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 Post subject: Running a demo
PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2008 6:56 pm 
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This weekend, Rhun ran a demo at a free gaming/anime/LARP/video game convention called Geek Kon in Madison on the campus of the University of Wisconsin. It went very well, yielding about ninety people who had signed waivers over the course of the weekend. Here are some of the things we learned from the experience:

1. Paperwork. Make sure you have informational handouts of some kind. We had quarter-sheet fliers as well as full color brochures. Another useful handout would be business cards. If you have enough volunteers, give them some handouts and have them walk around the convention.

2. Waivers. Make sure you have blank ones available (we had 100) and have everyone sign one prior to playing. If you plan on allowing children under the age of 16 trying it out, it’s safest to require a parent or guardian to stay near the field and to have the kids on a separate field from the older children and adults. Make sure the parent or guardian sees exactly what is going on. I give props to Beornve for their demo at the Highland Games running a separate field for the kids.

3. Location. We got lucky with our location. It was a sunken courtyard where people could watch from two higher levels. It had a real "gladiator pit" vibe to it. That visibility really helped to get people to try Belegarth out. Just like a practice field, you want an area that’s going to get a lot of foot traffic.

4. Event staff and media. Establish a good rapport with your event staff and get knowledgeable, positive people to talk should the media inquire about Belegarth. Be willing to make any accommodations requested by the event staff such as noise level, where you can fight, etc. If you’re in an open area, see if there’s a contingency area you can move to if it starts raining. Make sure you confirm if there are any limitations or restrictions for the convention or fighting area such as no arrows, etc.

5. Volunteers. Get as many as you can. One person cannot do this alone. Volunteers should wear nice garb. Six to eight people minimum should be enough to cover the different areas depending on how big your fighting field is. Make sure you know where the closest water source and bathrooms are. If possible, rotate the volunteers out and give them a chance to check out the convention. Also, make sure people get a chance to get food or bring food for them. If you know in advance that you’re only going to have a few volunteers, make sure you plan for a way to feed them at some point during the day because they’re probably not going to have a chance to go out for food. Make sure that any trash gets cleaned up and thrown away as soon as possible.

6. Equipment. Coordinate with the event staff to make sure you have tables and chairs for your volunteers. The primary use for a table would most likely be for people to sign their waivers but if you have a separate sign-in table, then you can use other tables for laying out informational materials, examples of weapons, armor, garb, and other types of arts and sciences displays. If you can, see if you can secure a cart to haul things from the drop-off point to your demo location. Check with the event staff to see if they have any rope or caution tape you can use to cordon off the fighting area. Just in case, you might want to bring your own.

7. Have a sign or banner with Belegarth on it. We had a Belegarth sign at the stairs that led straight to the courtyard. This made it easier for people to find us.

8. Volunteers’ equipment. Have a place where people can put their personal equipment that’s not easily visible/accessible to the new participants. We had people’s stuff right next to the waiver table and people who wanted to try immediately made a beeline for that equipment.

9. Have loaner equipment. For this we brought about eight swords and five shields. We underestimated how much stuff we would need. It’s much better to have too much than not enough. Limit the loaner gear to shields and single swords or clubs. More on that later…

10. Flow of people. The basic flow went like this: A person expressed interest in trying it out. We directed him/her over to the table to sign a waiver. Once the person signed the waiver and we looked it over, one of our volunteers took the person or group of people aside and explained the basics of the rule system. After that, we had the people either spar against each other while one of us supervised or had them spar against us if we had sufficient volunteers. After they had a chance to warm up and get an idea of how the game was played, we had them going in a melee of some type.

11. The rules. We used a very simplified rules set for the demo. This made it easier to explain and easier for them to learn. The point of the demo is to get people excited about Belegarth and to get them to come to a practice, not to bore them with all of the rules. They can pick those up later on. Here was how I explained it:
Code:
   a. When you hear “Hold!”, immediately stop what you’re doing and don’t talk.
   b. When you die, hold your weapon on the top of your head and move off the battlefield.
   c. No head shots. Keep your swings below the shoulders.
   d. Any hit to the torso is death. Define the torso area.
   e. If you get hit in the arm, put the arm behind your back. If you get hit in that arm again, you’re dead since it’s as if the arm is no longer there. Shots to the hands don’t count.
   f. Because we were fighting on a stone/concrete surface, we modified the leg rules a bit. If you get hit in the leg, drag that leg behind you. A hit to that leg again was death.
   g. If you get hit in both legs, both arms, or an arm and a leg, then you’re dead.
   h. We don’t count cuts or slices. The weapon has to actually hit your opponent.


12. Weapon limitations. We only allowed people to fight either with single blue or with sword and shield. We did not allow them to fight with reds, Florentine, archery, or flails. In my opinion, this was probably one of the best things we could have done as I think I could count the number of headshots on two hands over the course of the weekend.

13. What they say. Over the course of the demo, we heard quite a few people say that they’ve taken fencing, kendo, or some type of martial art. Emphasize that this is different and you shouldn’t go into it necessarily with preconceived notions. With the exception of the SCA or Amtgard who have very similar rules sets, it’s going to take a while for them to catch on and realize that it is different. Depending on what type of convention or event you’re at, you’re going to have a lot of people asking for big two-handed weapons. We did. Under no circumstances should you let them use them.

14. Central weapon pick-up/drop off. Have a designated point where people can pick up or return weapons after they’re done fighting.

15. Marshalling. Keep an eye out for people who are swinging for the rafters and/or swinging high. Immediately let them know to keep their shots low. If they keep doing it, pull them aside and show them what they’re doing wrong. If they keep doing it, you may have to have them either sit out for a while or leave. If the participant has fought in the SCA before, put special emphasis on our no headshot rule. It can be very easy to slip into muscle memory and immediately go for headshots. Just ask Soth about what happened at GenCon two years ago…

16. Participants’ gear. There needs to be an area where people can drop their backpacks, cell phones, keys, cameras, etc. It needs to be secure and off to the side where one of the volunteers can keep an eye out. This is to prevent someone walking by and swiping people’s stuff. Remind the participants that they should check out their pockets and remove any sharp, electronic, or fragile objects.

17. Crowd control. There should be an area for spectators that is cordoned off from the fighting area. If there’s too much foot traffic and no possibility of a barricade, have one volunteer do crowd control and answer any questions people on the sidelines might have. The person doing crowd control needs to be one of your more senior members who’s able to answer questions in a clear and friendly manner.

18. Contingencies. Have a way to immediately call 911 should it arise. Know the location of the closest hospital.

If the demo feels like it’s getting off-track or a bit too chaotic to control, stop all activities and basically reset. Return all the weapons to the central location, move the participants off the field, give the volunteers a chance to take a short break, and perhaps do a few battles with only Belegarth members participating. After that, you can resume normal operations.

From time to time, true boredom may manifest itself at the demo. Early Sunday morning there was about a two hour span of time where there was nothing going on anywhere at the convention. Event staff members were walking around trying to find something to do. Luckily, we had a rousing game of Apples to Apples to keep all of our volunteers in our designated location. When things picked up at about 11:00, our volunteers were ready to go and we didn’t have to track them down. Bring a game or deck of cards to keep people occupied and at the demo location. If you do allow people to leave, make sure you can get them back quickly if things should pick up.

I can’t emphasize this enough. Always plan for rain if you’re going to be outside and make sure you coordinate with the event staff regarding an alternate location.

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 5:52 am 
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Once or twice each day, we also put a temporary stop on all training and recruiting to have a full out battle with only our volunteers. This was partially because it was awesome fun, and partially because it attracted a huge crowd and many new recruits immediately afterwards.

So, I do recommend taking breaks for large melees between people who know what they are doing, will fight fast, and will make a lot of noise.

Thanks for writing this all up, Kyrian!

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 11:50 am 
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Tons of great stuff here.

Kyrian wrote:
4. Event staff and media. Establish a good rapport with your event staff and get knowledgeable, positive people to talk should the media inquire about Belegarth. Be willing to make any accommodations requested by the event staff such as noise level, where you can fight, etc. If you’re in an open area, see if there’s a contingency area you can move to if it starts raining. Make sure you confirm if there are any limitations or restrictions for the convention or fighting area such as no arrows, etc.


I think this one is pretty key. If you have newbs helping you with the demo, awesome! But make sure they understand that when the reporter comes around they aren't the one with the knowledge of the history of the sport and practice explaining it to media. Have them find a senior member. Otherwise you're quote in the news might be "GIANT SWORDS ARE AWESOME!!11!!!1eleven"

Kyrian wrote:
8. Volunteers’ equipment. Have a place where people can put their personal equipment that’s not easily visible/accessible to the new participants. We had people’s stuff right next to the waiver table and people who wanted to try immediately made a beeline for that equipment.


I'm kind of anal about fighting with my own equipment sometimes, I have fought with crappy equipment for years and just don't anymore. I like Kitespar and wilson wrap and quality construction. I found the best way to keep my personal equipment off the field was to keep my speed bat on me, and take the cover (draw string) off my shield when I wasn't using it.

Kyrian wrote:
10. Flow of people. The basic flow went like this: A person expressed interest in trying it out. We directed him/her over to the table to sign a waiver. Once the person signed the waiver and we looked it over, one of our volunteers took the person or group of people aside and explained the basics of the rule system. After that, we had the people either spar against each other while one of us supervised or had them spar against us if we had sufficient volunteers. After they had a chance to warm up and get an idea of how the game was played, we had them going in a melee of some type.


I've worked a few demos (10?) and this system worked much better than any other I'd seen. Having the option to have 2 newbs fight eachother keeps you from being dead at the end of the day, while having the option of fighting them lets you pick out the more athletic and martial people who want the next level NOW (and not next practice) and pull them aside a little to talk shot theory or stance and so on.

Kyrian wrote:
12. Weapon limitations. We only allowed people to fight either with single blue or with sword and shield. We did not allow them to fight with reds, Florentine, archery, or flails. In my opinion, this was probably one of the best things we could have done as I think I could count the number of headshots on two hands over the course of the weekend.


Just to be specific all these things were present, and if people asked for us to demo them we did. We'd shoot each other in the back, spar with reds or whatever people wanted to see. But they couldn't use them.

Kyrian wrote:
13. What they say. Over the course of the demo, we heard quite a few people say that they’ve taken fencing, kendo, or some type of martial art. Emphasize that this is different and you shouldn’t go into it necessarily with preconceived notions. With the exception of the SCA or Amtgard who have very similar rules sets, it’s going to take a while for them to catch on and realize that it is different. Depending on what type of convention or event you’re at, you’re going to have a lot of people asking for big two-handed weapons. We did. Under no circumstances should you let them use them.


Let me tell you, working a demo is not for everyone. By the end of the day I had to leave the booth and find someplace to sit and calm down for a little while because the next person who said they "knew what they were doing" was going to get a monkey stomping. In all Belegarth (although this is often a point of argument) is for a very different kind of geek. We're athletic, sometimes we're not even all that geeky except for this. We might have sports or a military backround that drew us to the sport, not dressing up funny. Most of us get offended by calling what we do a "L.A.R.P." and indeed Kyrian felt pretty odd being on a panel about Larping. It's often important to shatter most peoples perceptions as soon as possible. If it's starts to get overwhelming, switch up your language. Use words like "sport" and "full contact." and I love the phrase "you're only as strong and as fast as you actually are, you don't level up here without hard work." and then watching people droop and walk away.

This event really taught me that geeks can be pretentious *, make retarded attempts at being "cool and mysterious" and praise **** craftsmanship as long as your costume is trying to imitate a cool character.

Also, feel free to pop egos. At times it was like a kitchen sink, little bubbles of ego everywhere. If you see the guy whose whooping on noobs and thinks he's the king **** of the world, feel free to knock him down a peg. They don't know what a J hook is.

Kyrian wrote:
14. Central weapon pick-up/drop off. Have a designated point where people can pick up or return weapons after they’re done fighting.


If it's in front of the table (but not in the way) and you keep your personal gear behind the table, you'll do a pretty good job of protecting your gear.

Kyrian wrote:
16. Participants’ gear. There needs to be an area where people can drop their backpacks, cell phones, keys, cameras, etc. It needs to be secure and off to the side where one of the volunteers can keep an eye out. This is to prevent someone walking by and swiping people’s stuff. Remind the participants that they should check out their pockets and remove any sharp, electronic, or fragile objects.


It doesn't hurt to drop a note of "we're not responsible" too. I wish we'd had brown paper bags (lunch size) for people to drop their stuff in, to keep it separate.

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 12:55 pm 
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Fantastic article! I am sure it will come in-handy in the future!

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:21 am 
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This is good. Can we get a Sticky on this?

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 9:27 am 
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Done.

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 9:07 am 
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How did you get by on so few loaners? Our first year, we had 20 swords and 5 shields, and a long wait for people to try it. This year we had 40 swords and 25 shields, and still had times where people were waiting for loaners. My goal for next year is 60 swords and 30 shields, and I would not be suprised if we have brief periods where we run out of loaners.

Lessons from the Celtic Highland Games of the Quad Cities:

As far as your own gear, keep it out of sight. We had ours back behind a table, and people kept getting ahold of it anyhow. Next year, we are putting it in a tent.

We have found that kids and red weapons MUST be separated. We do this by having a separate kids field where blue weapons are the only ones allowed. If anyone is allowing an all ages field, I would recommend limiting it to blue only. Our first year at the Celtic Games we had only the one field, and we learned about reds and kids not mixing well early in the day. Nothing serious, but it is why we had two fields this year.

If you are allowing kids to fight, make sure you have a place for the parents to sit and watch. That is the easiest way to keep them near the field.


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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 2:46 pm 
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Great guide.
In answer to the previous post, it's always hard to keep weapons in people's hands, if you need to enact a time limit.
#2, when we have time I'll go play with someone's little children, but our first priority is recruitment at a demo, so I try to make sure that we have people that could join our sport having the weapons etc. '
#3 only have reds, polearms and archery equipment there for the people to demonstrate with, otherwise keep it to blues. Not only does it keep it safer, it also gives people a reason to come out to a practice or something.

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2008 2:48 pm 
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telanar wrote:
How did you get by on so few loaners? Our first year, we had 20 swords and 5 shields, and a long wait for people to try it. This year we had 40 swords and 25 shields, and still had times where people were waiting for loaners. My goal for next year is 60 swords and 30 shields, and I would not be suprised if we have brief periods where we run out of loaners.

Lessons from the Celtic Highland Games of the Quad Cities:

As far as your own gear, keep it out of sight. We had ours back behind a table, and people kept getting ahold of it anyhow. Next year, we are putting it in a tent.

We have found that kids and red weapons MUST be separated. We do this by having a separate kids field where blue weapons are the only ones allowed. If anyone is allowing an all ages field, I would recommend limiting it to blue only. Our first year at the Celtic Games we had only the one field, and we learned about reds and kids not mixing well early in the day. Nothing serious, but it is why we had two fields this year.

If you are allowing kids to fight, make sure you have a place for the parents to sit and watch. That is the easiest way to keep them near the field.



Alot of single blue fighting, and really not having a TON of people trying it at any one time. I don't think we ever spent much time wanting for equipment, and only had maybe 4 fights going on at a time at most. Plus none of us were using the "loaner" gear if we fought someone. The space we had to fight was really only about 30'x30' and had a tree growing out of one part and a couple of columbs.

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2009 1:26 am 
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columns jimmy?... :eyes:

i miss running demos...

good stuff here... sounds like you got it going well....

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 12:14 pm 
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on that note, I was at an anime convention last week, and I saw some foam fighters there, (not bele/dag/armt) that group was making bank selling weapons and hosting tournaments (5$ entry) Should this be something we should consider doing?

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2009 4:16 pm 
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The only problem is, there is no "we." There are realms, and they run themselves, but there is no "Belegarth" group to do that besides the 5 dudes on the BoD.

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2009 4:34 pm 
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why couldn't one realm do it then?

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2009 7:02 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2009 7:41 pm 
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Tails wrote:
on that note, I was at an anime convention last week, and I saw some foam fighters there, (not bele/dag/armt) that group was making bank selling weapons and hosting tournaments (5$ entry) Should this be something we should consider doing?


I think that is an excellent idea. Why don't you try it out and start another thread to let us know how it goes?

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2009 9:03 pm 
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Fine I will!

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2009 9:57 pm 
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So, Im filling out a form to reserve a spot in the sellers area, can I put company name as belegarth? or is that a no go?

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2009 10:11 pm 
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Are you, as the vendor, Belegarth, Inc.?

Make up a name for your foamsmithing company and use that. You can advertise your wares as suitable for any game that you believe they are suitable for.


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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2009 10:12 pm 
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Why not use your realm name? Kinda like the generic waivers...

eg. Strathclyde Belegarth Medieval Combat Society

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 10:45 am 
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Makes sense.

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PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 12:40 pm 
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You were missing my point Tails, realms DO do that all the time. The idea, though, is that realms do demos in THEIR areas, not just everywhere they can. So, yah, if it's in your area, go do a demo.

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 1:05 pm 
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My area of the loudest birds, yes it is, but these conventions have a higher concentration of interest, being dorks like the rest of us.

Big Jimmy wrote:
The only problem is, there is no "we." There are realms, and they run themselves, but there is no "Belegarth" group to do that besides the 5 dudes on the BoD.


I think that you misunderstood my "we," either that for something else in this ball of confusion. When I said we, I meant any realm in general, not "everyone"

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 2:04 pm 
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Well tails, you're talking to thousands of people in multiple countries, might help to point out WHERE.

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 2:22 pm 
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Anywhere where there is an opportunity? Dose that work?

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 2:28 pm 
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Okay, are you saying "Should we run demos just like this one at anime conventions?"

Because it sounded like "Should we run a demo at this anime convention?"

If the first is true, you should run a demo whenever and wherever you can AND you feel comfortable. I don't like doing demos at cons. I find 2 things: 1. Furries, and other people that don't understand that this is not something you're going to be awesome at straight off the bat, in fact you're gonna suck. you're not Goku, suck it up.

2. The people are typically not from that area, therefore it does little to directly benefit my realm, but costs a lot of resources.

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 2:29 pm 
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I'm not saying that this is something that HAS to be done, but I think it's a great way to introduce people into the sport.

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 3:15 pm 
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Tails: doing a demo at a con may be a good idea. However, as Jimmy pointed out, there will be many people from far away at the con. Bring a list of Realms with you so those people who think it's fun can go home and easily find a group near them. Also, you will be spending your time, money and resources to hopefully grow the game nationally, as opposed to locally. You will not see the results of your demo, you will likely never know if anyone who fought at your demo ever came out to a practice. This can be demoralizing for the people who put in all of that time/money/resources. If you would prefer to see the results of a demo, save your stuff for a local demo.

Don't let the furries fight. That's just embarrassing to everyone involved.

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2009 3:46 pm 
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Ok, I see now what Big Jim meant, but yes, I already was planning on handing out with the weapon a flier explaining what we do as well as giving the key websites to get involved. I'm fine with not visually seeing the fruits of my hard work. besides there is a convention coming up in September that is mostly for locals, so I will see how that goes.

Eris wrote:
Don't let the furries fight. That's just embarrassing to everyone involved.


I have no Idea where this fits into the conversation.

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2009 7:28 am 
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You are going to an anime con. There will be furries (people who dress up in animal costumes). Don't let them fight. Please... If you get your butt handed to you by a furry - well... There's just no coming back from that...

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2009 7:47 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2009 7:58 am 
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Pfft. The internet is all for broad generalizations! :P :roll:

And that was posted pre-caffeine. I should know better than to post before 9a... Sorry. Maybe I can get a coffee IV or something...

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Thu May 14, 2009 8:54 am 
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well no, even anime folks have their limits.

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Sun Sep 20, 2009 3:04 pm 
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BTW the event got me 343$ profit

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Thu Sep 22, 2011 1:19 am 
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The OEF hasn't a chance to run anything other then a HEY LOOK AT US ask questions at us demo. At a county fair *shudder*. That said we ever see that Rhinelander Convection we've been hearing about on and off for the last three years, I'm digging this thread up. The county fair is mostly an in realm excuse to hang out, eat fair food, and try to talk some people into visiting in August. OH and hit up the Bayou Billy's soda stand. So ADD tangent out of the way, lot of stuff I never even thought about demo wise and well laid out.

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 Post subject: Re: Running a demo
PostPosted: Thu Sep 22, 2011 8:25 pm 
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PLEASE start looking at dates before posting on threads...this one is 2-3 years old...

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