Hey all, I'm helping with the publicity for Left Coast Crime in Denver in '08. What I'd love to know is what elements make a wonderful convention -- and what elements make one suck?

Sure, I'm looking for ideas to use as springboards for the publicity for this particular event, but I'm also just plain curious.

Good elements:
1. strong mix of "fans" and readers
2. big name authors (GIVE ME SOME NAMES THAT MAKE A CON GOOD!)
3. emphasis on fun
4. cross-genre panels
5. unexpected panels
6. hotel with a BIG, comfortable bar
7. good restaurants in hotel and surrounding area -- BUT I think that if the surrounding area is too interesting, people won't stick around for the convention but will go discovering and that's detrimental
8. a pleasant hospitality room so that everyone has a place to hang out
9. the appearance of organization (hey, it can be insanity, but if it looks like it's all under control, that's what counts, IMHO)

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The thing with panelists that don't participate beforehand is that they affect everyone on the panel, not just the moderator. I've found panelists like to discuss over key questions to make sure they aren't all putting out the exact same answers. Anyone at the panel Linda L. Richards was on at LCC will remember a few times when the microphone got to her she said, "What they said."

When you've taken the time to talk it over and make sure the set up is structured so that people aren't duplicating it's frustrating if someone else comes in and then they say what someone else had prepared, for example.

A non-participating panelist may be a gem, but it's a point of consideration. Nobody is entitled to be on a panel at a convention, other than the guests of honor. And if you do get on a panel you owe it to your colleagues and to the audience - people who've paid a lot of money to be there - to be prepared. Responding to two or three emails before a convention isn't a big deal and I do think that everyone who wants to be on a panel should expect to do that.

Which is just my 2 cents on it. I know it will never happen, but I think it's too bad. We expect a lot of moderators and it isn't like they get anything for all the time and effort they put into preparation (not to mention buying the books of the others) and responding to a couple emails shouldn't be too much to ask of the authors. It's just courtesy and professionalism.

I mean, imagine Alex Brett pulling off her wonderful Liar's Panel if her authors hadn't communicated beforehand - impossible. Panels like that are fantastic because people are prepared. And I venture to say they all sold a lot of books because of it.
A good book room is important to me--in terms of buying books as well as
meeting different vendors. I think LCC Monterey was especially nice in that
regard.

I also love meeting people who are on the "periphery" of the mystery world--
professors, journalists, reviewers, etc. That's Bouchercon's strength. And
I suppose that if you have a "big name," it will attract a larger group of attendees.

I'm such a big Walter Mosley fan; he again was quite a draw for me at LCC
Monterey. I'm glad that Bouchercon Alaska is having Alexander McCall Smith,
although I can't make that one. Sue Grafton would most definitely be a draw.

Also doing some activity that is representative of the region is good. SINC
Hollywood arranged a tour of Sony Studios--so much fun, even for this native
Angeleno.
Naomi,
Good suggestions. I wonder who we could ask for Denver that might have that kind of draw?

As to the bookroom, I couldn't agree more. I think Tom and Enid are already making good plans for this.

I heard that Bouchercon in '08 (I think) will be in Indianapolis. I'm sure Jim Huang will do a marvelous job with the bookroom there, too.

And we're looking at "regional" events right now.

We're thinking of capitalizing on the Wild West theme. Does that sound attractive to anyone?
I think it was Bcon that was in Denver. High Crimes if I'm not mistaken. It was a great conference (in that I didn't remember anything bad at all.)

But back to that moderating thing. I love to moderate. I think that some of the mistakes a moderator can make is in over-prepping the panelists. I personally don't like to send them the questions beforehand, because then they tend ot write a script, or overthink their answers. I do ask them to send me two questions that might show case them in some way. I don't promise to use them, but have them on hand just in case. And then the fun begins. Most good panels that I've attended and enjoyed were good not because of the questions but because of the interaction between panelists.

The best panels are often the ones that go off in unintended directions. You might have attended a panel on "Writing the Continuing Series" and the closest you got to that subject was someone announcing it in the beginning. You walk out of there thinking, wow, that was a great panel, and who the heck knows what it was really about. You had fun. You were entertained.

Personally I think it goes beyond what we realize. Sometimes it's just plain serendipity combined with the genius of the event organizers. Planners putting together the right mix of authors and moderator. Sometimes it's like magic, and other times the recipe doesn't work. Even a couple of Emeril's recipes have failed to please every palate.
I love panels that become conversations. Re: scripting . . . yes, I do think that tends to happen if panelists are prepped too much. A general topic and general questions are enough.

IMHO, the moderator's job is to come up with interesting questions and to keep the conversation flowing rather than bottlenecking with an attention glutton. The moderator has to keep the audience in mind -- what the audience wants and needs, whether the entire front row is falling asleep -- that kind of thing. And then make the panel better in the moment.

At least, that's how I moderate.
Pari said:
"I wonder who we could ask for Denver that might have that kind of draw? "

What about Tony Hillerman?
I'm also from Denver and I'd love to help in any way I can.

To echo DADavenport... March can be a bit of a gamble for weather, as March and April are our snowiest months. This snow season, we got it all in December and January. But next year? Who knows?

I also agree that Downtown Denver is the place to be and the Adams Mark is a nice property. Also, look into the Hyatt which sits across from the convention center. The bar is spectacular... it's at the top of the hotel and has stunning mountain and city views. The building where I work is also home to the Downtown Marriott. Nice... bar might be a little on the small side.

It's early still, so there's bound to be something suitable, as there are several hotel projects in the works and, I imagine, a couple more will start in anticipation of the Democratic National Convention.

In any case, if bar size and/or last call time becomes an issue, because of the proximity, there're tons of other bars within staggering distance from anywhere downtown. If you don't like where you're at, you can find another one a block up the street.

One of the things DA didn't mention was that the main branch of the Denver Public Library is a short walk from Downtown. Perhaps some opportunity exists for an event or two there.

DA mentioned B&N on the 16th Street Mall. Up the street is The Tattered Cover's LoDo store. And a short drive east is the Colfax store. There's also an all-mystery bookshop in south Denver, called Murder By The Book. Between TTC and MBTB, there should be some great opportunities to generate some noise locally.

Finally... the "drink water" tip is a good one. I'd even suggest that people start drinking extra water a couple of days before they leave home.
I enjoy conventions with lots of smaller places to meet people. I love
hanging out in smallish to medium groups, but if I have to shout to be
heard I find myself retreating to my hotel room.

As an aside, Denver is, uhm, a coastal city? ;)
Coastal? No.

West of the Mississippi? You betcha.

One could argue that Bristol wasn't "West Coast" of the U.S., but why? I adore that this is a convention that travels more or less to my neck o' the woods.

I absolutely enjoyed the El Paso convention -- though it was quite small -- as much as those in more trendy (and beautiful) places such as Monterrey and Pasadena.

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