Congress of Gamers conventions
Eric's actual photo!
Open gaming has been part of every con I've ever attended. The easy way to manage this is to just provide some table space for it and let attendees fend for themselves. This works fine when the attendees mostly know each other, but I think con directors can do more to provide a better open gaming experience at larger cons.
For larger cons, here are some suggestions to help players get seated.
1. Provide access to a Games Library with plenty of popular and easy-entry titles. Splendor, Ticket to Ride, and Settlers of Catan are typical titles.
2. Get volunteers to demo tournament games, especially new titles, at fixed times and locations.
3. Provide simple signage, such as that used at WBC, to indicate tables looking for players, teachers, or learners. A cardstock tent is OK, a triangular prism tower (corrugated plastic sheet material cut into three rectangles and taped together) is better. Here are examples for GCOM's Winter Game Fest. http://emsps.com/wgf/opengaming/
4. A Scheduled Open Gaming (SOG) system is more work, and I've never seen it work as well as I'd like, but it's an area I'm thinking about and working on. Here is what WBC is doing (a fairly formal, vetted process): http://www.boardgamers.org/wbc14/sopengaming.htm
I'm using a Google Docs spreadsheet for the Congress of Gamers SOG. Every visitor has full read-write access. I'll change it to read-only with select editors and email requests for others if there is misbehavior, but there's been no serious issue after three conventions. All visitors can now view and edit the up-to-the-minute SOG schedule even during the con. Here's the link to the spreadsheet:
Note that I discovered the hard way that requests for editing rights are more likely to be sent to the owner's GMail account, than to an email address you place in the spreadsheet instructions. So do check your GMail account daily for edit requests if you offer that option.
I'm also using an optional Geeklist discussion with links to spreadsheet entries. Your SOG volunteer leader will create a geeklist and add entries for each posting, since posters may not be handy with BGG use. BGG veterans could create their own entries and links.
Just set up a con using an batch of pre-scheduled open gaming events optimized for maximum play time. I used the tourney schedule from one con (Congress of Gamers) for scheduled open gaming in GCOM's Winter Game Fest. Check it out on: http://emsps.com/wgf/scheduledgames/directorspicks.htm