Every year I post a recap of lessons learned. This time, I decided to integrate the lessons learned with the feedback I got from the event. Several times a year, I get contacted by somebody planning to run their first prototype event who is asking for advice. My hope is that these lessons learned are useful for other organizers out there. Also to provide insight into how things work behind the scenes for the curious.

Each time I do this, it winds up sounding negative. Overall all the event was very successful and yielded a lot of positive feedback.

Things I plan to do next time:

1. Provide Cough Drops

Available with the snacks or at the welcome table. I got multiple requests for this one.


2. Provide Hand Sanitizer


3. Bowls and serving spoons for the snacks.

Will do. I’ll buy some cheap bowls and plates from the dollar store.


4. Paper and pens available at the front desk.

We actually had that this year, but not everyone noticed. I’ll make it more obvious.


5. Move the tables near the front back away from the window.

With AC only partially working, it was hot up there. If we use the same location, the first row of tables will be set back.


6. Sign explaining how Raffle works on raffle table.

I didn’t think the raffle would be that confusing. We used the same method as the past two years, but this year it confused a lot of folks. I’ll have a large sign on the raffle table explaining how the raffle works.


7. Panel should be in another room.

Game Kastle was kind enough to clear out the back room (where the second bathroom was) for us. We tried the panel in what I thought was a quite corner of the main hall. It was too loud for most people to hear. Next time, We will make sure to place the panel(s) in a separate room or have a sound system. Provided I can get a volunteer who is wiling to bring a sound system.


8. Onsite badge printing.

I used Tabletop.Events to host the badge system and announcements for the event. It worked quite well. Tabletop.events printed badges and mailed them to me for everybody who was signed up at least five days in advance. Tabletop.Events also has a badge printing system to print badges onsite. This would require a kind of printer I do not own and some additional configuration. I choose not to do onsite badge printing this year in the interest of simplicity. Next year, I’ll try to get onsite badge printing working for late sign ups from Designers and VIP players.




Things I *might* do next time.

I. Provide each table with a blank sign holder.

As a designer, this is really something you should do for yourself. We came out ahead in the budget for the first time this year (I paid money out of pocket the first two years). That gives me some flexibility to buy more sign holders. It will depend on how practical it is to purchase and deploy them.


II. Provide fruit with the snacks.

I like this idea, but I have to find a way of doing it that will not create a mess.


III. Make the design contest 90 minutes.

I think having the 60 minute time frame is a real test of your design chops. I’m open to the 90 minute time frame, but I worry it would lower participation.


IV. Video booth.

I got a request to have a video booth where designers can shoot their own how to play videos or pitch videos. This is a cool idea, but hard to pull off. Who provides the equipment? Who operates the equipment? How do we compensate for the noise? Who edits the video? How does it get to the designer? I will put out a call for volunteers to take this on. If somebody wants to organize this, we can give it at try.


V. Food Trucks

We have to be a large enough event to justify a food truck coming to us. We need permission from the host site for the truck to be on site and the truck must be able to legally operate in the city we are in. Again I’ll see a volunteer willing to take on recruiting and coordinating with food trucks.


VI. Online Designer Directory

A list of designers and contact information. Also, possibly a list of what games they are brining. 

We tried versions of this the first two years. Participation was low. Designers struggled to meet the deadline of sending in a description and photo for their game in advance. The number of people that actually used it was very low. If anyone out there wants to volunteer to take this on next time, I will provide you with the necessary contact information and web hosting space. The directory will be Opt-In, as many people prefer not to have their contact information posted.


VII. More diversity of raffle prizes.

The raffle prizes are sponsored. We don’t pay for them, and don’t get to choose what we are sent. It is up to the game companies that donate the raffle prizes to choose what to send. I can ask for more diversity, but beggars can’t be choosy. We need to take what we get gratefully.



Things that were suggested that I will NOT do next time and why. 


A. Provide Coffee and tea.

The expense is high, the chance of spillage and mess is high, and people are picky about their coffee. There was plenty of Coffee places nearby. I generally don’t want to provide beverages at all, but I made an exception for water because of the heat.


B. Hot Food

I tried this year two when Protospiel SJ provided full meals. It was very expensive and consumed most of the budget. It was time consuming and difficult to stage. Lots of people complained that they didn’t like the free food. It simply wasn’t worth the time, hassle and expense. 


C. Provide Player’s Wanted Signs

There were 40 tables this year. All designers want players. If there were 40 players wanted signs, that defeats the purpose of having such sign. Game Kastle provided players wanted cones. Most designers didn’t read those instructions or even notice them. There were a few designers that did use the cones successfully, proving that they work. I also saw other designers get clever with candy, cookies and their own creative Players Wanted signs.  That is the right way to do it. If you want a sign, you can make one. 


D. Protospiel San Jose every six months instead of annually.

I’m open to this idea. It is just an enormous time commitment. I was super stressed out the first year, and was sick for two weeks after the third year. I’m building up towards a bi-annual event schedule. I will need to work out some kinks first and get a bit more volunteer support to make it happen.