Good. Evil. Bratwurst.

Unpacking the Con

Posted on by arlen

Just worked Program Ops for the recent NASFic, CascadiaCon, and I’m home, tired but happy.

Starngely enough, I really like working conventions, and working with this group was a new experience, and a good one. Miriah and her support team from ISS worked heroically, and thanks largely to them I actually looked like I was capable of doing my job. Both Lea Farr and Charlie Harmon went far above the call of duty to make my time in the Program Ops office an enjoyable one, and the entire staff had enough enthusiasm for the job to make it an altogether fun experience.

One of the hazards of working Program Ops is you don’t get much feedback on what is going right with the convention, all you hear are complaints. And there are always complaints; you can’t please everyone. One example: We were told we should have cut the number of kaffeeklatsches in half, because holding two different ones in a 600 square foot area made it hard for the hearing impaired. Doing so would, of course, have disappointed some pros and their fans, who would not have had the chance to get together at all. So either way someone gets irritated with us. (Personally, I was on the side of the hearing impaired complainer until he as much as called me a liar to my face when I told him we were noting the complaint as something to be more heavily considered for the next con. Just a note for his future reference, if he’s reading this: It never helps your case if you go out of your way to insult the person you’re trying to convince to help you.)

The intent of the programing head was to provide as varied a program as he could, WorldCon-class programming in a space that was certainly not WorldCon class in size. A laudable goal, and one which was achieved, although achieving it made several panel audiences much smaller than they otherwise would have been, and made getting to some panels problematic.

There were rough patches, some made worse by the cultural differences of the staff (we’d all worked different conventions, and so were used to doing things in different ways) but those got smoothed out by mid-con. At something over 1500 attendees, this was the smallest con I’d worked in over two decades, so the looseness of some of the operation scared me at first, as did the low number of volunteers. You need bodies and a more rigid system to run a large con, but smaller cons can spend more time in improv mode and still succeed. And smaller numbers of attendees means a smaller number of volunteers; there’s no valid reason to suggest the percentage of volunteers would go up as number of attendees goes down. But once I’d had time to think about it rationally, I understood and adjusted, just as other con staff began to understand me and adjust.

It was a fun time. If you were there, thanks for making it fun. If you weren’t. you missed out on something good.

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September 2005
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