Organizing a Protospiel event is both rewarding and challenging, but not nearly as challenging as running a regular board game convention.
Every Protospiel is different. Generally speaking you'll charge $50 for a full weekend badge for a designer and $10 for a full weekend badge for a play tester. These will be your primary sources of revenue.
Your venue (usually a hotel) cost will be your largest expense by far. Venue costs will vary from location to location. For your first year plan for around 50 attendees. A space for this many attendees will likely cost between $1,000 and $2,000. So assuming it costs you $2,000 and you only sell designer badges, you'll need to sell 40 badges just to break even.
Long before you announce your event, you need to find a venue. Most likely this will be a hotel or convention center. If you live in a big enough city, you'll have a local convention and visitors bureau that can help you find a venue. However, it's just as easy usually to pull up Google Maps and search for "Convention Space in Your City". Other search terms include "Event Space" and "Meeting Space". Then just start contacting them.
Don't mess around with venues that take more than 2 business days to get back to you. They will just cause you headaches later. Likewise, you usually don't want to go with the really cheap or really expensive places. Also avoid hotels that require you to be on the hook for a reserved hotel room block, or that require a huge amount of catering.
When talking to a hotel it may be useful to describe this as a "meeting" rather than a party or convention. So that they understand you won't be needing food.
Most hotels will not have a default table setup that will work for a game convention. You'll need to get specific with them. What you are looking for are 30 inch by 6 foot tables with 2 chairs on each side.
If you want, you can include a couple of 8 rounds, but those aren't as convenient, and won't get used as much. Plus 8 rounds take up a lot more space.
Setting up a registration system can be both complicated and expensive. Luckily Protospiel has a friend in this regard called Tabletop.Events. Tabletop.Events will handle registration, build you a web site, manage your mailing list, and print your badges and has very reasonable pricing.
Don't initially include snacks or beverages other than water. If you get enough attendance to cover your basic costs, then start adding things like coffee, tea, hot chocolate, soda, pretzels, chips, fruit, etc.
Don't ever include meals. We've done surveys on this, and people's reactions are all over the board. Some of it comes from not wanting extra expenses attached to the badge. Some of it comes from people having religious or allergy related dietary restrictions.
It will be very hard finding sponsors your first year unless you are well connected to your community. That said, here are the types of people you should reach out to:
Though you don't need to have publishers attend a Protospiel, one of the draws for game designers is to get some feedback from publishers. Unless you are well connected, you likely will not get a publisher to travel to your Protospiel. Instead, look for game publishers in your local region.
Generally speaking Protospiels are a low key affair. From various polling and trials over the years we've found that you don't want to have anything distract from the play testing. Therefore you don't want to offer seminars or a schedule. If you do want to add those things, then add them as a special day or half day before the actual Protospiel event begins. Therefore your schedule will be as simple as this:
|Day / Time||Event|
|Friday 9am||Registration Desk Opens|
|Friday 9am||Play Testing Begins|
|Friday 6pm||Registration Desk Closes|
|Friday 11:59pm||Play Testing Ends|
|Saturday 9am||Registration Desk Opens|
|Saturday 9am||Play Testing Begins|
|Saturday 6pm||Registration Desk Closes|
|Saturday 11:59pm||Play Testing Ends|
|Sunday 9am||Registration Desk Opens|
|Sunday 9am||Play Testing Begins|
|Sunday Noon||Registration Desk Closes|
|Sunday 4pm||Play Testing Ends|
Generally speaking, you don't need any match making or scheduling. People will walk around and sit down at a game they want to play. Many Protospiels will provide signs to allow game designers to let play testers know that they are looking for players. You don't need to go this fancy, but here's an example: