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Expert Advice: Veterans Alex Coal and Lilly Bell offer tips for interacting with fans, staying upbeat during during AVN and X3 conventions

A-list stars tell PornCrush that having a successful booth is all about attitude, mindset

By Austin King / Editor

Jan 19, 2024

When you’re at a porn convention and notice a long line of fans waiting to talk to an adult model, it’s safe to assume two things.

  1. She’s a dynamic on-screen performer.
  2. She’s really good with her fans.

Lilly Bell and Alex Coal certainly fit both descriptions.

Along with turning out hundreds of sizzling scenes in the 2020s, Bell and Coal have blossomed into two of the industry’s best when it comes to engaging with guests at adult expos. Whether it’s via a few playful selfies, an autograph and a hug, or a meaningful conversation, Bell and Coal do everything they can to ensure convention attendees have a good experience when they visit their booths.

They’ve certainly had plenty of practice.

Coal and Bell attend all four Exxxotica events yearly and sign at X3 and AVN. The latter two conventions are this month, with X3 taking place Friday and Saturday at the Hollywood Palladium before AVN’s Adult Entertainment Expo kicks off next week at Resorts World in Las Vegas.

PornCrush caught up with Bell and Coal on Tuesday to get some “pro tips” on signing at conventions and interacting with fans.

What’s the key to maintaining positive, upbeat energy during a taxing week of signings and appearances?

ALEX COAL: If you have a fan who is rude during a conversation, take a break to gather yourself. You don’t want to take it out on the next person because it’s not their fault. I would go into every interaction thinking, “This is a fan of mine who paid to talk to me today. Even if they don’t buy anything and they’re there to say hello, that should be appreciated, because they paid just to meet you! Once you add up travel, tickets to the event, rental cars or Ubers, hotel stay, gifts for stars, and cash for what they want to buy, the total can be higher than you might guess. Keeping perspective on how expensive events like this can be for fans is very important.

LILLY BELL: Overall, I think a lot of fans don’t realize that tipping is a “a thing.” Especially at AVN. At Exxxotica, people know to tip. At AVN, it’s not as expected as much. I quickly realized that as a porn person, you’re there to be seen, and you’re not there to make money. Or at least not very much. And that’s OK. If you change your mindset on that and realize that at AVN, you’re probably only going to break even, you’ll be fine. This year, I’m going to focus on not being stressed, doing what’s best for me, and having a great time. A lot of fans have become my friends, in a way. I’ve had dinner with them for free. With a few, I’ve become accessible in a way that has broken those barriers between them and a porn actress.

With so many parties and events each night after the expo, what are some things to remember in terms of rest and eating and keeping your body fresh?

ALEX COAL: Personally, I’m kind of boring. I usually try not to drink until the last night, because it lowers your immune system and makes you tired for the next day. So I stick to weed at night before bed. And I drink lots of water and make sure I’m eating healthy food and not just what’s available readily. I like to start the day with either Mediterranean food, Indian food, or an acai bowl.

I like to snag a Medicine Ball Tea from Starbucks if i don't have time to make my own hot lemonade with honey in the morning. It really soothes your throat when you're talking all day. Rice and bananas are good snacks because they don’t make you bloat. We all want to feel comfortable & sexy out there and what you put into your body will impact that more than anything else.

If you're drinking energy drinks to stay peppy, remember they won't really work for you if you're dehydrated. At night before bed and in the morning before the show I like to drink echinacea tea with elderberry, lemon juice, & honey. It's a great immune system boost. I try to go to bed by midnight, and no later than 2 a.m. if I can help it. 

Make sure that there will be plenty of water, hand sanitizer and/or wipes at your table. If not, you can bring everything yourself. Cleaning your hands before eating or between meeting people always feels good. Bring a backpack style purse or fanny pack to store your valuables. Stay aware of your surroundings & I'd recommend keeping your purse/fanny pack on your body or attached to your chair or table at the booth. Phones go missing a lot at expos & events. Everyone is having fun, meeting people, excited, & things get misplaced or picked up. You could put your phone on the table and turn your back to talk to someone, and all of a sudden it’ll be gone. I would personally recommend not bringing your main phone to the floor if you don’t have to.

LILLY BELL: Going to big parties and staying out all night and getting super-wasted makes things tough. I always try to get plenty of sleep after a long convention day. That way you’re refreshed the next day. I’m not saying I don’t go out. The key thing is not staying out until 4 am. When you go out, if you see it getting a little past 1 a.m., it’s probably best to leave. But a lot of it depends on what time I’m signing the next day. If I don’t start til 4 p.m., I could stay out until 4 a.m., because I could sleep until 1 the next afternoon. But if I’m signing at 11 a.m., I’m not going to stay up until 4. I need two hours to get ready and then a 30-minute buffer for anything else that comes up.

Also, I tend to lose my voice at conventions so I try not to project my voice when I don’t have to. I also try to stay hydrated the whole time. When I get to the hotel, I’ll get a six-pack of big Evian waters so I can always stay strapped. I also drink a lot of Emergen C. It’s also important to not over-Emergen-C yourself, because you’ll be going to the bathroom all day. Taking your vitamins is important.

Staying clean is vital. I keep a bottle of hand-sanitizer on my table and sanitize my hands after every single person I touch. A lot of people use Purell. I got this small little Lysol anti-bacterial spray that I use. I want to get all the germs off. You’re touching fans and different types of people all day. It’s easy to get very sick at conventions. I’m pretty sure I got COVID at AVN back in 2020, although we didn’t know about COVID at that point.

The other thing is that you have to eat. You have to fuel your body. I love when I get a good meal in before a convention. There have been so many times when I don’t eat. For me, it’s hard to eat as well when I’m not in my home, especially if I’m traveling.  So sometimes I feel like I’m force-feeding myself. But I remind myself that I need to eat, because if I don’t, I’m going to get cranky and that’s not good. I try to eat something lighter; a sandwich or a salad, something with protein. Something that’s super heavy and not going to make you bloat. Then again, there have been times when I’ve been hungry on the convention floor and all they have are hot dogs. You do what you’ve gotta do.

How do you handle the shy, insecure fan who is really nervous to meet you?

ALEX COAL: Just be nice. Say hello. “Hey it’s good to see you. Thanks for coming to see me.” Ask them if they want to talk to you about anything. Ask them if they’ve seen your work. Ask them if they have any questions. I’ve been doing it so long, I can usually tell what they want to talk about. If a conversation is running a bit too long and I feel like I need to end it so the next person in line can come up, I usually say, “Hey, it’s been so great talking to you, but I want to make sure other people can come talk to me, too.” Even if you don’t have a line, if people see someone talking to you, that might make them too nervous to approach you. Sometimes people apologize but I just let them know, “Nothing to feel sorry about! Feel free to circle back around and come see me again later.”

LILLY BELL: That dynamic is so interesting to me, because I think I’m such a normal person, but then I remember they don’t look at me like that. I’ll grab their hands and you can see they’re freaking out. You can almost feel their heartbeat. You can feel them shaking when you grab their hands. One time I did the “lap-dance photo,” where I was straddling a guy. I put my hand on his chest and said, “It’s OK, you don’t need to be nervous.” I’ll also share with them that, at my first Exxxotica and my first AVN, I was so nervous. I remember freaking out and being a fan girl and going in there and saying, “Oh my God, I’ve masturbated to you and you and you.” It’s overwhelming. They’re right in front of you. I usually share that experience with them so they understand that I’ve been there, too.

A lot of the guys may not know me yet. So I usually ask, “Do you watch me? Do you know my movies?” Then I’ll say something like, “Well now you’ve got some homework to do.” But if they’re actually fans of me, I’ll ask what their favorite scenes are and what they like to watch. I’ll play off of that. I’m a talker, so it’s easy for me to blab your ear off. Give me two sentences and I’ll take that and run with it.

What are your expectations when it comes to tipping?

ALEX COAL: I charge $5 for selfie pictures. I feel like when you do free pictures, the guys get a little more handsy for some reason. But if you at least charge $5, it cuts out most of the disrespectful guys, because they don’t want to give you $5. I usually charge $40 for three dirty pictures together. For videos, where I'm dancing on them & I put their hands certain places, it’s $60. That’s just me. If you're unsure of what to price your stuff for, a good idea is to ask the people around you what they’re charging. This can also prevent undercutting or over-charging each other. 

If you don’t like those prices feel free to have your own. You don’t have to price match, but asking around your booth will at least give you a general consensus. I charge $10 to $20 for signed 8x10 pictures (depending on the print quality).  I charge $20 to $50 for DVDs depending on how hard they are to get & my wholesale cost per dvd.

As far as charging based on how new you are to the industry, I think everyone, whether they’re a new performer or a veteran, should charge about the same. I don't see any reason newer performers should charge less!  Unless people are just passing on what you're offering. At that point it’s like any other business. Supply and demand. If there’s no demand, you reevaluate & make adjustments.

You don’t have to be discouraged if you’re not making money. If you’re not busy selling to fans, change your focus. Start networking instead. When you have time, walk around and meet people. Be fluid & adapt to changes in plans & circumstances. 

If someone comes up to talk to you and doesn’t tip, don't get discouraged! He may become a new fan & look up your work. Never pass on a chance to make a good first impression.

I like to bring 4x6 photos to sign and sell them for $5. I write my website (Alexcoalxxx.com) on the back. If I have extra at the end of the show or if someone comes up to talk that is really sweet but doesn't have money to buy something, I hand them out.

AVN doesn’t allow nude photos. No nudity on the photos you're signing or the DVDs. You have to cover it up, & post it notes work well for that. I don’t really know why but rules are rules. At AVN you also can’t just wear pasties. You have to wear a bikini or bra or a micro-bikini top, something that would cover you up if you weren't wearing pasties basically. At X3 you can do just pasties up top, but at both expos you can't wear less than a thong that fully covers all your bits and any bush you may have.

LILLY BELL: Before I take a photo I say, “Do you want to do a friendship photo? Or do you want to do a more explicit photo?” That could mean them on my lap, or lately I’ve started doing different poses, where I’m down on my knees pretending like I’m sucking their dick, or maybe one of me bent over so it looks like he’s fucking me from behind. It always sells really well. So I’m allowing them to put a hand on my butt. A lot of the time they will actually ask, “Is it OK if I put my hand here?” That’s such a sweet thing to hear. That actually happens most of the time. I’ve done $10 for a friendship photo and $20 for a dirty photo, but I’ve upped my prices. I probably won’t even charge for friendship photos at AVN, though. I don’t want to be nickel-and-diming people over $10.

There are guys that will come up and ask you to sign multiple pictures. They’re around all the time. They walk up with these big binders of photos. I always tell them, “I know you’re going to sell these for double the price on E-Bay. You want to make money and I want to make money. So how many do you have here? I usually charge $10 per autograph and you have 200 pictures here, so 200x10 equals $2,000.” Of course they’re like, “Oh, I can’t do that.” I’ll usually make them a little deal and cut some of the price off. Other times I’ve said, “Sorry, tough shit.” I’ve signed a bunch of those before and had them get put on E-Bay. But where was my money? It happens quite a bit.

What about the occasional creepy fan who may make you feel uncomfortable?

ALEX COAL: For the rare appearance of a creepy person, there are a variety of things you can do, depending on the level of creepiness. The easiest thing you can do is tell security what happened calmly & they’ll take care of it. You can also talk to whoever is running the booth that you’re at and ask them to talk to security if you don’t want to leave your booth. You can directly confront the fan in a firm but not unprofessional way. Don’t yell at anyone unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you're not sure what to say here are some examples: 

“Excuse me. You’re making me very uncomfortable right now. I’d appreciate it if you’d walk away.” You don't need to explain yourself, if they ask why you can just say something like, ”I'm not comfortable discussing this further.”

If that doesn’t work, you could try, “Please, I’m being very clear with you. I don’t want to have to call security.” 

These are just examples of what I've said that has worked in the past. Sometimes people can come off creepy without meaning to. I find that if I am direct and honest when I talk to people, issues usually get sorted out much easier.

LILLY BELL: Some people don’t have as much money, and that’s fine. Not everyone is going to spend the same. But I had a situation with a guy in Washington DC who said, “I don’t have any money but will you please take a selfie with me.” I said, “That’s fine. I usually charge for selfies but I’ll do it.” Right as we did it, he snuck a kiss on my lips and he bolted for the door. A security guy came up and asked what he looked like and I was like, “Um, he was a white guy with a navy shirt on.” He looked like 20 of other people in there. So I had to just let it go. Stuff like that happens, but it’s rare.

As far as more subtle stuff … there are a lot of lingerers. They’ll hang around and take a long time. They talk a lot. There are a lot of folks that are on the spectrum, with some soft of handicap. You have to learn to talk to people like that. There are different levels of it. Autism. Aspergers, etc. Something Alex taught me was that, if she has a lingerer, and she notices she has a line, she’ll say, “Hey, it was lovely talking to you. I have other people in my line I need to get to. Come back around when I don’t have a line.” The opposite thing she says to people when there isn’t a line is, “Hey, I don’t have a line right now, but I’m going to take some time for myself to regroup, but I’ll catch you later.”

Any other tips?

ALEX COAL: if you’re going to be shooting content, make sure you are checking tests and only accepting tests from verified industry testing locations like CLEAR, MPowerAtl, TTS or CET. People ask me to shoot content during expos sometimes and I just can't. It’s not worth it to me personally. In my opinion, it’s better for me to network and plan a shoot for the future. Or if I really want to shoot content with someone traveling a far distance to attend, I'd want to schedule the shoot a couple days before the expo.

There are a ton of people having fun, shooting content, and enjoying the atmosphere. Fans are coming in to meet their favorite stars, and people are escorting. I can't possibly know if they are using condoms or if their fans are industry-standard tested. I don’t know who is shooting with whom and who they shot with before. Even if you’re working with someone who has an industry-standard verifiable test, they might have shot with someone the day before who is engaging in risky behavior and not even realized it. It just doesn't feel safe to me. Even if it is, this massive number of people inter-mingling makes me worry about getting sick. 

Just through kissing, you can get sick for two weeks because of the amount of germs from places you're not used to that are being passed around naturally (coughing, sneezing, casual touching). People are coming from diverse places from all over the world for AVN. There are a lot of different things your immune system just might not be used to. So many people get sick after AVN each year that we call it the "AVN Flu.”

LILLY BELL: I always stay strapped with gum. When you’re talking a lot you get that bad breath from dehydration. One time, a fan told me I had bad breath, and I wanted to die. Also, remember that when you’re talking a lot, make sure to occasionally wipe the corners of your mouth. If you talk a lot and you’re not hydrated, that white stuff is going to build up without you even realizing it. I’m always wiping those corners. That’s not an attractive thing for someone who is supposed to be an attractive porn star. If your breath is smelling and any of those human things are happening, try to make them not happen anymore.

Austin King / Editor

Austin King spent nearly 20 years as a mainstream journalist before pivoting to coverage of the adult industry in 2020. He specializes in breaking news and in-depth features, with some of his best work to date coming for AVN Magazine in profiles of Gina Valentina, Casey Kisses, Anna-Claire Clouds, Kayden Kross, Chanel Camryn, Kenzie Anne, Lilly Bell and others. Austin resides in Texas but makes frequent trips to Porn Valley.