PAX West 2019

 DigiPen Student Booth

Genre: PAX West Booth
Project Role: Booth Designer, Producer
Platform: Trade Show Booth
What is it?

Every year, DigiPen Institute of Technology sends two booths to Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) West, one dedicated to our Outreach Department, and the other booth is used to show the public what DigiPen students spend their days doing. The DigiPen Student Booth is located in the Annex of the Seattle Convention Center, and sees hundreds of guests every year.

My Role

For PAX West 2019, I was hired by the faculty member who helps make sure we can send a booth to PAX to take on the role of Producer. My duties included organizing the core crew of 8, who help manage another 10, who help us manage and organize the 50+ students showing their games at PAX West. As Producer, I also took on the role of creating a "master spreadsheet" that producers can use in future years to organize the event more efficiently.

As the event came closer, I took on the role of Booth Designer, with the clear goal of making the DigiPen Student Booth as approachable and enjoyable as possible. 

Booth Layout

The layout of the booth is designed to be as comfortable and homey for guests as possible. In previous years, the booth went through several iterations to try to find the best layout possible. As the designer for the booth in 2018, I improved the design to feel more homey and less cramped than it had been in previous years. 

The layout involved a central area devoted to multiplayer games, with the outer edges of the booth devoted to single player games in arcade cabinets. 

My first step in designing the layout for this booth was to identify the problems with the design. With previous years, the main complaints about the DigiPen Student Booth was that it was often a bit cramped, and guests didn't get a chance to see all of the games during one visit, and had to make several trips to see everything, which could be incredibly irritating according to guests. In 2018, the only complaint we heard was that it was difficult for the teams showing their games to address guests at both cabinets because of how everything was set up.

To correct this, I switched where the cabinet windows were, so that the students showing their games now stand between the cabinets their games are shown in. 

Between this simple change, and my changes last year, the booth's atmosphere was drastically improved, the students had an easier time showing off their games, and many guests stayed for a long time, while others visited to take a well earned rest. 

Production

In the time leading up to PAX10, we had to plan and organize how the event would be laid out on-site. To that end, I planned and led the meetings up to the private event for the purpose of setup and organization. As a part of setting up the event, I led the installation and software check process on all ~100 computers that needed software installed on them. We installed the games being played by the judges, as well as the software and drivers needed to run the games and play them.

 

Once the event began, I oversaw the event proceedings to ensure all needs were met of both the judges and the event staff and resolved any potential issues. Thankfully, there were no such issues.

 

Once PAX10 concluded, I led the event tear down and restoration of the space so it looked like the event never took place at all. 

 

At this point, it was time to start getting ready for PAX West, even though it was three months away. The first step for planning this massive undertaking was to organize a time when all DigiPen faculty and staff involved with the process could meet with the PAX Core Crew that had been hired by the Event Director. Once a time was set that all twelve people could meet, I crafted an intelligent spreadsheet for organizing and distributing all necessary information to all members of the team. 

 

For the remainder of the three months, I focused my time and energy on planning and leading the weekly leads meetings, which subsequently increased the productivity of the full team meetings that I planned and led afterward. As they came up, I mediated various interpersonal issues on the team, as well as between the game teams whose games were being shown at the event and the PAX Core Crew. I also proofread and monitored all incoming and outgoing correspondence between the PAX Core Crew and the game teams. In addition to all of that, I also assisted both the Outreach and the Marketing and Communications Departments in managing our theme, color schemes, and budget. 

 

Once the event was a month out, I led the interviewing and hiring process to hire an additional ten students to help manage the booth for the event itself as Event Staff. To prepare for the new hires being added to the team, I wrote training documents for every role on the PAX Core Crew, as well as the Event Staff team, detailing their roles, responsibilities, and any other information they could possibly need. The documents, in addition to providing valuable information to the Event Staff, work to future-proof the event, so that future years have less downtime figuring out their roles and already have a document detailing their responsibilities. I also worked to resolve any technical difficulties our machines for the event had and wrote a document for future years to streamline the process of getting the machines working properly. 

 

At the event itself, I oversaw the loading and unloading of the truck at DigiPen as well as on-site. I led the setup while I took detailed documentation photos to ensure the process could be as streamlined as possible for future years. Once the booth was set up, I designed the layout and feel (as discussed above). On Saturday and Sunday nights, I oversaw the game tournaments for our guests, where they played some of our student games.

 

Throughout the course of the event, I performed administrative duties for the booth, including overseeing all PAX Crew and game team members, as well as all of the guests in the booth, to mitigate any potential issues from both the PR side and the HR side. As part of that, I was the point of contact for any and all issues leading up to and during the event, as well as overseeing two raffles a day, all four days of the event. To help future years, I also fostered lasting professional partnerships for the school with multiple large companies to secure support for future years. 

 

After the event was done, I oversaw the tear down process of the booth, and took more documentation photos. Once the booth was deconstructed, I led the loading and unloading of the truck on-site, and back at DigiPen. After about a week (to give some breathing room for the team), I planned and led a post-mortem for the event, to see what the team thought went well, and what could have gone better.

What went right?

The booth was extremely popular, and we were told many times throughout the event by guests that they loved visiting our booth. In addition, I was able to secure professional partnerships for the school with large companies, not just for PAX, but extending beyond, as well. The event ran smoothly, and there were no problems that could not be easily and quickly resolved. We ran game tournaments, and they were a huge hit with our guests.

What went wrong?

The planning and execution of PAX10 was a bit jagged, and didn't feel like it flowed as well as it could have, despite the judges saying they thoroughly enjoyed it. In addition, it felt like the planning for PAX West was a bit bogged down by some tasks not being done by their due dates, which resulted in others having to pick up the slack. However, the problem was resolved through a reassignment of duties, quickly solving the issue.

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© 2019 by David Robson.

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Contact

Redmond, WA

david@dsrobson.com

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