This past weekend I finally tabled at a con. After around 14 months of no cons. This wasn’t a huge show, in fact it was really tiny. I was part of an artist avenue with one other creative and there were about 10 vendors all in front of Lange’s Comics in The Lakes Mall. Lange’s has 2 storefronts (one of which is open only on Saturday and Sunday) right across from each other. The one that is open full time has an open door to a collectible toy shop. They hosted the show and managed to get a decent crowd for the scene.
Being back in the con atmosphere was wonderful, although this was not a cosplay show and I did miss that. This was a chance for shopping and meeting a few creatives and other fans. The table was inexpensive and I only did 3 sales but I still signed up for the next one in July. Why? Because this was a great chance to be with nerds. As a small show it was an opportunity to connect. While I did fine taking advantage of it in the morning, in the afternoon I stayed a bit to glued to my table for how busy it was.
I hear some say they only go to one or two cons a year. What I’ve noticed is they only talk about big cons. They skip out on the small shows. Yes there are times to go to the big shows. I’m a big fan of GenCon and loved my experiences at Star Wars Celebration and DragonCon. Yet these shows are expensive and they only happen once a year. By going to many small shows I get to be at cons far more often and I get to see certain people far more often.
Some think they won’t find great cosplay at the small shows, and while that is true in some cases, not all small shows are the same. You will find some with great cosplay and some with no cosplay. Each show is different. Others might claim there are no big guests so why go? If your only reason for going to con is the guests then you are discounting every con, big or small. This misses out on the value of connection from meeting other fans, getting to know people. You won’t likely have a huge relationship with an actor at a show, but finding friends you can see at local cons throughout the year is priceless. Some wrongly assume that a big con has more opportunities but all cons have opportunities. They are just different in scope and in type. The cost is also a consideration. If you go to lots of local cons than you won’t always have to pay for hotel. The cost of admission is lower but the shopping is still great and the people are still cool.
At a small con you do have less people but that can work for your advantage. For one thing you don’t have to push through to see the tables. If you find a vendor or artist you want to talk to there is less pressure to end the conversation, meaning longer conversations. Also by going to several local cons within a certain geographic area you get to see these people again and again.
Small cons are amazingly great for beginning artists, crafters and writers. You get to meet people with more experience than you. You can invite your friends who are close by so they can support you but they don’t have to spend a ton of money to get in. You also get to gain experience. You go to a couple tiny cons and you start to figure out what works to connect with customers. Than you go to slightly larger cons and can do better there but also gain more experience that is needed for larger shows, which often ask for a list of events you have vended at in the past.
If you aren’t a creative than I challenge you to consider supporting the up and starting artists, crafters, writers and cosplayers by attending these smaller shows. If you are more established in your craft than you can pass what you have learned to others when you attend a small show.
If you want to find shows of all sizes in Michigan, I suggest checking out the calendar on www.migeekscene.com. For other areas and states I recommend looking for FB groups and googling for sites similar to the one I just mentioned.
Here is the take-away: big shows are exciting, but small shows in the same geographic area build neighborhoods. While living in West Michigan I get to attend 2 anime shows, a great tabletop gaming show, and many general comic book cons a year within a reasonable distance. Each con is like a different house or local shop with a slightly different atmosphere. Giant shows have their own value, but never discount the local value. That is, after all, your neighborhood. Won’t you be my neighbor?