punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Why I'll Never Run a Convention

From time to time, insane but well-meaning people say to me, "Hey Punkie, you should run a convention sometime. That would kick ass! You would be so good at it, you like fandom, and you have seen how everything runs for years. I bet you know how to run a convention inside and out by now!"

Why, yes. Yes I do. And that is precisely why you will never see me run one. I have seen it all, man ... okay, no, not all. There are still some things about how to deal with hotels I am not sure of, but for the most part, I have spent enough time with convention chairs, heads of departments, and fandom to see just how awful it can be to run one of these things. I would be a faboo consultant, but I know too much.

I think the first step in deciding to run a con is to know that there is a huge untapped market, and that you'd be willing to almost sell your soul to run one. Then you need to realize your social life will be seriously altered. You will have to take on a leadership role. You also have to realize that you will never have any "fun" at your con, or at least the kind of fun you have at other cons (like, no hobnobbing guests, you will be dealing with them as babysitters now). It is truly a "labor of love." It is work. Hard work. Ask yourself this:

* What do you do when the hotel decides to change the contract, but not inform you?
* Your best friend of 20 years, which you appointed to head of operations, goes weird (in a bad way) on you, and all the rest of the staff want him removed. Where do your priorities lie?
* Just before the convention, your mother gets seriously ill, and wants you to spend time with her instead of "your silly hobby." Now what?
* Halfway through the con, some idiot attendee with a fire extinguisher goes nuts, ruins a lot of hotel property in his quest for pranks, and while your security is chasing him, one of the staff gets seriously injured and has to be taken to the hospital. How does that make you feel?
* A convention you have loved for years, and in fact, inspired you to have your own convention, suddenly publicly declares your convention to be full of "perverts" and they start a political "either us or them" war that ends up losing you half your staff, and a fair portion of your attendees. How do you respond?
* The hotel managers change just before the convention, and the new manager doesn't like "your kind," and double-books you with a Mafia wedding and a small dog show, and can get away with it because of a loophole in the contract your legal team did not foresee. Now your convention space is reduced by half, the hotel is telling your guests they are "overbooked," and the hotel liaison is too meek to go up against the new manager. How do you fix this?
* You haven't slept for three days, and when you finally get to bed Friday night, you are only asleep for 30 minutes before the head of security wakes you up because of an incident with a room party that got out of control, then the head of programming (who also hasn't slept) is freaking out over a small matter that he could fix himself if he had any sense left in his brain, and the chief of operations is telling everyone to leave you alone so you can sleep. All at once. Then, because you are sleep deprived, you twist your ankle on the escalator, and the medical guy on call overreacts to this, and calls 911 which whisks you away. Now your con is running headless. When you finally get back, it's all in chaos. How do you get things running again, especially since you are on heavy painkillers?
* Thursday before the con, you catch the death flu. So does half your staff. You must run the con from the front of a toilet where at any moment, something might shoot out of either end. Most of your seriously ill staff simply cannot get out of bed to leave home. How do you run the con?
* Thursday before the con, your work calls, and due to a sudden problem, you MUST come in and work the weekend, even though you told them you had to have it off six months ago, and reminded them several times since then. How do you get it off anyway?
* The head of preregistration said she has a pre-reg count of 1200, about twice what you expected ... but she lost all the info in a computer crash, and doesn't have backups or any hard copies. How do you get the pre-regs back? How do you handle this in a hotel that can only really handle 900 people?
* Thursday before the con, it starts to snow. Long story short, your city in under a "state of emergency" by Friday. A con where you expected 2000, you get 40. Then the bill arrives. What foreign countries can you flee to that don't have extradition or reciprocity laws?

There are no "right or wrong" answers to many of these, but "where do your priorities lie?" kind of answers. These are tough to answer, and admittedly, most of these disasters won't happen to you. But these are all taken from real incidents at the multitude of conventions I have worked at.

Personally? I don't even want to answer these questions. I love fans and fandom, and I'd hate to throw a bad con and piss off 700 people. So I take a passive role as a consultant when asked. I have vicariously learned experience through the mistakes of others, and watch that expression on a con chair's face when he's been awake far too long, and seen far too much, and as asking, "Why am I doing this again?"

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000029.html
Tags: conventions
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