What does it take to run geek/nerd/steampunk conventions at hotels?

Winter landscape with old hotel at nightWhen people say, “What does it take to run weekend-long Steampunk, Fairy, or Goth events,” I generally say:

A hotel that actually WANTS your weird friends to hang out in it.

This is more unusual than you’d expect..  If you’ve not booked a hotel before, your feeling might be, “Well, it’s business; you’re bringing them money; they’re in business to make money, right?”

But it’s not unlike, say, restaurants that wouldn’t serve longhaired hippie folks in the 60s, or clubs that wouldn’t let you in unless you were wearing day-glow naugahyde pants with a purple polyester shirt..  They feel they have a certain image to maintain, and they make certain assumptions about who and what you are..  Hotels are often scared that your strange people will scare off their corporate clients.

Sure, your strange people are ALSO their corporate clients, and hotels are slowly learning that some of the businesspeople in suits and ties during the week ARE the ones showing up in Steampunk Pokemon outfits on the weekends, and they don’t appreciate having hotels condescend to them or their friends..  But that learning process is extremely slow, and sometimes it moves backwards..  There are still people in corporate boardrooms (and not always the oldest or most old-fashioned) who fear that potential “normal” clients will see your “weird” clients and decide not to patronize their hotel.

(By the way, the popular euphemism for scifi, geek, fantasy, horror, and other conventions and festivals, in the hotel business, is often “association groups”..  Don’t be surprised to hear yourselves called that.)

There’s also still a general belief that we’re the troublemakers.. It’s certainly true that some of our folks party (and, indeed, I would NEVER have expected how hard nerds party; that IS true).  But we’re seldom the ones making trouble, because we’re all really invested in coming back, and in seeing hotels welcome our kind.

Wedding parties, on the other hand?  Wedding parties are a holy terror.   If you’re ever in the position to speak to a hotel about holding an event, and they ask if your people are problematic, you can say, “Some of our people party, but not to excess.  You and I both know that a single wedding party will cause you as much trouble as any three association groups put together”.  Because it’s true – you get wedding people who feel it’s their genuine duty to party, and who may never see that hotel again; they certainly are hoping that their event only happens once.  So they’re not invested in coming back!

But even now, even with the rise of fandom, even with the recognition of fandom, even in a world where, say, I can tell a hotel, “It’s a Steampunk event”, and there’s a chance they’ll know what I mean before I even explain it–

it’s still a core rule.  Parts of society don’t accept us.  And you know, if the people at your local diner look at you funny, maybe you patronize that diner anyway because they’ve got good coffee or something.  But NEVER, if you have any way of avoiding it, go to a hotel that doesn’t respect and WANT your business.  Because they just won’t take care of you and your attendees, and that will hurt your event, no matter what else happens.

I’m pretty lucky – the two primary hotel organizations I work with have been partners with me for a long time–one for over six years, one for almost twenty!  And to be honest, I’ll follow good management to a new hotel.  Because the core remains the same:

A good event makes a home for people who have trouble feeling at home elsewhere.  Find a hotel that wants to help you do that.

~Jeff Mach

_____________

Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.

, ,