by Michael D. Pederson
Amazingly, some would even say miraculously, we are now well into our second year of publishing. “You’re giving it away?! What are you, crazy?” We just might be, but we’re having a great time. From the first appearance of our four-page promotional flyer to the release of Issue #5 at this year’s I-Con, we managed to get the ’zine distributed at an astounding forty-three conventions—with staff members putting in personal appearances at twenty-eight of those cons. Yes, it was hectic. Yes, it was tiring. It was also a lot of fun.
It’s been an educational experience as well. We have attended straight-up science fiction conventions, media-oriented SF cons, anime cons, gaming cons, relaxa-cons, party cons, comic cons, and one Worldcon. Some of these cons we attended as programming guests, others we merely attended as registered con-goers. We have thrown parties, hobnobbed with celebrities, schmoozed with dealers, and helped with staff functions. Most importantly, we’ve been able to spend plenty of time with other attendees—the people that make it possible for this crazy world of fandom to exist.
What have we learned? Mostly, that organizing a convention is an unbelievably difficult task that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Con chairs and their support staff are a very under-appreciated group. Take a minute at your next con to pass on a word or two of appreciation to the staff. If you’re really appreciative, volunteer to help out; cons are always looking for people to help with the registration table, to work security, or to hand out sodas in the con suite.
Possibly the most critical part in running a successful convention is the hotel. I’ve seen too many conventions crumble because of difficulties with the hotel. The biggest difficulty, of course, being other bookings. Face it, most mundanes don’t understand our wacky little conventions. Larger conventions can get around this by reserving sizable chunks of hotel real estate (if not the entire hotel), but many smaller cons are often forced to share their space with little Suzie’s wedding party or a high school field trip to the big city. This is why you paradoxically tend to see a greater security presence at smaller cons than at larger ones. What can we as con-goers do to help with this? Face it, we’re at a convention to have a good time—telling people to be on their “best behavior” is pointless at best. Just remember not to cross the line from loud and silly to downright irresponsible. And always wear your con badge.
Some quick suggestions to convention organizers: My previous point works in reverse—loud and silly is not the same as irresponsible, allow some leeway for fun. A well-stocked con suite is always a mark in the plus column for any convention. Don’t end your programming at midnight, if there’s something to do people will stay interested and keep out of trouble. Double-check your schedule for conflicts—don’t put the writing seminar opposite the Writer GOH’s keynote speech. Encourage room parties prior to the convention (on your website and in your flyers)—fans enjoy them and with advance notice they can be grouped in an area of the hotel where they won’t disturb other guests. If you want more suggestions, drop by my next room party and I’ll be happy to share them with you.