There is a long history of fan run conventions which, for the most part, have been successful and fun. Some of the early Star Trek conventions in the 1970s, which drew crowds of thousands, were also organized by teenagers with little or no experience in running events. And whether you are a Star Trek fan, an anime fan, a filker, a slasher, or a furry, there has been a convention made for fan by fans where you could gather and let your freak flag fly free.
cover of the program guide for the first Star Trek convention
held in 1969 at a local library in New Jersey.
That is not to say that all fan run events were perfectly run. In fact, the list of snafus and cock-ups are legion and there have instances where events veered into gross negligence or fraud. In the 1970s, a Star Trek convention run by Lisa Boyton was so badly oversold that is was the subject of an investigation by the New York Attorney General. Two years before, another Star Trek convention organizer, Al Schuster left the Committee that had been organizing the Star Trek fan events until then and took with him some of their operating funds. In the 1980s, The Houston Ultimate Fantasy Convention failed to apply prepaid funds to convention goers hotel rooms and local fans put them up in their homes. In 2003, fan Victoria Bitter allegedly defrauded Lord of the Rings fans in connection with a charity event. But the list of fan run conventions is long and proud.
So if you are thinking on putting on a fan run convention, know that you will be part of a grand “can do” tradition. And also know, you do not have to do it alone: you can reach out to these other convention organizers and ask questions. How to set up a dealer’s room? Should I offer a con suite? How do I negotiate a hotel contract? What is a room block and how can I avoid getting hit with thousands of dollars of penalties if I don’t meet the “numbers”. Should I have celebrity guests or would my event be better with just fan created programming? Is it really OK to use Klingons for security?