[Editor’s Note: TardisCaptain, has been attending conventions since the late eighties from Seattle to Los Angels to Oklahoma and all points in-between. This includes General SF conventions, gaming cons, charity cons, LAN expos and of course Star Trek cons. He has volunteered at various local conventions including Conduit, LTUE and Mountain-Con. He was the ConChair of Mountain-Con I, II and III and is still a trustee for Mountain-Con.]
Attending a convention is a rare treat. There is usually a large buzz of fans wanting to meet their favorite author or actor. Other fans are excited because they have the opportunity to share their fandom. Merchants have brought rare and unusual items to the dealers’ room. Games have been prepared by Game Masters, LARP Judges and LAN coordinators. Costumers have spent thousands of dollars and thousands of man-hours preparing costumes. Artists have submitted images of their imagination to the art-show or film festival. All of these fans have brought something to contribute to the excitement of a convention. All for one glorious geek-fest-filled three days.
The question I pose for all of the fans out there, have you ever wondered what it takes to put a Fan-Run SF Convention together? Well the first keyword is ‘Fans’; volunteers are needed to put together the ConCom (Convention Committee). The phrase “Many hands make light work” really applies here. The more volunteers that are helping throughout the year the easier it is to put together the con.
Out of these volunteers you need to find the person who has the following qualifications. Can they run a small business? Do they have experience with convention running? Are they willing to take the blame when things go wrong? Are they willing to play referee between egos? Are they willing to do all of the jobs of the volunteers underneath them? If you have someone crazy enough to do this (check local insane asylums for possible candidates) then elect that person to be the Convention Chair (aka ConChair). Since the ConCom is made up of volunteers, the ConChair needs to be the glue that holds everyone together and keep them focused on putting together the next convention. The ConChair also coordinates the monthly meetings (multiple meetings held most months), reports to the trustees on the status of the con, name a Co-Chair (basically an assistant who is second-in-command) and basically keep an eye on all of the various sub-committees and chairs.
The remaining members left in the asylum will then fill out the other positions within the ConCom. Each group could be run by just the position chair and co-chair or create a sub-committee to help out.
Accounting- Do you have the lobes for this job?
Anime- Dubbed vs Sub-titles debate goes on.
Art-Show- Oh shiny and you want to sell it too?
Banquet- Yes you can have a formal dinner with the guests.
Dealers Room- These merchants came all the way from Diagon Alley.
Fan Club- The ‘Home Boys from Outer Space’ fan club wants a promotion table?
Fan Film- We are showing it at the con before releasing it on the internet.
Gaming- Where are the Cheetos?
Guest- I need a volunteer to be Jeri Ryan’s assistant
Hotel- Yes discounted sleeping rooms are available at the hotel.
Kid-Con- We are raising the next generation of geeks.
Masquerade- Yes that chain-mail covers enough of you to go on stage.
Operations- You have five minutes until the end of your panel.
Programming- We can put the Ghost Hunting panel across from the MMORPG panel.
Publicity- Getting the word out about the con.
Publishing- The due date for the programming book is coming up soon.
Registration- Badges? Yes you need your stinkin’ badges.
Security- Why do people snicker when they see us in red shirts?
Volunteer- You really want to help out? Oh bless you!
Once these positions have been filled then the Con-Chair makes sure everyone is filling their volunteer duties in a timely manner. We do not have a TARDIS to travel back in time to beat the deadlines, and these deadlines come quicker than most people expect. Hotel and Guest arrangements must be made very early in the process (sometimes more than a year in advance). Travel and lodging for the guests must be set up (and paid for in advance). The convention space and sleeping rooms need to be agreed upon between convention and hotel. This helps determine the date of the convention (a huge factor for attendees). Programming of panels, gaming, special events and media (anime and fan films) must be completed months in advance in order to make publishing deadlines. Pre-sales of convention memberships and dealers room tables help bring in early funding for the con. Local fan clubs and organizations (SCA to grassroots space supporters to gaming to fan clubs of various shows) need to be coordinated for possible volunteers, sales, room parties, promotion booths, etc.). The booth space for both Dealers Room and Fan Clubs need to be coordinated. Security concerns at the hotel space need to be identified and addressed. Before you know it, months have passed and we are approaching the convention date.
There are a ton of things that can be put together for an enjoyable convention. The three things that may prevent a convention from running a certain event are three things. 1-Lack of money, 2-Lack of volunteers or 3-Lack of time. Like a major motion picture, there comes a time when you have to put an end to the preparation and release the con. However what is released is the heart and soul that an army of volunteers have put together in the name of fun and fandom. You may see a lot of zombie like stares at the dead-dog party (following the end of the convention) but they all know one thing. They volunteered because it was worth it.
If you want a chance to see the fun and excitement of geeks sharing their fandom, check out a nearby fan-run convention (SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT) like Mountain-Con IV held on September 19-21 in Utah. Details can be found at http://www.MountainCon.org.