Chasercon May Be Disappearing--Thank the Hills for their service

B. Dean Berry

Moderator
May 25, 2014
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Nah, can't let it die. I know people who know people who run successful conventions all the time. Let's save it.
 

Lisa Monk

Enthusiast
Feb 23, 2017
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I don't see Kathy Samaras listed. Sorry, I can't wrap my head around that. I'm thankful to have gone in 2014. I can't in good conscious donate to a 20 year run when the Samaras Family is not included in that. R.I.H TWISTEX

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Jul 16, 2013
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Joplin, MO
I don't see Kathy Samaras listed. Sorry, I can't wrap my head around that. I'm thankful to have gone in 2014. I can't in good conscious donate to a 20 year run when the Samaras Family is not included in that. R.I.H TWISTEX

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Wait, what? I think you're confused... Roger Hill is the ONLY reason we have Chasercon, he started it and we are fortunate enough that Tim was a part of Chasercon for so many years. I'm not sure what you mean when you say the Samaras family is not included?
 

Mark Blue

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Feb 19, 2007
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Roger and Tim used to meet yearly in the 90s, often times in Tim’s basement where they’d have pizza and beer while viewing each other’s tornado footage from the previous year. It was a joint effort once it grew to a size where conference rooms were necessary to accommodate everyone. I believe Tim and Roger split the cost and you could always find Kathy Samaras at the signin table greeting arrivals and giving them their name tags and t-shirts if purchased. Since Tim’s passing I believe the financial strain has fallen directly on Roger and Caryn, thus the need for donations to make up the shortfall.
 

Bill Hark

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Jan 13, 2004
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Roger and Caryn have carried on the ChaserCon tradition on their own and have shouldered the financial risk along the the multiple hours organizing this fun and education event. I really appreciate all their effort in continuing this tradition especially since they have incurred financial losses. Hopefully, something will be worked out for 2019.
 
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I was never able to attend this event due to conflicting work and personal events on the same dates every year. Tim invited me several times and a part of me regrets not making it. I never heard anything but great reviews and I know how time consuming it is to organize and run such an event. Maybe it could be a once every 2-3 year event?
 

Mark Blue

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It seems they’d break even or possibly come out ahead if it weren’t for the last minute goobers that bail. If I sign up for a convention I intend to be there, but it’s much easier for me since I live in the Metro area and a lot of attendees are from out of town. All we need are a few more deep pocket chasers who are willing to donate to reach the goal. Where are they when you need them most?!
 
Chasercon is a great event. I hope it can keep going and I think there is a good chance to keep it going, though likely rotating among multiple cities and hopefully with ways to get Roger and Caryn some help and protect them, or any individual for that matter, from the financial risks. Roger has posted an update and will likely be posting additional ones at the Chasercon Website, linked below.

http://chasercon.com/
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Are there some business model fixes that can be tried in addition to a crowdfunding campaign? Higher prices, non-refundable tickets, larger corporate sponsors, cheaper venues, “conference only” pricing for locals that don’t need the onsite meals, etc.? The break even point is a function of both pricing and volume; perhaps the volume would be higher if it wasn’t held on the weekend closest to Valentine’s Day every year? Not trying to be critical, I guess I should assume the Hills have looked at all of this already, but didn’t see it mentioned in this thread so just wondering about it, some of you are closer to the situation than I am...
 

Dan Robinson

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Jan 14, 2011
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For those who may have missed it, here is Roger's short talk on the Chasercon issue (jump to 2:11:23):

From what I can gather, the Hills have looked at many different options over the years and the current setup has been the most economical.

One thing that I keep thinking about is how there are several storm conferences now. There is Indiana Chasercon. Tessa. The AMS Severe Local Storms conference. The Minnesota Severe Storms conference. All these are competing for attendees, and surely some of them are directly causing attendance drops for similar events. I'm wondering if those events could possibly be combined.

The factors and concerns being raised that affect attendance and viability are all valid. Attending the convention out-of-area costs $1,000 and up when flights, hotel and food are considered. This is anywhere from a quarter to half of a season's chasing budget for a week or two on the Plains. For lower-income or frugal chasers, Chasercon could easily wipe out much of a season's chase funds. For me, my budget supports 3 multi-day trips to the Plains each season. Chasercon would take up one of those trips.

The attendee expense is going to be the roughly the same no matter where the convention is held. Moving the convention to another city, as Roger points out, can increase the overall cost (the OKC venue was more expensive). I went to the OKC one, and it did not seem like attendance was significantly greater if at all for being right in the center of chaser country. Even with OKC, I still had to take a day off of work to make the drive on Friday. I still had to pay for 3 nights in a hotel. The overall cost was probably half of Denver for me, but that is still a big expense.

The one benefit to moving the convention around might be the novelty and publicity value for each city hosting it. Sort of like the All-Star game or Winter Classic does.

One thing is for sure, I think more people need to be involved to carry the burden of organizing and financing the event. I would certainly donate something to keep the convention going, even if I can't attend it.
 
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B. Dean Berry

Moderator
May 25, 2014
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The larger cons sometimes gain buy-in from the local municipalities, and for good reason. Think about what happens when a couple hundred people come in from out of town. They're buying hotel rooms, food, fuel, sometimes clothing, equipment, and trinkets and such. Even down to something as benign and forgettable as local usage taxes that municipalities charge cell phone companies for calls placed on local cell sites. All that money is taxable, and is paid to the locals. Picking a smaller town and emphasizing the boost in the local economy to the local authorities might provide some incentive for buy-in from them.

Also, definitely get the cash up-front. Non-refundable. If people don't show, they don't show, but no reason to eat that cost. Also, putting a livestream of the addresses online, not on youtube, but behind a paywall, will garner money from other chasers who can't make it. Then put the full addresses up on youtube a week or so later, not immediately.

From the standpoint of someone who wants to go to the con next year, I have to convey my experience this year. I couldn't go. I watched the presentations live, for free. I caught other presentations within a day or two on youtube, for free. Didn't cost a penny. This should be remedied, as it's a hole that money is coming out of, that can be plugged.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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,

One thing is for sure, I think more people need to be involved to carry the burden of organizing and financing the event. I would certainly donate something to keep the convention going, even if I can't attend it.

IDK, I think the free market has to take its course. The people that want to attend need to pay prices high enough that the conference at least breaks even. It shouldn’t have to be subsidized by the Hills or anyone else. If the supply and demand relationship isn’t there, so be it.

I wish I understood more about the economics of the conference and why it isn’t at least breaking even. Attendees already pay for their own rooms; they are at discounted rates but I assume that is a volume discount and doesn’t have to be subsidized by the conference. There’s the use of the banquet room; how much could that possibly be? Is it just the meals?? How could the conference fee not be covering that? The speakers aren’t being paid speaker fees, are they?


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B. Dean Berry

Moderator
May 25, 2014
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If it's anything like your usual cons, the special room rates are due to organizers buying blocs of rooms. Of course, use of banquet and conference facilities definitely cost money.

I would expect that if a speaker is traveling to deliver an address at a con, they are paid a speaking fee. That's the norm.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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If it's anything like your usual cons, the special room rates are due to organizers buying blocs of rooms. Of course, use of banquet and conference facilities definitely cost money.

I would expect that if a speaker is traveling to deliver an address at a con, they are paid a speaking fee. That's the norm.

If that’s true about the speakers then that’s the group that should be looked to as contributors to the conference - i.e., they should be asked to contribute their time for speaking and get reimbursed just for their travel expenses. I have been part of a lot of business conferences where, unless it’s a well-known professional speaker, most panelists and presenters do it for free because it is a marketing tool for them to show expertise and build imminence with their target market/audience. I would think past speakers like Greg Forbes, Mike Bettes, etc. would be able to speak for free as a form of marketing for TWC. Some of the scientific researchers like Karen Kosiba, especially those that work for governmental agencies, should offer to speak for free as a public service to advance the science. Just like they might speak at schools, for example. Don’t get me wrong, maybe they already are speaking for free, I am just responding to the assumption that they are being paid a fee.


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B. Dean Berry

Moderator
May 25, 2014
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Jeff Duda said:
Outside of having their conference fee waived, speaking fees are generally zero for meteorology conference invited speakers.
Yeesh. Meteorology needs a better agent.
 

Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
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Oct 7, 2008
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Why? Meteorologists don't need to be rich. Science isn't an industry meant to create monetary wealth. It's about mining knowledge. Research scientists get paid mostly through research grants (called "soft" funding). That includes university faculty, who basically don't get paid if they don't secure grant money constantly. Operational forecasters get paid to forecast. Private sector meteorologists get paid to do whatever they can do to get people to give them money, but private sector business typically do not do much theoretical or R2O research and thus are not typically highly requested at conferences. There are some exceptions, such as RT, James Spann, and other prominent broadcasters. Those folks may ask for a speaking fee, but I suspect most of them do not - their love of the meteorology itself and the chance to preach to a crowd is probably enough reward.

The point is that, other than those few named exceptions, no one who would ever speak at a meteorology conference is dependent on speaking fees to get paid. In fact, most of those who give presentations (such as myself) pay full conference attendance fees and abstract submission fees.
 

B. Dean Berry

Moderator
May 25, 2014
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From a business standpoint, that is insane. I hear you on the ideology of science, but consider the audience. This is an audience that spends tons of money on services, gadgets, camera gear, computers, cars, the works. There is a large-scale opportunity to make money here. Silver Lining Tours and the like, they charge a fee for what they do. There are private mets that service large-scale clients. With some notable exceptions, including the late Tim Samaras who died conducting research, how many chasers are actually conducting research vs. trying to get footage for sales, or trying to get footage and photos for personal validation, or just doing it to do it?

While the mets may be in that mode of thinking, I would bet that most attendees are not. The simple fact that CC2017 had several prominent chase media brokers and an auto glass company as sponsors points to the obvious commercial nature of this beast.

The older I get, the more I realize that Dr. Jonas Miller wasn't actually a villain.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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I agree with Jeff that for most speakers, preaching to the crowd is or should be its own reward. As I mentioned in my earlier post, that’s the way it is even in business, unless you are among the highest profile executives or somebody like a sports team owner or something (or a professional motivational speaker): we wanted speaking opportunities just because it helped us raise our own personal “brands” in the marketplace. That’s something any meteorologist should be concerned about for his or her career, whatever sector he or she participates in.

Dean makes a great point about the money chasers spend on other stuff. And there are chasers who have made lifestyle choices, purposely choosing lower paying jobs so that they can have the flexibility to chase when they want to. It is for these reasons that IMHO I think the free market should determine the fate of the conference. Charge enough to make it profitable, and if there isn’t enough demand at that price then maybe it has to be every two years instead of annual, or merge with another conference (as others mentioned, maybe there are just too many severe weather conferences now?) or, as sad as it might be, maybe it has to come to an end. But I don’t think it should have to be subsidized by donations.
 
Regardless of the forum it takes, I would like to see a forum of some sort, whether it be Chaser Con or another more local one, where storm hunters and storm lovers could meet and get to know one another. I've been to TESSA several times, and of course the talks are interesting. Social time afterwards have consisted of meeting at a restaurant and sitting at very large tables.I've never been to Chaser Con yet was planning to go next February. It would be great to see a meeting that provides good quality social time, including breaking into discussion/sharing groups based on specific themes. For instance, Your most scary moments, Chasing simply for awe and wonder, cameras and equipment, etc. Speeches and training/education are great yet for me a social networking and schmoozing time would truly be awesome. When we sit at large tables after a meeting, it's very difficult to get to know anyone besides our immediate neighbors, and in a noisy environment. I would enjoy leading a group sharing myself discussing chasing for awe and wonder
 
Sep 29, 2011
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What Stephen described above is what Chasercon was before it became Chasercon; just people getting together in a room and discussing various topics organically. It was much more intimate and accessible. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the very last "private" version of Chasercon at Tim's home in January of 2001, and it was hands-down a way better experience than any NSCC I've attended.

The reality is, the more people you introduce to something and the bigger it becomes, the harder it is to sustain, both financially and QC. It doesn't surprise me that this thing is on the verge of collapse; everything that once was in the world of chasing is being systematically erased, especially on the social level. We're struggling to get people in the comfort of their own homes to sit down and participate in event-specific chats geared towards chases they personally experienced. I have to wonder if the underlying issue with all of these things is simply waning interest.