ten times that you mention it you get a negative vibe back…what do YOU do?
In most cases, stop talking about it. Because…why would you? It is what I would do. Most mature people don't seek confrontation.
So it’s my considered opinion that except for a few core fans, IMA gets very little “word of mouth” in the Northern Community. Because one in ten people is prickly about it and considers talking up the other con to be treasonous, and while most people wouldn’t agree with that point of view, it’s widespread enough to make it more convenient just to dodge the issue. Few people voluntarily bring things up that are going to cause them grief and the ones that do go out of their way to seek confrontation are possibly not the best promoters. Speaking in a cheerful, friendly manner to attendees at the Northern Convention and suggesting they try Intercon Atlantic, I encountered belligerence from about 1 in 7 persons I talked to, ranging from mild negativity to active antipathy. In all cases the reason was clear. Support for IMA somehow implied disloyalty to the Northern Convention.
The ideal marketing pitch there would be “Just like this con, only not quite as good and smaller.”
Which will probably net us about the attendance we are already likely to get…which is “slender.”
There are other subsidiary and administrative issues that also make it more difficult to get a promotional message out, and make having a "Sister Convention" more a liability than an asset.
The Official Leadership of the Convention has been supportive in all but a few areas, however Mike Young has correctly determined that LARP sells by word of mouth. All the Official Help in the world doesn't do any good if giving IMA good word of mouth in the North has a one in ten chance of some hothead perceiving it as "treason" and being negative. And that's sadly just the case.
What Can be Done?
Should IMA be Saved?
I think we need to very seriously ask if there is a reason to continue to operate IMA. My personal vanity says “continue.” The con is heavily identified with me, and I’ll lose prestige if it shuts its doors. Unfortunately I need to think about things other than my personal vanity.
Even if I could easily afford to drop $1000+ (and the actual cost to me is higher…remember that’s just con losses, not my personal expenses the same as everyone else has), on IMA, I need to consider if that is wise. Am I actually BENEFITTING anyone. $1000 could do a lot for Threads of Damocles. In practical fact, most of the people who I am looking to directly benefit play Threads. To pay $1000 to invite a few older LARPers and stray New Englanders, who often feel “dragged” down to the Con to a party that is like a Threads Party but smaller seems bordering on senseless.
The LARPA contest is the one major thing which IMA produces which is an unquestionable “Good.” That said, I am not aware of any single individual on the planet other than the contest winners and myself and EMJ who has ever vocalized that. Because it’s been run privately and OOP at no great strain to the public, it is also a “good” that happens without much public attention or notice.
Part of me feels that even if an event similar to IMA were to be created, it ought to drop the Intercon name. The issue of “competing” in the Northern Intercon’s promotional area may be stupid, but it’s very real. As long as IMA promotes as an Intercon it is hamstrung from doing any serious self-promotion that might actually net attendance.
To be fair, I am not sure that the opposite would help. INE tried bribery, a heavy push, and a very strong full court press and got roughly nowhere promoting in the north. There is no reason to think we’d do drastically better.
A final issue is “things that IMA provided that the northern Convention didn’t” These are things that might stand as reasons for IMA to exist, in order to fill a need not being met in New England.
The Northern Convention in the early 2000s was an artistically repressive environment. Risque or “in your face” art was frowned on, and repressed in various ways directly or indirectly, mostly through peer pressure. In the mid-2000s a host of artists including Alleged Entertainment were a leader in changed that. I still think that some of the people at the Northern Convention may not welcome such challenges as much as they welcome other games, but there is no meaningful barrier to the production of “bleeding edge” or risqué material that I can see in practice. This means that IMA is not necessary as the "only place" that such work can be produced.
IMA had some excellent roundtable discussions, and in the early 2000s was without question an intellectual center for LARP design. But with the addition of the ”Thursday Thing” sheer numbers seem likely to make the Thursday of the Northern Convention a more widely known and recognized focal point.
Finally, IMA is not the only regional hub for small LARP. Relaxicon, run in Wilmington DE by Wilmark Dynasty is a 2-4 hour format event which could benefit from greater promotion and attendance. In pragmatic terms, if my own vanity was not taken into consideration, there might be more *benefit* to the Philadelphia-Baltimore-Washington LARP crowd that is core to Threads if Relaxicon were to receive the energy that has gone into IMA.
I have to ask, with the existence of the NEIL Intercon, Thursday Thing, Relaxicon, The Roast, and Threads of Damocles … “is Intercon Mid-Atlantic really a useful thing to have around,” and I’d like reflections on that.
If not, then I think that much of the effort that has gone into IMA could be put into:
a) Finding a more permanent home for the LARPA contest.
b) Producing Threads Season IV
c) Producing and promoting the LARP Roast more widely and at a better venue.
d) Promoting Relaxicon
While I have undertaken to heavily support it the last ten years, IMA is not all about me. It is a regional Convention. The question for me is “is this a Regional undertaking that Gordon manages to benefit other people in the Region or is this increasingly a regional undertaking that Gordon manages for no other reason than his own stubbornness and vanity.” To that extent I need to honestly ask “who cares about this convention.” I’m not looking for a sugar coated answer. I think it is a very real possibility IMA has simply outlived its usefulness.
Can IMA be Saved?
If Intercon Mid-Atlantic is to happen, several things must occur
1) The prospective 2009 losses need to be trimmed to a sustainable 200-300 dollars.
2) IMA needs to generate at least another 7 bids. Most of these need to be exciting new bids by credible authors not either “unlikely to run” bids, or “mercy bids” where experienced authors dust off an archaic work to re-run.
3) IMA needs to sustain a near-100 attendance, and show reasonable promise of expanding
Cost Cutting/Fundraising measures
Intercon cannot dramatically cut its food service at the current venue, because there is no place to send people to eat within safe walking distance. Intercon can hold its schedule to the three available run spaces, and not book additional suites, cutting the venue cost somewhat.
Intercon cannot cut its “subsidiary” expenses because it doesn’t have any. Every sticker, label, bag, or staple used by IMA is already bought and in stock for VIA/Threads.
One problem with holding “fundraisers” at the Convention is that since it is more clear than ever that I am the Producer/financial backer, it is more clear than ever that it is not “raising money for IMA” but in fact “raising money to cut my losses.” While this seems fair to me, I honestly don’t think it sells well or plays well, and I try to avoid it.
That said, we can cite the recession and go with fundraisers we have not seen in some time, including:
- Heavier Raffle push
A heavier raffle push means “better prizes.” This becomes a critical action step. If IMA is to continue, we need individuals willing to say “I will call this specific place and try to get prizes donated.” Or “I will donate this prize which is a thing that is not junk or a joke that someone might want to win.”
The other question that really needs to be answered is “what makes the target audience of IMA different from Threads.” One theory has been that the “College Park LARP Crowd” or a larger "Virginia/Maryland Crowd," would converge on IMA. For the last few years, the theory has been that they have not, because IMA was not local. And we have drawn out a few people like Jon L. who do not play Threads.
But we need to ask… “how do we promote to those people.” There is presumably a target audience among the 10-20% of players of local campaigns in the last three years who would like to play something other than a campaign in the genre they did. It is also the case that most of the local campaigns have shut down. There are regional Vampire and Garou games, but in general the tendency of those specialized players to “cross over” has never been very high, and we lack charismatic people to carry a strong promotional message into the core of those groups.
Also, in regards to regional LARPers, If IMA did not really gain any significant traction when events like AGOT, et. al. were running with IMA attendees going to them, why do we think it is going to gain traction with that crowd of people now, when they are spread out and harder to reach?
The question is not getting these people to come out and have mercy on poor IMA. The question is “does IMA have any meaningful role as a local nexus/feeder event.” If the answer is no, then it is very hard to see that it has an audience left at all that isn't better served by Threads, the Roast, and Splash. If the answer is “yes” who are they and where do we contact them.
The Myth of the General Public.
I’m going to take a moment here just to debunk a myth that has wasted more Southern Convention Committee meeting time than everything that Adam and Jamie ever explored. The Myth of the General Public and “putting signs up on college campuses.”
For years it has been an instant panacea that if only IMA would “promote to college gaming groups” and “put signs up on college campuses” we would be awash in the attendees the Northern Con has. This despite the fact that our big regional schools are laid back commuter schools like GW and Mason.
Let’s understand something for starters. The Northern con gets students because their area has more higher learning institutions than any other part of the nation per capita, and overwhelmingly they are not commuter schools. “ Although Brandeis has a commuter lounge, there are almost no commuter students (understandable given the terrible parking shortage), so most students actually need to live on campus.” 80% of Brandeis undergrads live on Campus.
62% of GMU students are commuters, and the other schools in our area aren’t much better. The result is that except for one school – UMD – there is really none of the energy that makes up the membership of the northern Convention. A full court press at George Mason is not going to net the same results as a full course press at WPI or Brandeis.
What people do not understand is that the percentages also lie.
At Brandeis, where approximately 0% of students are commuters, all life is structured and organized through campus.
At GMU, you would think that 48% of life would be structured and organized through campus. But that's not the case. It's probably (I attended GMU, and also UNC-G which was a less commuter-based school) about 5%. The reason is that at GMU, 50% of the students have transportation. Typically in social groups one in four or one in ten people are ringleaders or transport providers. At GMU that is a high enough percentage that almost ALL social life can take place off Campus. Parties are at suburban group-houses, and other than needing to "hitch a ride" most students simply integrate into the social life of the suburbs. UMD is the only school of any size at all big enough that this is not true. GWU might provide a better focus, but in addition to being a very unusual school, it also benefits from a nightlife that really spills into Foggy Bottom and DC proper.
So the percentages don't tell the whole truth. DC probably has only a tiny fraction of the percentage of "participatory" student population as Boston, even when the numbers look roughly equal on paper. Given the structures of our schools, our turnout - which is to say any at all - is probably about the best we can reasonably hope for.
There is not some magical talisman where we can go to a campus put up a couple of signs and get attendees. Signs usually have to be approved by student organizations, and the places they can be put up for free (coffee shops, etc.) are not overwhelmingly likely to generate a lot of traffic. What has worked in the north is sustained contact with well organized student groups that are the heart and soul of student life on the campuses they occupy. In our area, the heart and soul of campus life is taking 95 home to dinner.
I’m not against the idea of on campus promotion. But let’s bear in mind the realities
- It takes someone in the local student organization to sponsor most promotions or postings
- Only with full support of the local student club is any really strong attendance going to happen.
- That requires cold calling if we don’t already have the contact
- It requires time investment to follow up, maintain the contact, and promote involvement.
If anybody has the time outside of Threads to do this, let me know.
In twelve years of contact with XPI and three with ARC, I can count the number of people who crossed over and came to Intercon…despite aggressive promotion by myself, and others, on the fingers of one hand.
Likewise, despite multiple promotions, I am not aware of anyone from the Wilmark Dynasty Crowd who has ever come to an Intercon without first passing through Threads.
Promotions to standing groups are just hard. Again, I am not saying not to do them. But I am wondering why they would work now if they didn’t work in 2004.
Word of Mouth
Mike Young has said that LARP is sold by word of mouth. That’s basically true. Shameless plugs can create awareness, and push word of mouth, but nearly every individual who comes new to Intercon comes because a “Friend brought them.”
What we need to see to make IMA sustainable is any substantial commitment to a “word of mouth” campaign. Blog mentions, Twitter mentions, and direct contact. We need to see people saying “I will bring at least one friend.”
If Intercon Mid-Atlantic is to continue it needs the following things:
a) Some evidence that there is actually regional support for it. That it continues for any reason other than that I hold it and pay for it. That it is meeting a need
b) Individuals to volunteer to get raffle prizes. By calling, using connections, or donating things that are not trash or junk, or blatantly obsolete surplus.
c) Individuals to volunteer to do promotions to narrow, targeted audiences. This means “I will carry fliers, make an announcement, and personally get invested in IMA at X specific event.” Basically we need the kind of promotion where someone stands up and says “I am going to this great event.”
d) Mention on Twitter, IM, and lists. Very few people ever pass along the IMA promotional mails because it is “awkward.”
e) Individuals to promise to bring a friend or two. Period. Nothing says “I am promoting” like actually bringing a new person.
f) I need other people who are involved in Intercon who will go to bat if I ask the Northern ConCom to actually play nice and send at least one or two messages out for us. It needs to be somebody other than *me* putting pressure on them.
g) Sponsors for the LARPA contest. I need to see at least $200 or so dollars of it sponsored by people other than me.
I’m interested in thoughts, offers, opinions…I'm not interested in condolences or general hand wringing. This is a business matter and needs to be discussed in cool and detached terms.