Hotel stuff. That is a weird, weird world that does business in a very unusual way. For example we are bought $2000.00 worth of food from the hotel. Why? Because the choice was to either buy the food or pay so much more for the classroom space that it comes out about the same anyway.
KWAR costs a lot to put on and tends to lose money. I recommend not spending in any areas that are fluff. For example, site tokens are a waste. In 2002 they spent hundreds on them.
Get things set up earlier than you think you need to. We started pushing last February and could not get things finalized enough to have fliers at GW. We came in on time but I was running like crazy for something like 9 months. This is NOT the same old "everything takes longer than you expect, yada, yada" advice you always hear. Specifically for KWAR, here are some things we encountered:
A LOT more people have to approve things than you expect, even if you are an experienced event steward. Announcements, budget, contracts for the hotel, etc. Even stuff you do not normally have to think about at all, like marshalate policy, are political hot potatoes that need lots of approvals.
The big lead time makes people slackers. Many times I have handed out an assignment only to have the person I put in charge of it come back to say that I should just do whatever I want and they will go along with it. I have had to explain it is THEIR job to make those decisions and I need it done ASAP. Also, everyone seems to think they will get it all done in September, even if they have 3 jobs on the staff and parts of it are due in May. They just don't get the part where we really need it done by May (really). More than anything else you must impress that on your staff.
In spite of 1 & 2, have fliers and registration forms ready for Estrella, GW, Pensic and more. If you can, have them at the previous KWAR (too late for 2005!). Fliers, BTW, are a MUCH more cost effective way to advertise than are kingdom newsletter announcements. You have LOTS of friends who will hand them out at gatherings of fencers all over the KW. $20 in targeted handbills is worth at least $400 in kingdom newsletter announcements. We only put one in Ansteorra's newsletter because it was required to make it an official event. We put it in Drachenwald and a few others because it was free. But plan to have KWAR handbills at Pensic, Gulf War, Estrella and any other major event you can think of.
The budget is huge compared with typical events, the risk is very high -- whoever is funding you needs to understand that up front -- but if you make a profit it is also likely to be big and that can have it's own backlash from those who think you are profiteering.
I think you already know this, but you MUST delegate. It is WAY too big for one person to do. And you must pass on actual responsibility and authority to make decisions. Some of those decisions won't seem optimal to you but unless it really stinks you need to bite your tongue and accept it or you will exacerbate the problem of people trying to pass their jobs back to you.
Be aware and beware of SCA financial policy. Know it, fear it. This is also a great source of delay since you WILL have to ask on what you are and are not allowed to spend SCA funds.
Hotels are weird. You need MULTIPLE experienced hotel people to advise you. I have 3 experts, one of whom currently holds a job setting up this sort of event for a major hotel. The hotel/event business model is not like anything else I have ever seen and you need to be really aware of things like mandatory gratuities, occupancy taxes and required room nights. Being unaware of these issues can and has spelled financial disaster for past KWARs.
It is very tempting to treat merchants as an additional source of income but that screws future KWARs. Part of what draws people to KWAR is the merchants but each year it is harder to get the best merchants to come. Why? They keep losing money. Just plan to break even on merchants. Their fees should do little more than cover what it will cost you to have them there. For example, the Omni charges us $10 per table so we charge $10 per table. We get a few tables free so we make a little but nothing substantial. Do screen out the junk dealers and people selling things unrelated to KWAR.
Try to get as much out of kingdom participation as possible. I have not had as much success as I would like on this. There were some OOK people on my staff but I would like to see a third OOK, a third local (for those job that MUST be local) and a third local/kingdom. That is besides the teachers. OOK people tend to draw people from their areas and give you new ideas that are different from "the way we always do it".
Aim for as liberal of a marshalate policy as possible for classes and pickups (actual tournaments, if any, can work like War tournaments). The point of KWAR is that we get to try out things we have not done before. If your kingdom tries to make everyone play by local rules that would be a big problem for a lot of people. Even limiting people to those things for which they are authorized does not make sense considering that they are there to learn NEW things. So let the Ansteorrans try out blade grabbing, the Meridians try sidesword (with sidesword marshals there to help them figure it out) and Calontiri try out...well, fencing. Just go for the SCA minimums for everyone. Remember, the SCA does not require anyone to be authorized just to do practice/training. only tournaments. Also, don't forget youth. SCA minimum legal age is 14 for fencing, 16 for melee. Even youth of 12 and 13 (actually up to 17) can play under Ansteorran Youth Rapier rules which are the ONLY existing SCA rules for youth of that age. Expect this to be a very complicated issue and a lot of noses to get seriously out of joint but push for all you can get for this one time event.
When you look at the budget, DON'T be fooled by the profit numbers. That depends entirely on good attendance and merchandise sales, donations and more. If that slips you can loose hundreds, maybe more. Past KWAR have lost a bundle.
We counted on 200 people and sold about 100 tee shirts. Figure your tee shirt sales will be about half your expected attendance. Avoid our mistake of trying to sell tee shirts ahead of time. Just get a bunch printed and have a separate person sell them at the gate (i.e. someone who is NOT busy checking people in.)
A $5 discount means nothing to KWAR attendees. As of 5 weeks before KWAR 2004 we had ZERO registrations. I would have been climbing the walls except that the hotel was filling up. Clearly, lots of people were coming but they just weren't registering. Of course, that left us guessing at how many CDs to make, how many booklets to print, etc. the solution? Make the at-the-door price about twice the pre-registration price (like $25 pre-reg, $50 at the door). Alternately, Claire had the idea of making everyone pay the same amount (our price would have been $40) but those who pre-register get a free CD and tee shirt. No pre-registration, no tee shirt or CD.
This next one is really hard. Get someone really good to run your gate because you will have NO time to mess with it. Make sure they know exactly how much to charge for each thing and go through thinking of various possibilities. Make sure they will write a receipt and KEEP A COPY for each and every sale. Make sure everyone is trained on all this. Do all this while NOT micromanaging your gate person. It will take many, many hours of gate shifts to do a KWAR and a bad gate shift can screw your numbers up like you cannot imagine.
You cannot sit gate or teach a class – time simply will not allow for it so do not put yourself on either of those schedules.
Borrow some radios for you and your top staff. They will save you over and over.
Be ready to replace anyone who falls behind. Our original party person had life happen to her. I spotted the problem and politely suggested it would be better for her and KWAR if she passed the torch. Another person stepped in, worked hard and put on a great party. No one's feelings were hurt and the party was great.
If you are the steward, someone else must be the class coordinator. Pick someone really good and let them do the job; you don't have time. DO encourage them to shop out of kingdom as well as in. Also, do get status reports so you know classes are being scheduled.
Pick a good editor you understands what you want for your CD. Let them do the job; you don't have the time. Really, being KWAR steward will take any time you are not at your job, eating or sleeping (and at least some of your eating and sleeping time too).
Plan some nice little thank you gifts for your staff. They will be working amazingly hard and you will want to recognize them and say thank you. BTW, also plan to spend a fair chunk of your own money on this event. There will be things the SCA does not allow you to spend SCA funds on, stuff your group cannot afford, personal expenses and more that will drain your bank account. Plan for as much as you would spend if you were going to KWAR somewhere else and had to pay for a plane ticket, hotel, etc. If you don't spend it all you can reward yourself with a new sword or maybe pay your rent.
A full day of melee classes worked great for us, making KWAR 3 full days. We alternated between epee and heavy blades, using NO DFB with epees and DFB with heavy blades. We used the society minimums and it worked well. We picked out the teams to keep them even, rather than letting them pick themselves. We kept teams together so they could learn and progress. We has progressive scenarios to keep it interesting but no prizes – remember, this must be a practice, not a competition. We stopped between each scenario and offered critique and advice.
Here are some tidbits:
- In 2000, 2001 & 2002 the attendence for KWAR was ~200 people. For obvious reasons, 2003 does not count. We are planning for 200 to 300 and will break even at 180 (note – we got 168).
- I understand KWAR has never made a profit.
- A book can hold many articles but a CD can hold and entire library. There are many free texts out there that are of great interest to fencers.