Judge Academy Conferences FAQ
As conferences continue to ramp up, I’ve been getting a lot of questions and so I wanted to create this FAQ to help folks. I’ll continue to update this so if you have a question that’s not on here send it in to me at Matthew@judgeacademy.com
Also, I know that there are a lot to community building topics for judges beyond conferences, so I promise my next article will be on something else! But for now, let’s dive into the questions.
Q: What exactly is Judge Academy’s (JA) role in terms of conferences?
A: We at Judge Academy don’t run judge conferences – that is up to you, as a potential organizer, and you don’t need our approval to hold an unsponsored conference. What JA can offer is sponsorship. If your conference is sponsored by us, we will send out promo cards for you to distribute to your attendees. We have guidelines for what kind of conferences we will or won’t sponsor, and what we expect from the conferences we do sponsor. I am always happy to help organizers make sure they are meeting those guidelines, along with just helping you put together a great conference. But in the end, the final decisions are up to you!
Q: How do you evaluate a conference and if you want to sponsor that organizer’s conferences again in the future?
A: The best judges of how well a conference goes are the attendees, and so our primary means of evaluation is the feedback we get. Every time you fill out a conference feedback form after attending a conference, it helps us get a better idea of what went well and what could be improved. We also take into account how the organizer carried out what they intended, how well the promos were distributed, and other factors. The feedback we collect is for our own use in evaluating conferences and organizers. If you have feedback you want to share with the organizer or other presenters, please feel free to contact them directly.
Q: How do I apply for conference sponsorship? How early do I need to apply?
A: Applying is easy. Start by reading our About Conferences and Conference Policies documents. Once you are ready to go, just fill out our Conference Request Form to start the conversation about getting sponsored! It can take up to 10 business days for us to reply, so you should be sending in your requests at least 4 weeks in advance, with 6 weeks or more being preferable. Please also note that sponsorship is not guaranteed, and we may ask you to move your date or make other changes due to already accepted conferences in your area or other factors. A big part of my job is to help you put together great events, so feel free to contact me with any questions.
Q: How long does a conference have to be to get sponsorship?
A: The standard is at least four hours of educational time. That doesn’t have to only be presentations; having a lunch break where people break up into small groups to discuss relevant topics or listen to a panel discussion while they eat, holding games or contests that help people learn, anything like that can qualify. One of our goals is to make conferences as accessible as possible, so we are open to making adjustments or exceptions as needed, where four hours in a row wouldn’t be possible. That being said, our expectation is for four educational hours unless specifically discussed with myself or other JA staff.
Q: Can I charge money for my conference to help cover food/location/the cool thing I want to hand out, etc.
A: As a general rule we discourage charging money, but you are welcome to do so if you believe it is absolutely necessary. You can also keep the event free, but offer a low stress way for people to make donations if they wish. What you cannot do is tie the distribution of promos to a cost. Every person who attends your event and fulfills the attendance requirements you set gets promos. If you are having trouble finding a way to keep your event free of charge, I am happy to help you find a solution.
Similarly, if you are not handing out promos in person, you as the organizer are responsible for getting attendees their promos through standard shipping methods. You are welcome to offer higher levels of shipping such as faster or with tracking information and ask your attendees to pay for that, but all attendees must have the option to get their promos free of charge through standard postal methods.
Q: How should I communicate information about the event to my attendees?
A: All announcements or other relevant information should be posted on the Judge Academy page for your specific event. Using a Discord to facilitate further communication is great, but please remember that not all your attendees will use Discord.
Q: When should I announce my event on Judge Academy’s site and start taking applications?
A: If you are applying for sponsorship, we strongly recommend you not begin promoting the event until we have approved your application and your specific date. If you plan to hold a conference without sponsorship, or to announce yours before sponsorship has been approved, make sure to state clearly that attendees will not or may not receive promos on your event page.
Q: If my conference is digital, do I need to limit who can attend by region?
A: Our focus is on regional and local events, and there are a couple of reasons for that. First, one of the best parts of a conference is the ability for judges to meet and build connections with each other. Judging is an international community, but since most judges will work primarily with other judges in their area, we want to focus on fostering those connections. Secondly, we’ve now reached a point where we have organizers stepping forward in every region to cover a wide range of topics, with the perspective and context that is most relevant to that area. Many times, when I get a proposal to do a global conference on a particular topic, we are already working with organizers to create events in their area on the same topic. Long story short, while we are open to conferences that are open to all or most regions, unless there is a very strong case for why this particular topic needs to have such a broad audience, our preference will be to sponsor conferences that are open to a particular region, or at most, a few neighboring ones.
Q: Can I hold a hybrid (physical and digital) conference?
A: We have had a few experiments with hybrid conferences, with varied success. Given the advantages of physical conferences and the fact that not everyone will be able to attend, we are open to people trying out different ways of making this work, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Attendees will receive promos according to how they participate- 4 card packs for those who attend physically, and 2 card packs for digital attendees. As the organizer, you will be responsible for tracking both kinds of attendance and sending out promos to those who take part digitally. You will also need to ensure that digital attendees are able to participate by having someone monitor the online chat and relay digital attendees’ questions and comments to the presenter.
Q: Can presenters cover games other than Magic that judges may be involved in running?
A: There are a number of topics and issues that MTG judges deal with that also come up in other games, and we welcome the chance for judges to improve their own skill and understanding by hearing different perspectives. A presentation that covers a general topic such as how to deal with children at your event using examples from both Magic and other games would be welcome. But all content should be relevant to Magic judges, so a presentation on the rules of a different game would not qualify as the kind of educational content we expect from a Magic conference we sponsor. You are welcome to have a presentation that focuses on a different game before or after the main part of the conference, or to have one that runs concurrently with MTG content, but your attendees should have the option to spend the entire conference in Magic-focused presentations.
Similarly, judges from other game communities are welcome to attend your conference, but are still subject to the same guidelines about eligibility for promos as for any other conference.
Q: Can I include a panel discussion as part of my conference? If so, do the panelists count as presenters?
A: Panel discussions can be a wonderful part of a conference, and a great way to take advantage of having people together in the same place, whether in person or online. If you want your panelists to be treated as presenters, just run your idea by me beforehand.
Q: Can I run a mock tournament? If I do, who can I list as a presenter?
A: Mock tournaments make for great conferences! If you have some judges who are there primarily to mentor and help others learn from the experience, those are good folks to consider as presenters, though it should likely not be more than 4-8 people in that role, depending on circumstances. Keep an eye out for our Mock Tournament in a Box resource kit, coming later this year.
Q: Can I offer a promo pack to a local game store (LGS) as thanks for hosting our conference?
A: Absolutely! Holding conferences at game stores is a great way to strengthen ties between judges and stores, and we are happy to support that with our sponsorship.
Q: When will I get my foils?
A: We are still catching up from the delays caused by receiving the Q1 promos so late, and are getting them out the door as fast as we can. You will get a notification email with tracking shortly after the cards for your specific event have been mailed out, either by us or by the local coordinator for your area.
Q: A person claims to have attended my conference but I do not believe they were present or participated. (Example – a person was signed into the conference zoom, but was unresponsive and did not interact with the conference in any way. Do I have to give them promos?
A: As the event organizer, you have final say on what constitutes attendance for your particular event, and who has or hasn’t met those requirements. It is your responsibility to make clear to your attendees what those requirements are.
Q: One of my presenters couldn’t make it, but did a lot of work preparing their presentation. Can I still give them promos?
A: Presenter promos are specifically given to those who present at your conference. We know that a lot of time and effort goes into creating a presentation, but we don’t change promo support depending on if this presentation was created specifically for this conference, or has been given a number of times before.
Q: I’ve distributed all of my promos but I have some extras left over. What do I do with them?
A: Once all your promos are distributed, you should send any extras back to us. If you are in the US they should go directly to Judge Academy, for other parts of the world they should go to your distribution hub. You will get that information when you receive your promos, or feel free to contact me with any questions.