Copying this from a Discord server where we posted it in 2020…before fully realizing the pandemic would be a multi-year, possibly permanent affair.
A big braindump of issues around creating or planning conferences
Not a new topic for plurals, there's challenges in an IRL con(ference|vention). It was a discussion topic on Plurality Resource Forum (a private forum which just disbanded early this year) — we took notes on things that group talked about (won't say who), which we may have lost or just misplaced somewhere.
Our background, other than PPWC — we were back-end for several 1-day local business conferences (IRL, scheduling, design of program, chasing presenters & vendors for art & program descriptions). And have a good idea what goes into the back-end of such things, and those business conferences ran at a loss. Something we would not want to see anyone burdened with in the plural community. The business conference ended after a 3-4 year "successful" run simply because it wasn't profitable.
There's a lot of challenges. You can see why we're concerned with bankrolling it, for example. We were doing a Mapping Project, which will end in a year. https://kinhost.ushahidi.io [you can enter data, we're working with Ushahidi on the back-end to get the account fully reenstated, and we may move it to our own server if we can otherwise we have to renew for a grassroots account annually]
Part of that was figuring out if there was a cluster of plurals, DID folk, anyone — where it would make sense to hold a convention/conference or meet-ups in a specific place because there was a "hub" there. Conversely, near the organizers.
Another issue, in addition to the cost of running the con is the cost to presenters & attendees both to attend directly (tickets), and to travel/fly/room there. Healing Together in Orlando (Florida, USA), Philly Trans Wellness Conference (PTWC) in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA) — these are already a significant drain on our resources even when our partner picks up part of the tab for going to & staying in Florida.
Case Study: Attendance Costs of Healing Together
To give an idea: Healing Together cost a 2.25 day drive (the spoons!) which was about $100 each way in auto fuel from New York (not mentioning repairs (ARGH)), about $650 in AirBNB (the convention hotel was $150+/night + service industry taxes etc. We got the AirBNB for 5-6 days/nights rather than stay the minimum time at the conference hotel for more). On the drive down we stayed at an AirBNB in Jacksonville ($60) on the way down to arrive refreshed, but otherwise slept in the car both ways. We are not getting younger ;)
Air travel would have been more and left us without a vehicle at the Orlando side which would have = cab rides. Many other attendees staying in AirBNB had to scramble for Ubers. A good number took the cash hit staying at the hotel.
Food. Forget room service, but at $10+ per meal — the conference included lunch (basically make your own cold cut sandwiches + salad). Figure minimum $10/day out-of-pocket but more like $20+. We got an AirBNB with kitchen and made our own food and minimized our restaurant tab.
Splitting an AirBNB if feasible would have helped, etc. but say we did this alone, and only counting travel, food, bed (and leaving out the stop in Jacksonville): $200 (travel) + $100+/day (lodging) + $20+/day (food). A 3 day con would be $560+ per attendee before helping with the conference costs.
Contrast: Hybrid Social Media Event(s)
The other scenario would be to check out what Labyrinth, Entropy & Multiplicity & Me were planning in California. Or look at costs for Ivory Garden's conference.
So what we did to give an in-person component to the PPWC online was to piggyback on PTWC. It's a 10,000 body no-entry-fee conference — the largest Trans conference in the world. So last year's plan was if folk wanted an in-person component to PTWC, come join us at our Plural Events table (about $150 in donations in the name of Rhonda Bunkelman) and we would do an after-party (Redwoods Circle hosted an IRL evening pizza party several nights of PTWC for plurals at a DONATED space at the local LGTBQ+ center — we solicited community & singular ally support for pizza$).
Cost was our lodging & travel. No ticket expense for attendees. No hall rental fees, deposits, no waivers to make people sign, no event insurance, etc. Some attendees donated cash at the table to the cause. The table served as valuable plural-safe space in the larger (buzzing busy) convention vendor area.
We many'd the table with some occasional breaks & company. We spoke to the crowd and discovered a lot of new/unexpected plurals who were there for trans reasons. One cried at meeting people like them after decades of therapy.
We figured we'd do this for a few more years and hope that the plural community picks up enough IRL bodies to support a big in-person event.
Opening the Conversation
But we want to hear what others bring to the table. Experience, thoughts, where would you hold it, venue types, does anyone have an "in" anywhere, etc. :)
Over the last several years, several pockets of the community have said they want to do something. But we're spread out all over the world.