2017 Convention Season

2017 Convention and Trade Show season is here! Where is your Haunted Farm Team headed this year? This post will take a look at 6 things to consider as you narrow your options. Each show on the calendar offers something different…so how should you decide which ones to attend? Don’t just close your eyes and throw a dart…and don’t simply choose one because the date appears to be the most convenient for you. Your choices should align with the goals you have set for your Haunted Farm. Each selection should be deliberate. Don’t miss the bonus list of 8 haunted conventions that should be on your radar.

© Alexis Abare and Benjamin Selecky, Haunted Farms of America, Inc.

A back shot of a girl with an axe - Haunted Farms

Business Goals.

The HFA Team is always available to help evaluate your business. It’s never too late to take advantage of this valuable resource…call anytime! It is an important piece of the puzzle that helps you to take a critical look at the components of your Haunted Farm Enterprise. Setting goals for the year ahead keeps you focused and will help you decide where to put your money to work and which shows to attend.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to focus on the business side of things. Too often, haunt operators get caught up in all the fun stuff like making that special prop, or creating that perfect character…meanwhile…not seeing the 30,000 foot view of their business and neglecting major systems like ticketing and guest flow. If you are a Haunted Farms of America member (any level), we encourage you to call or email us to help with your convention planning…it’s part of your membership benefits!

Use daily meetups during the convention to dissect major problems that you have previously identified. Think about the challenges and issues specific to your Haunted Farm. It is also helpful to look at the vendor list for each convention to see if there are any vendors that might be able to help any of your other Agritainment Enterprises. Make your convention trips as constructive as possible.

Haunted Farm Tip: Look for ways to book major purchases before the end of the current tax year. Save ALL of your receipts…no matter how small. If you drive, track your mileage. These expenses can help to reduce your tax liability at the end of the year.

Haunt Tours.

As part of most shows, you will find Haunt Tours that include local attractions. These tours are great for team building and give your group an (often hard to get) inside look at other attractions. The variety of the shows from year to year will depend, in part, on whether the show stays in one place or changes locations. Lots of area haunts to choose from equals a huge plus for you!

You should all have fun and learn something from each tour. It is important to always be respectful to other haunt owners that are opening up their attractions to you. Be sure that everyone is on their best behavior. Keep things positive! Jot down notes after each attraction. Have a wrap up with your team after each night of touring to talk about what you liked and what you didn’t. Don’t steal ideas. Evolve. Be different. Find inspiration in every attraction that you visit.

Look for any tours that will have direct applications for you. Are there any Haunted Farms on the tour? Maybe your goal is to launch a hayride…well it would certainly be helpful to visit as many hayrides as possible. Scream Parks should be on your radar too. Even though many of these parks are NOT Haunted Farms, the outdoor environment and scale of operation is certainly a lot closer to the style of a Haunted Farm than an indoor haunt is.

Haunted Farm Tip: Don’t have time to jot notes right after the tour? Record a quick audio clip that you can transcribe later. It is also worthwhile to time each haunt. Most cell phones come stock with an audio recorder and a timer.

Budget.

If money was no object…you would attend them all and buy one of everything…so would we. But here in reality, your budget will likely be the first factor that you will have to consider. In addition to the admission price, you also have to account for travel to the venue, hotel, food, tours, education, transportation while there, and lots of incidentals. All of that BEFORE you even get to purchase a single prop.

Traveling in groups can help to relieve some of the costs for lodging since you can share rooms. Run the numbers and check schedules to see if it is more economical to drive with your group or if it makes more sense to fly. If you decide to fly, book airfare early to save money. Compare travel sites to get the best deal for your package. Check to see if any groups or organizations offer discounts or incentives because of your farm status. Also check with any groups or clubs that you are a member of.

If you are just starting your Haunted Farm, or if you operate on a limited budget, be very cautious about where you deploy your capital. Trips to conventions are not cheap. We don’t say this to discourage you from attending conventions. You should attend as many as make sense for your Haunted Farm and the goals that you have set. Just don’t be caught off guard when it is time to pay the bills.

Haunted Farm Tip: Haunted Farm Friendly Vendors like VFX offer flexible payment options to help spread out the cost for you. You can even find a special offer for Haunted Farms here

Education.

There are 2 components to consider when looking at the education offered at each of the conventions: content and cost. Price can vary greatly from show to show. If value and bang for your buck are important, take a look at HAuNTcon. Each purchase of an admission ticket gets you free access to most seminars. This can be a huge benefit if you are travelling with a large group and you can divide and conquer to cover all of the classes offered.

Be sure to take good notes. Ask for handouts. Ask questions. Most presenters are more than happy to spend time talking with you even after the classes are done. Be sure to get your whole team on the same page. Have a plan to meet at the end of each day and talk about what you learned in each class. Ask each member of your team to put together some notes for the group discussion.

The specific classes usually get posted once the convention is near. But even if the convention is months away, you can usually look at the previous year’s seminars and get a general idea of the type of classes that run at the convention. Look to see if there are Agritourism or Haunted Farm specific classes, or any topics that address your business goals head on. If you can’t find the information online, reach out to the convention organizers and ask them questions.

Haunted Farm Tip: Creating a shared Google Calendar is helpful for organizing your trip and keeping track of who will be where and when. Set your agenda and be sure to carve out personal and group time as well.

Trade Show Floor.

Consider the size and focus of each of the shows. Who is the convention geared towards? Who are the current or past vendors listed on their website? These things can help you to gauge how helpful and relevant the tradeshow floor will be as you improve your Haunt. A show that caters towards retail outlets will likely not be as helpful to you when compared to a show floor packed with props, masks, lighting, and audio.

Your business goals will help you determine how important of a factor the tradeshow floor should be in your decision making process. Many of the convention websites have maps, vendor lists, and links to their respective websites. Do the research.

Be on the lookout for vendors that cater to Haunted Farms and other outdoor attractions. Props and other items need to be able to stand up to the elements if you will use them outside. Shows like TransWorld can be overwhelming…with a MASSIVE show floor. With thoughtful scheduling and prudent planning, you will stay focused and not get flustered or overloaded by the sheer size of the event.

Haunted Farm Tip: Don’t feel pressured to make large purchases while on the show floor. Most vendors extend sales and specials past the convention itself. Be deliberate and strategic when deploying your capital.

Social Events.

Most conventions have social events planned as part of the calendar. Whether you are a social butterfly or a wallflower, it is important for you to get out there and party! Well…don’t party too hard…you might spend the following day asking your friends what happened the night before and apologizing for spilling drinks on everyone.

Attending social events provides additional bonding time with your Team and are invaluable for networking or catching up with friends. It is a time to shake hands and let loose in an informal setting…away from the show floor and classrooms.

It is also a time to meet new people. Don’t be afraid to formally introduce yourself to someone you have been wanting to meet and be sure to always carry business cards with you.

Haunted Farm Tip: Don’t take the seats in front of the dance floor speakers if you want to actually have a conversation. Post up somewhere in the path of the bathrooms and you will be sure to see everyone at least once during the night.

8 Haunted Conventions to Keep on Your Radar in 2017

Below is a short list of 8 Haunt and Halloween Shows to consider this year. Consider the points above when evaluating each of your options. Check out each of their websites for more information. No time to waste…convention season is here!

Halloween & Party Expo

January 14 -17, 2017
New Orleans, Louisiana

HAuNTcon

January 26-30, 2017
Nashville, Tenesee

TransWorld’s Halloween & Attraction Show

March 23-26, 2017
St. Louis, Missouri

West Coast Haunters Convention

May 12-14, 2017
Portland, Oregon

Midwest Haunters Convention

June 8-11, 2017
Columbus, Ohio

Chicago Frights

July, 2017 Dates Unknown
Orland Park, Illinois

Scare LA

August 5-6, 2017
2017 Location Unknown

Halloween & Hauntfest Show

August 26-27, 2017
Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

Other Non-Haunted Notables to Check Out

HNE - Harvest New England Association, Inc.

Harvest New England is a non profit organization. It is a joint marketing effort by the Departments of Agriculture in the New England states. Their annual conference has  breakout sessions covering business, marketing, Agritourism and more. This conference is aimed at helping New England farmers improve their marketing.

IAAPA - International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions

IAAPA holds an annual Attractions Expo geared towards amusement parks, family entertainment centers, waterparks and more.

NAFDMA - North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association

Annual members only convention that brings together farm direct marketers and Agritourism operators. The convention is a week long event that has bus tours, educational seminars, workshops, and more!

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