On Business: How's the Show?

By | Monday, January 30, 2017 Leave a Comment
I've been in and around comics long enough at this point that I can go to most conventions and find somebody I know, often tabling or working a booth. And with those people, it's easy to strike up a conversation and talk about whatever. I've stood at people's tables and we've chatted about their kids, favorite bands, mathematics, video games... the same kind of random conversations you get into with friends. But, obviously, I don't know everybody, so what do I find to talk about when I'm trying to engage in a conversation with someone I don't really know.

I came up with what seems to be a great question that works pretty much across the board at conventions: "How's the show going for you?"

I originally started asking people strictly to gauge how well a new show (or an older show at a new location) was doing. Kind of a back-end way of reporting on the relative success off the convention itself. But what I found was that it also usually opens the door to a more general conversation with the person tabling. I don't think many people ask this type of question, so folks typically are able to chat without resorting any sort of "script."

The thing I like about the particular phrasing is how open-ended it is. I generally intend it to mean someone along the lines of, "How are sales at your table?" but that's A) not always a measure of success for individual creators and B) something that can verge into an area of discomfort for many people. (Most of us live in a society, after all, that frowns on openly talking about income at an individual level.) So "how's the show going" lets the individual set whatever metrics they choose to measure success, and allows them to easily avoid getting into a discussion with a relative stranger about a subject they're uncomfortable with. In fact, they can dodge the business aspect entirely and say they're having a great or lousy time because of the weather, their health, or whatever.

So then I've got a conversation going on a topic relevant to the convention, and of particular personal interest to the person I'm talking to. Which is perfect for a relative introvert like myself.

PLUS, I then have the bonus of getting a sense of how the convention is actually being run. After talking to 10 or 20 people, you start to see themes and general patterns. Everybody's having a great time even though sales are down. Or traffic is terrible, they'll be lucky to break even. Or, "Holy crap! I sold out of everything on the first day!"Any one person's thoughts and impressions could just be their unique experience, but when the same ideas come up repeatedly for several creators, then you've probably got a good sense of the overall show.

Anyway, that's just a little trick I devised for myself that solves multiple issues at once when I'm attending a convention.
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