Room parties are an important social aspect of any SF convention. They allow the convention members to interact in a relaxed atmosphere. Some room parties by specialized fan groups grow into privately (separate from the convention) hosted programming tracks. On other occaisions, room parties are used to conduct the business of SF and fandom, from promoting other conventions to publisher's receptions.
Room parties are most often NOT sponsored by the hosting convention. They are the responsibility of the private individuals letting that room. However, the convention will typically provide a Party Maven to coordinate the parties and minimize annoyances to the hotel.
The Party Maven should send out contact notices in advance of the convention. The Progress Reports are an excellent place to do this. Also, guests and member groups known or highly suspected of being desirous of hosting a party should be contacted. And notices can be placed in publications of general circulation, such as the SMOFs email list. The early notice should provide contact information as well as room reservation information. Later notices should contain more detailed rules and guidelines so the members can plan their party supplies.
Information for the Party Maven
Encourage hosts to make room reservation early. Usually the convention does not run the parties that are held at the convention, and they cannot (directy) provide the rooms. The reservation will have to be arranged with the hotel or convention bureau or reservation agency. The room block may have a limited number of party suites, or some suites may be more suitable than others. All the Party Maven will do is make sure that parties are grouped together on the party floor(s), in a (hopefully) compatible way. Once the reservation is made, the Party Maven can make sure that the room assignment is appropriate.
To do this, the maven will need to know a few things about the party and room reservation
- What night(s) (or days) are the party(s) being hosted?
- Whose name is the reservation under, and what is the reservation confirmation number?
- What is the theme(s) for the party(s)?
- Who is the primary contact for your party, and what is his/her Email address?
Everything else regarding room preferences can be deduced from the information provided for your hotel reservation, but it doesn't hurt to communicate it directly to the maven. If the party has any special requests for room configuration, let the maven know, but it is unusual to guarantee special requests can be accomdated.
Information from the Party Maven
Groups who wish to hold parties are likely to have a lot of questions for the Party Maven, who should ensure that they are all addressed in the information that the convention makes available to party hosts.
- What space is available for open parties?
- What sq footage is it?
- Will groups be expected to share space?
- What is the corkage/forkage waiver?
- If ordering from menus, where can the menus be found?
- If menus, what is the ordering deadline?
- Will we be required to pay for bartenders?
- How do we book any of this space and make sure we're scheduled?
- How friendly is the hotel to parties, leading to the question of what limitations we have in terms of noise and such?
- Will the floor/floors be blocked properly so we can party without bothering people?
- May we put anything on the walls/what are the restrictions there?
- How much does the party space cost?
- On what dates is the party space available?
- Are there any limitations on how early a party can start, or how late it can finish?
- At what time each day can setup start?
- By what time each day do we have to have vacated the space?
- Are there any requirements to card people if we're serving alcohol?
- Can we serve alcohol at all?
- What floor are the parties on?
- How many elevators are there? Of what capacity?
- Are there any limits on how many people can be in each party room, or on the whole party floor(s)?
- Are there power/phones/wired Internet/WiFi available for us to use? Do they cost anything?
- What furniture is in the party space?
- Can we remove it/have it removed if we want to? What does it cost to have it removed?
- How do we get ice? Are there machines, do we buy it from the venue, bring it in ourselves?
- Is a cash bar an option? If so, then how would it work?
Public vs private
Most parties at a convention are set up to be open to anyone interested in showing up. Often notices and message boards are set up to publicize their existence. On the other hand, many parties are simply for a select group of friends or colleagues and not for the general convention population.
If a group is hosting a public party, the maven MUST know about it. Provide the details requested above.
If the party is private, the maven should know about it, if only for the reason of not accidentally publishing the information about it if 3rd-party sources tell the maven, but neglect to mention it.
Party Rules and Guidelines
The following is taken from a party notice from Loscon 32. It is not the only way a notice can be written, and the rules are unique to Loscon 32's arrangements that year. Nevertheless, they do provide a typical list of rules and guidelines to be considered.
Loscon 32 (November 2005)
Neither public nor private parties are covered by Loscon's insurance policy. If you are hosting a party, it is strongly recommended that you find out if your homeowner's policy or your host-group's insurance policy can be extended to cover your liability while hosting the party.
Loscon 32 will not stand between you and the LAX Marriot if any problems arise. Your party room is being rented from the Marriot, not from Loscon 32. Therefore, you need to keep in mind what is necessary to keep the hotel happy
- Weapons - Due to heightened security around the LAX area, weapons (even replica weapons) are a *really* bad idea. Even if you are keeping them in your room, it is likely that their presence will be reported to the police and you can be certain that they will respond with enthusiastic effort.
- Alcoholic beverages - The legal minimum drinking age in California is 21, and it is illegal to serve alcohol to a minor. You MUST check everyone's ID to ensure that they are old enough to be served alcohol before doing so. Civil law also generally holds a party host partially responsible for any liability of someone who is served alcohol, especially if they were already intoxicated before they were served. Use your best judgment to avoid problems, and prevent alcohol served in your room from being taken out into the hallway.
- Noise levels - The number 1 reason for parties to get shut down is excessive noise. If you notice that your party is getting too loud, you might want to close your door with the deadbolt keeping it from closing completely, just to keep the noise from bleeding out into the hallway.
- Theft and Damage - Moving furniture out of your room or "borrowing" furniture from other parts of the hotel may be interpreted by the hotel to be theft. Moving trash cans from the hallways into your rooms may also be considered theft. Don't do it. If you have to move furniture around, simply move it to other parts of your room (closet, bathroom, lean the bed against a wall, etc), and be sure to put everything back before housekeeping comes in the next day. Also, if you plan to use your bathtub as a soda cooler, line the bottom of the tub with something to prevent chipping or scratches. It's a simple measure to prevent having to pay the hotel for resurfacing the porcelain.
- Housekeeping - Tip them. The number 1 way to keep the hotel happy is to keep their housekeeping staff happy. Even if you clean your room spotless when your party is over, a cash tip is still a good idea. If you notice any dirty areas on the carpet when your party is over, an extra dollar or two on each spot makes a great stain remover [grin]. Also, if you bag your empty aluminum cans separately, housekeeping is usually eager to collect them from you. Just put those bags in front of the service elevator in the morning, and they will appreciate it.
- Safety devices - Sprinklers are NOT for hanging things... not even little paper things that can't possibly set them off. There is a $10,000 fine for interfering with safety devices in the hotel, even if they are not triggered, so just don't do it. Also, many hotel safety systems are heat-activated, which is why coffeemakers are placed in the bathrooms now, and the hotel does not allow cooking in the rooms.
- Ice - Bring your own ice. Raiding the hallway icemakers until they run dry is a sure-fire way to upset other hotel guests, and thereby upset the hotel. Be sure to add bags of ice to your supply order if you need it for your party.
- Hallway Trash receptacles - There will be a number of trash receptacles in the hallway of the Party Floor, and it's the Party Maven's duty to make sure that they are emptied regularly. Because of this, please do not serve any beverages in glass containers, because if they are thrown away in hallway receptacles, at least one of them is likely to break, cutting the trash bags open and making a mess. If you serve glass bottles to your party guests, please ask them not to leave the room with them; or better yet, you might want to add a little class to your party and pour bottled drinks into a cup for them.
- Flyers - Do not post anything on the walls of the hotel. Post flyers on the designated flyer boards only, not on mirrors, elevator doors, etc. Flyers that are posted in other areas will be taken down and discarded. The Loscon Newszine would love to hear about your party as soon as you can give them details. I will be giving them the information that I have compiled, but if you want to add anything, seek out the newsletter submission box (probably at the info desk) and drop one of your flyers into it as soon as possible.
- Other hotel guests - Although we have a lot of people staying at the hotel, we will not be the only ones there. Don't treat the hotel like it's your private playground, and always be considerate of other hotel guests. If they get upset, the hotel will get upset... that's very bad for you and for the convention.