The word “Gaming” means different things to different people. For some, it conjures a vision of casinos, roulette tables, flashing lights and giant jackpots. For some, a Friday night poker game with close friends over beverages and banter. But for some, in a smaller, more niche market, it means anything board game, collectible card game or video game related.

Brandon First was very excited to hear that this market is gaining steam and that people in this event space are creating more events for interested participants to be a part of. That is why, when we learned about the Westman Gaming Expo we reached out to one of its key creators, Mark Lund, to see just how he did it.

Brandon First (BF): Tell us a bit about your event. No one knows it better than you do!

Mark Lund (ML): Westman Gaming Expo is our attempt to merge all different aspects of gaming into one structured event, primarily presented in a tournament format. While there is more overlap than people think [between games, genres and players], it’s a good chance for people to see a lot of the different indoor, recreational options available.

BF: What made you choose Brandon, Manitoba as your event location?

ML: There’s a huge amount of local support available if you know where to look, and whom to ask, and our group knew that. It’s been key to our event coming out as strong as it’s looking to be.

BF: You created this event from the ground up. Prior to your idea this event did not exist. What made you want to create your own Gaming Expo?

ML: We’ve been to different events in Brandon, (PrairieCon), as well as a few in Winnipeg (Legioncon, Twin Eagles, BaseLAN) and a small group of us felt we could provide our favorite aspects of all these different events mixed together to create one awesome experience for attendees.

BF: What were the major phases or steps in creating your event?

ML: 1) Finding the right group of people who were willing to commit the time

2) Approaching key sponsors before proceeding with a booking

3) Finding a good weekend that wasn’t going to encroach upon other Brandon–area events and then booking the venue. We wanted a date that wouldn’t fall victim to bad weather by running too early in the year, and I think we found a sweet spot with the weekend we picked.

4) Recruiting additional people/volunteers as we grew the size of the event.

5) Getting additional sponsors; Particularly getting such a huge boost from [Title Sponsor] Westman Communications Group in terms of their generously offered support.

6) [Promoting] the event on Facebook and lining up the contacts necessary to get our posters out at physical locations in the city that have restrictions on what can be posted.

BF: How were we at Brandon First able to make your event planning run more smoothly or make your process easier?

ML: It’s impossible for start-up events to know what sorts of local support they can get without a bit of guidance, grants [such as the Event Hosting Grant through the City of Brandon Accommodation Tax Fund], so that’s been a huge help. Also, providing free [online] advertising for our event has been huge. It might seem easy to run an event and get out the people you’re aiming for, but to expand that and bring more people outside the original target demographic sometimes requires help from a more mainstream source.

BF: What did you find to be the biggest challenge in creating your own event?

ML: The behind the scenes work mostly. It’s hard for our core group to always be available to work on tasks for the event when balancing it with full time jobs and personal lives. Following up with each other during informal chat sessions has been key to letting some people keep others on schedule.

BF: On the other side of that coin, what have you found most rewarding about creating your own event?

ML: “If it was MY event, I’d do it like this….” Totally the chance to put our money where our mouths are, and we are all excited to see how we do. It’s easy to judge other people running events about their organizational skills, it’s another thing to do it yourself and see. The verdict is still out on how we’ll measure up to our own standards, but it’ll be a learning phase to help us for next year.

BF:  If you could give one piece of advice to organizers wanting to create their own event about their own passions, what would it be?

ML: A lot of it comes down to knowing the right people. If you don’t know the right people quite yet, start introducing yourself and build up a relationship with all the people and groups you had in mind for your event way in advance.

BF: Finally, what is the “big dream” for your event? Where do you see it going and what is the ultimate goal?

ML: We’re almost guaranteed to run this again next year, barring absolute disaster. We would love to even possibly do a solo LAN event in the other half of this year or next, if the video gaming end of this [year’s] event is received well.

To the best of the group’s knowledge this is the first major computer public LAN (local area network computer gaming) event Brandon has hosted. Westman Gaming intends to run the event again next year, and whether they dial back and perfect a modest event or go all out and bigger than ever remains to be seen based on this year’s success. So, if you’re a gamer, and interested in seeing this event take off, you can sign up to play at www.westmangaming.com, or at the door. Games featured will include Warhammer 40,000, Magic: The Gathering, Pathfinder, Bolt Action, video game competitions & more!

All the details on what to expect can be found here on their facebook page. The event runs April 7 & 8th, 2018 at the Keystone Centre.