Virtual Tribbles - Creating an Online Convention in 2020
I have committed myself to updating this blog monthly not only to share with the community what we have been up to lately, but also in order to document for Jay and for myself how we spent these crazy times. Our journey has taken a course so different from the one we originally plotted for ourselves. We are living in a time when planning, while necessary, doesn't always--or even usually--work. Things are changing now in ways we never would have imagined, and innovation is emerging from that uncertainty. I think it's important to document that for someday when we look back on 2020 in hindsight.
March changed everything. The world shut down just as our first shipment of Tribbles was finally arriving. After years of planning and months of pre-sales we finally had real-life Tribbles. But how do you promote the softest Tribble on the planet when no one is allowed to touch anything? We had to figure out how to exist virtually. It didn't take long for us to realize that we weren't alone. A lot of small business owners, especially those with convention-based business models, suddenly had to zoom into a new way of operating--literally and figuratively--or fail.
So we started planning virtual conventions. Online event planning is one of the most of exhausting and fulfilling endeavors I have ever undertaken. I wish I had done a better job documenting CONnected Con. We threw it together in a matter of weeks. At first we imagined it would simply be a grand experiment in virtual tabling. Vendors and community members would host "tables" via Zoom meetings. Attendees would stop by the tables and chat with folks like in a physical vendor room.
By the time CONnected Con actually happened, we had scheduled a Welcome Panel with Alexander Siddig, three hours of virtual tables, and several panels about fandom and the community. We met people from all over the world, and began new friendships which will last us for the rest of our lives. It was exhilarating, and nerve-wracking, and exhausting. And then, for some crazy reason, we decided to do it again.
I wanted The Vendor's Haul to harness all of that community excitement and participation while also focusing on supporting Sci-Fi businesses disrupted by the pandemic. That's where the name came from. I imagined an astronaut with their arms full of all the amazing stuff they had just purchased at the virtual con--literally hauling out a ton of merch. That became the event logo.
I started reaching out to other licensed vendors to see if they wanted to participate. Through that process, I assembled a digital vendor catalog so that attendees could get a head start on holiday shopping all in one place. The other licensees were incredibly generous. On the day of the event, we were able to offer all kinds of discounts designed specifically for the people who came to celebrate Science Fiction and community with us that day.
If you didn't have a chance to check it out on the day of the event, you can still learn about all the vendors and their incredible products at VendorsHaul.com.
I am most proud of the panels that we were able to put together. It was an amazing day of learning, of community discourse, and, of course, of geeky, goofy good times. I've assembled some of those discussions here for anyone who wants to revisit a conversation, or who may not have had the opportunity to attend on the day of the event. There were some pretty important things going on in the world that day.
So here it is--a virtual documentation of a virtual event. The means of delivery may have been digital, but the conversations were concrete and important. Please take the time, if you can, to watch, to learn, and then to join the conversation.
Knowledge: The Final Frontier with Stevie Lee
Sid City: Science Division Interviews Mel of the Sid City Social Club
Star Trek Online: Science and Video Games
Tribble Talk: Troubling Biology
She Looks Like Me!: Women of Color in Star Trek and Popular Science Fiction
Theatre During COVID-19: A Discussion with Armin Shimerman and Kitty Swink