Shame on me and my continued blogging tardiness (not to be confused with tardisness, which would fix my tardiness). The sad part is that I don’t have a convention to blame it on this time. Simply a birthday and an great steak dinner from my dad.
Speaking of conventions, another con has come and gone in the last few weeks. MTAC , the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention, took place March, 29-31. The immediate time before and after the convention (not to mention during) tends to suck my time away, making sure all information is released in time and we are tracking feedback after the show. I’ve been so preoccupied with the convention and with trying to wind down from it, that I’ve had a hard time figuring out what to WRITE about it. Then I found myself reflecting on one of my more memorable events of the weekend, then on some fan feedback, and then BAM! Topic found – the generosity of convention goers.
First, story time! I lost my cell phone. I left it charging in the floor of the MTAC media suite. Someone found it thinking it was left behind and lost, so they took it to find the owner (which required charging it because it was dead). I searched around for about an hour and a half, but I wasn’t too worried. I believed whoever had it was probably going to return it. Return it they did when the individual called my girlfriend (after the aforementioned charging period), and we met up to get it back. To be honest, I was slightly disappointed there weren’t any funny photos taken.
As I said though, I was certain I’d get it back, because I believe in the kindness of my fellow con-goers. In the several years I’ve been going to fandom conventions, I’ve learned that most con-goers are good people. Sure, sometimes you find a rude individual who tries to cut in line or knocks into you while running down halls (don’t run in halls, kids). There’s even the occasional pick pocket or the prick slinging hurtful insults or worse at cosplayers. However, by and large, people who attend fandom conventions are good people. We come together because we all enjoy generally the same thing, whatever that may be, and we like enjoying these things together.
With that said, your fellow geeks and nerds and fan community members will be nice to you only for so long if you don’t reciprocate the sentiment. No con is without incident, especially when it gets into the several thousand member count (MTAC 2013 – 9,691 members). I’ve heard a few people from the con mention rude fellow attendees and stolen personal items. Most people are good, but it only takes one to ruin someone else’s experience. Don’t be that person. Everyone is here for the same reason you are: to have fun.
If you work for a convention staff, even as simply a volunteer, being on your best behavior goes double for you. Triple even. It’s easy during the stress of the weekend to let fly a curt word or two, to not mind your manners or drop your customer-friendly demeanor even for a moment. You have to be on your best behavior for every attendee, because you are the face of whatever convention you work for. This is true for very up-front positions like registration, customer service, and public safety, and it’s also true for lower visibility people like the guy laying down cables behind a stage or managing the conventions IT.
You may be the only staff member an attendee encounters the entire weekend, so your impression could make or break that person’t opinion of the entire staff.
Everyone’s at a convention to have fun. The convention staff is there to have fun by putting on a fun event for con-goers to have fun at. Fun all around! Don’t be the one who tries to ruin it.
Or, in the words of Internet Celebrity of the 24th Century Wil Wheaton, “Don’t be a dick.”
Do you attend any fandom conventions?
What’s a time you experienced the generosity of your fellow con-goers?
What’s a time you experienced the
I almost actually forgot about this.
This upcoming weekend – March 29-31, 2013 – is the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention in Nashville, TN. Working with the con is consuming most of my time this week (as well as the past few), so I apologize for the lackluster post.
I do, however, highly encourage anyone in Tennessee or surrounding states to attend this weekend. It’s going to be a blast with three days of anime, Japanese culture, music, and convention fandom. It’s MTAC’s 13th year, and it’s celebrating with a supernatural and occult theme Devil’s Dozen. With a plethora of industry, music, and artist guests, as well as over 200 events (including a tokusatsu panel ran by yours truly), there’ll be something for every geek out there.
If that doesn’t float your boat, the Full Moon Tattoo and Horror Festival is at the same venue on the same weekend, with guests like Norman Reedus from Walking Dead.
Check out both. Have a good time. Now if you would excuse me, I have to avoid my email box long enough to catch some shut eye.
Several times throughout this past weekend, someone would yell “You…” and I waited with baited breath for the rest of Gandalf’s quote “shall not pass”. Each time, I was let down. Finally, on Sunday afternoon while we were loading up outside for the trip home, a gamer girl cosplayer said to her friend, “I want to stand in the middle of the road and yell ‘You shall not pass!’” Thus I was satisfied.
This past weekend, February 15-17, was Kami-Con - a fifth-year anime convention in Birmingham, AL. It was previously held at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa until its growth lead it to the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex this year. The “complex” of the BJCC is an understatement. The con, probably about 2,000-3,000 people, fit comfortably in just a portion of this large campus that makes up the BJCC. I attended the con last year when it was still at the UoA campus, and the move has indeed helped. College campuses are great growing grounds for young conventions, but the limitations they provide (both physical and regulatory) eventually necessitate a move elsewhere. Just look at Momocon in Atlanta, GA.
I attended the convention as a representative from MTAC, promoting our convention that’s scheduled six weeks after theirs. Several other local convention reps were in attendance: Huntsville’s Hamacon, Memphis’ Anime Blues Con, and Atlanta’s Momocon. For myself, most of the fun from these con trips comes from socializing with fellow con promoters, trading stories from the often hilarious lives of convention staff, and apparently now introducing people to Epic Rap Battles of History.
Another part of the fun of convention trips, as with any journey to a new town, is trying out the local food joints. We found a pizza place called “Slice” on Friday night in what seemed to be recently-revived suburbia. If you’re a Nashville reader, think of the 5 Points area in East Nashville. I sampled a classic pepperoni and cheese, as well as the specialty Mexicali (Braised Pork, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Diced Chilies, Caramelized Onion, Fresh Jalapeno, Cilantro Lime Crema and Queso Fresco). Both were good. However, I’m a wing man, and their wings were quite delicious. They were fire baked with a slightly spicy grilled seasoning, and they were almost all drum sticks (the superior part). We almost went a second time on Saturday, only to find a long wait behind everyone else anxious to try some of their specialties.
If there were any frustrating parts of the trip, they were due to the city itself. Birmingham is in dire need of some modern urbanization. Some is underway, as new small businesses try to revive a city front wounded by a dying steel industry. Unfortunately, several neighborhoods on the outskirts of downtown are showing their ragged and worn age. Dilapidated homes and shady store fronts are littered on every path we took between the BJCC, our hotel, food stops, and sightseeing (read “sightseeing” as “getting lost”).
The city was also the site of the Mercedes Marathon on both Saturday and Sunday mornings, making commuting to the convention center hair-pullingly frustrating. We in Nashville, as with those in most major cities, have to tolerate marathons jamming traffic from time to time, so it’s an understandable annoyance that is still ultimately good for the city. The problem however is made worse by the city’s lack of left turn signals, despite several left-turn-only lanes. Several long waits in the middle of the road were due to this poor planning in traffic flow. Trips that should have taken five minutes took half an hour at least.
All of that simply made for lively conversation with our fellow out-of-town congoers and a healthy appreciation for attempted urban revivals of previously abandoned and ghettoized portions of our respective towns.
Overall, I had a fun time with friends. Kami-Con itself seemed to have done well. Its foot traffic, especially that by my booth, stayed active throughout the weekend. Its congoers even ate several surrounding restaurants out of food, which isn’t a bad problem to have at a new, larger location. On the business side, I think we left a good impression on Kami-Con’s attendees about MTAC, which is a short 2.5 hour trip north for most of Kami-Con’s local attendees (even shorter for those north of Birmingham). It’s a con I’d visit again, and next time, I look forward to seeing more headway on Birmingham’s revival efforts.
What parts of a city stick out to you when you visit?
What do you look forward to most when visiting another city?
My “post here every Monday” commitment is going to be seriously tested over the next couple of months. MTAC is coming *cue Ned Stark* and I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me.
Quick recap: MTAC is the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention, a Nashville-based anime con going into its 13th year on March 29-31. I’m the organization’s public relations manager, meaning I help promote the event by writing and editing content, helping plan promotional strategy, and managing the convention’s public interactions through customer service and media relations. All with the help of a fantastic staff and incredible colleagues that make me appear much more competent than I actually am.
Then in six months, I’ll be doing the same thing for our other convention Geek Media Expo.
This is me explaining if any of my columns over the next two months aren’t up to the low par of my usual work. Depending on what you do with a convention, the job can be very time consuming. Mine at this stage will consist of a metric ton of emails, copy-editing, and social networking throughout my evenings, as well as several in-person promotional events claiming my weekends.
By the way, it’s a no-pay, volunteer job.
So why do it? Watch the video above, done by convention videographer MAGE Tv, and you’ll get an idea. It’s a blast, knowing that you and your friends helped create something that gets that kind of praise and excitement. It’s the fun of working with your friends and the fulfillment when it comes together to the enjoyment of others.
This same feeling can apply to any team-based project, be it playing in a band or producing your own movie, or anything that catches your fancy.
Additionally, I actually get to put my college degree in mass communication to work, as well as learn new skills in customer service, event organization, and more.
I wrote a piece last summer about how to staff a fandom convention. To anyone who regularly goes to conventions, or anyone with an interest in event or media production, I highly recommend giving it a try. However, there are plenty of other ways to get involved in the convention experience than joining staff – running panels, getting an artist table, forming a costume group, holding a room party, recording a con video, just to name a few.
Bottom line, simply attending is fun, as well as often necessary to relax and avoid burn out. Once in a while though, you have to plunge in and do something.
With all of that now said and done, I have to get back to editing bios.
Do you attend any conventions (of any kind)?
Do you try to involve yourself with the experience?
If so, how?
It’s now a month since Geek Media Expo’s latest GMX Vol. 4 hit the Middle Tennessee area. On October 26-28, 2012, we overran the Cool Springs Conference Center and Franklin Marriott Hotel with almost 2,000 pop culture and tech enthusiasts.
It always feels weird to write a retrospective for the cons I work for – MTAC/GMX. For one, I don’t need to do this to state critiques or criticisms. I can just go straight to the source – the other staffers I work with. For two, I actually don’t see much of cons when I’m working. I’m either running around everywhere or staying put in one spot, concentrated at my task at hand. For this year’s GMX, that task was Media Relations.
Despite overseeing media relations from a managerial role before, this is my first time directly running the operation. I ended up enjoying a good bit of it, with interacting with our press and guests and listening in on interviews. Also saves me some time in listening to all the follow-up coverage.
It helps that GMX and the Marriott provided an amazing room by letting us use their concierge lounge for the weekend. A wide, open space with plenty of seating, a mini-fridge with drinks, and my own personal work desk. There are some aspects to the room that make it a good set up for interviews and press conferences too, which I hope to better utilize next year if I’m fortunate enough to be in the same room. It proved rough when we had to do multiple guest interviews at the same time, an issue I hope to fix next year with better scheduling and some other tricks.
Back to the actual convention though, the few events I did get to see went really well. Especially Geek Slam, the second year of GMX pitting costumed characters against each other in a battle of (usually hilarious) insults. This year, as with last, my friend Kirk Griffin won as Star Trek: TNG’s Data, laying down the dry, monotone smackdown against the likes to Mario and J Jonah Jameson. GMX filmed the Geek Slam event, and the opening bout between Mario and Sonic is already up on their YouTube channel (watch below).
And that showcases GMX embracing what I see as its greatest potential – production. It’s Geek MEDIA Expo, and GMX is coming up to the plate. In addition to the well-edited recap videos like the ones above, GMX also produced a fun fan parody of Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup” song and video, this time featuring plenty of geeky references and GMX Vol. 4′s signature gold color.
Even with being in my home Nashville area, GMX still provides an opportunity for me to see a lot of friends I don’t during the rest of the year. Case in point are Jamie Lovett and Nick Gore – friends from my college days – who have done great comic panels for GMX since the first one in 2009. I got to sit in on their DC New 52 panel, which was a good catch up since I’d fallen off of most of those titles. These guys are far better at critically viewing comics and their creators than I am. Be sure to check out their new comics podcasts at soundcloud.com/pixelsandpanels.
Also an impressive site was the Apparition Abolishers’ “Dr. Torque’s Traveling Exposition of Curious Contraptions and Fantastical Oddities” room. The Apparition Abolishers are a local group of costumers, artists, prop-makers, and performers that tend to focus on steampunk. They had a similar room at last year’s GMX Vol. 3, which I was unable to check out. This year, I corrected that. The room was made up like a sideshow attraction from the turn of the 19th-to-20th century, with caged chupacabra and mermaids, as well as various steampunk and era-appropriate props on display. There was even a mustache-shaped seesaw and a giant robot called H.A.R.O.L.D.E. you could climb into for photo ops.
I only ran one panel this year, which was moderating our annual Geek Journalism panel. This year’s panel consisted of Star Wars Blog and Huffington Post’s Bryan Young, local newspaper Lebanon Democrat’s Alexander Alea, and Chainsaw Buffet’s John Robbins. It was a late-night panel, but it went pretty well. Each year is always different on this panel with a rotating group of panelists and different questions for the audience. It’s always one I enjoy really watching as I step back and let the entire panel go at it.
To wrap, this year was a fun year. I enjoyed my work. I enjoyed what I got to see. I enjoyed seeing my friends. As far as recommending, it’s a no brainer. GMX is a great show, and I wouldn’t still work with it if I didn’t have fun. It’s a weekend-long party in geekery, and I can’t recommend it enough. Next year, mark November 1-3, 2013 on your calendar for GMX Vol. 5.
If YOU went to GMX, give some feedback with the GMX Vol. 4 Survey (click here). You could win a free pass to next year.
I am about a month behind on my BarCamp retrospective. Apologies. It being the week before GMX didn’t help (and THAT retrospective will come next week).
BarCamp Nashville is a technological “unconference” where local tech and geek aficionados gather to discuss or hear presentations on topics in the tech world. And network with each other. And drink. It is in a bar after all.
The thing I really enjoy about BarCamp is that all of its panels and sessions are about doing something. Most panels at the geek cons I attend are usually about consumption. We revel in the material we enjoy and spend an hour fanboying (or fangirling) over whatever the case may be. That’s perfectly fine, and while cons do also have some workshops and how-to events, they tend to be fewer in between and often not on stuff I care for. BarCamp, being more geared towards producing something in a geeky career. With its simultaneously relaxed and professional feel, I think it has a more conducive environment for these kinds of panels.
One of the drawbacks though is that I’m not a pro-level tech guy, or even amateur level. I don’t code or program. I don’t work in hardware or software. I’m a content guy, a media guy. I write (though not as often as I should if you look at the archives). There usually isn’t as much content at BarCamp that’s easily accessible to me, and the sessions with more broad and general topics tend to go into this more specified directions that start to lose me, or they stay generalized and don’t bring much new to my table. Those sessions that do though are definitely worthwhile.
Given, there is the spring companion event PodCamp, which is essentially the same event and set up but with a focus more on content and media production (“pod” as in podcast). However, from the one PodCamp I attended this past spring, it seems it doesn’t get quite as much attention or drive behind it as the main BarCamp does, at least not with the sponsor turnout. More on PodCamp next spring.
With all of that said, there was still plenty for me to see (in between playing pinball at centresource’s radical arcade set up). This year’s BarCamp saw me attending:
- You are Not Don Draper, but You Can Still Write Copy (presented by Nicole Branigan, #bcn12writecopy)
- Geek2English (presented by Cal Evans)
- Stop Managing and Start Leading (presented by Evan Owens #bcn12leadership)
- Content Marketing: Blogging as Business Strategy (presented by Seth Spears)
- Your Presentation in a Backpack (presented by Maggie Summers #bcn12backpack)
The session “Geek2English” exemplifies my point of professional tech focus taking me out of it. The panel was about getting regular people to understand and better work with programming developers, as opposed to the popular culture geeks that I had thought when the term is used (which is how I categorize myself as a geek). This is more of a mismanaged expectation on my part, although an easy one to make it its name. It’s not a point on the quality of the panel, which was actually quite informative in working with programmers in a professional environment.
However, that same panel also exemplifies the refreshing laissez faire attitude of the event – the impromptu sessions. At two points throughout the day are open blocks in all the session spaces for impromptu sessions, presentations that people signed up to do that day, instead of those who submitted theory sessions weeks ago to get them listed online and in the program. If you decide to host a panel last minute, you might actually get to run it. It’s a neat surprise to event goers to find presentations you didn’t even know about before hand. It’s not something I see coming to any of the multi-day geek conventions I attend though, as they tend to be more strict (or try to be) about scheduling and approving content, and their needs require events approved much earlier than the week before.
While BarCamp is also a great place to learn and meet people, it’s also a good place to be marketed to by the Nashville tech business world. It tends to have some good swag for a free event, including t-shirts free to those who pre-registered for the event (which likewise is free to do and is only necessary to get the shirt and a custom badge). You also get an assortment of fliers and trinkets from various sponsors within a custom BarCamp bag (all pictured above). The sponsors really are a driving force behind funding this event, so I’m curious if they actually find a good return on investment or if they view this as a service to their community. I suspect a bit of both.
The sponsor that was most dressed to impressed though was centresource, a Nashville-based marketing and web development company, who had a booth space tricked out with old-school arcade and console games under a “BarCamp ’92″ banner. The Star Trek: The Next Generation pinball machine and Galaga table arcade cabinet attracted a lot of attention, notably my own.
Always impressive from my view as someone who attends and works at a bunch of conventions is how web savvy BarCamp tends to be. Probably a good thing since these people are supposed to be on the cutting edge in Nashville. One example is how BarCamp promotes online social discussion with each of its events. To start, the event provides free wireless, which came in handy with how all the smartphones choked my network (*coughsprintcough*). Then in addition to the event having its own Twitter/Google+ hashtag (#bcn12), each scheduled session has a unique hashtag to promote discussion and feedback during and after the session (“Your Presentation as a Backpack” is #bcn12backpack). It’s very centric to Twitter and Google+, to the detriment of Facebook and any other network that doesn’t track hashtags or conversations of people you’re not immediately connected to. But that’s part of the point of the event: meeting and conversing with like-minded, tech-oriented people you aren’t already connected with.
Something I didn’t get to take advantage of was BarCamp livestreaming each event room, and thus each session, thanks to some industrious volunteers from my alma mater MTSU. They did mention in one session that it was a late addition and with some bumps in the road, but they expect it to go more smoothly next year.
I enjoyed this year’s BarCamp. It’s a fun day trip, and with an admission price of free, it’s hard to beat if you have the time (although feel free to buy a boxed lunch to donate to the event). Its laid-back feel and progressive web usage is a great experience. It may feel slow during a time when no sessions interest you, but go with people and make the rest of the time a fun social experience.
The main two points I would change would be 1) the 9am start time, and 2) the dates not being announced until just a few month’s prior. I get the start time, since it’s in a bar and has to do so much before the bar has to be ready for the prime time Saturday night rush. The date thing though, I don’t get. PodCamp has the same issue, as its Facebook page said it won’t have the dates until after the New Year for a spring event. I don’t see any of the conventions I typically deal with being able to get away with that small of a window, but I guess it helps people only have to cut out half a Saturday to attend instead of an entire weekend.
Either way, I’ll be back next year. Here’s to #bcn13!
One lesson I learned a long time ago: always bring swimming trunks to a con.
2012 will be my first time in four years to miss Atlanta’s massive geek mecca Dragon*Con on Labor Day weekend. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t want YOU to go unprepared. If you’re planning a geeky getaway to the big D*C, GMX in October, MTAC in March, or any other con, or even just any old trip, several friends and I have prepared a hopefully handy packing guide.
Thanks to my own experiences and crowdsourcing my friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ several months ago (I wouldn’t be surprised if they forgot already), we hope you go off well prepared for the several misadventures you are sure to undertake.
Clothing: Ever go to a con and realize “I’m not wearing any pants?” Ever think that when you should actually be wearing pants? Plan ahead, and don’t get caught with your pants down.
- 1 set of clothes per day + 1 extra (at least one preferably nice set)
- Swimming trunks + towel (you never know when you’ll need it)
- Jacket (depending on the season)
- Sleep clothes
- Bag for dirty clothes
- Spare shoes
Electronics: We nerds are lost without our electronics, and unfortunately, phone implants that run off bio-energy aren’t so common yet.
- Power strip
- Chargers: more than one makes you everyone’s friend
- Portable gaming device + charger
- Flash drive/HDD/SDcards/portable storage
- Laptop or other computing device
Toiletries: Hopefully no need to explain…
- Deodorant (DO NOT FORGET)
- Pepto-Bismol (beware last night’s cheap Mexican from the food court)
- First aid kit
- Nail clippers
Miscellaneous: There are all sorts of little things you must remember when packing for a trip, even simply for keeping yourself entertained in the down time.
- Wallet + ID
- Cash, split between wallet and hidden
- Spare blanket/pillow
- Business cards/fliers (always be ready to pimp yourself out)
- Snack food
- Reading material
- Earplugs (to drown out those snoring roommates)
Useful smartphone apps: Smartphones aren’t quite essential, but they sure to help a lot. From taking photos to finding food, if you have a phone with an app store, here are some ideas for apps to use.
- Dropbox (upload photos to cloud to use on PC)
- Evernote (note taking and voice recording)
- Urbanspoon (try the local cuisine)
- event app (if your event has an app with schedule, maps, and further info, use it)
So there you go. Hopefully this list of recommendations will help you beat back that nagging feeling of forgetting something. If YOU think I forgot something though, post it in the comments.
Thanks to Amber, Blake, Brian, Brianna, Derek, Jessica, John, Leonardo, Lucas, Michael, Thomas, and anyone I left out.
Further recommended reading: Con Life: Convention Packing 101 – Charisma Bonus
Wow. Two and a half months since my last update. I’m a really poor blogger. Aside from my sad writing ethic, my March and April are annually consumed by the giant time-sink that is MTAC, over the weekend of April 6-8, 2012. A lot of work and planning goes into a convention, especially the month before. The weeks after, it’s hard to feel like doing anything after an incredibly exhausting weekend.
That got me to thinking, so I finally found a new topic for a post: working conventions. Anyone who is a fan of going to conventions, I often recommend helping with one even for a little bit. It gives a lot of insight into the herculean effort that goes into running one. An annual three-day party takes a lot of work. The experiences and seeing everyone enjoy themselves is completely worth it though.
To help anyone out who has been thinking about working with a convention a try, I think I’ve boiled down successfully staffing a con into four basic steps that will help you enjoy doing what you do. If you have anymore tips or questions, add them in the comments.
First Step: Start a Con HA! No.
Occasionally, some go to a con once or twice and decide to make one themselves, usually to poor results. Running a con is a lot of work, starting one fresh even more so. A lot goes into a convention that some don’t even think about. Gaining experience first is always a good idea, so start with the real first step.
First Step: Volunteer
Every fandom con is hard up for good cannon fodder… er, I mean good workers to help make the event even possible. The bigger they are, the more people they need, but they all need people. The good news? Volunteering with a con usually gets you in for cheap or free. Payment comes in labor (and your soul).
Find the convention you want to work for and learn from. Get started pursuing a volunteer job as soon as you can. The earlier you start, the more positions will be open, and you’ll have the pick of the litter. Check the convention’s website/forums/social networks to see if they have posted info about volunteering. If not, ask. A con will love that someone is wanting to work with them. A lot of conventions do open cattle calls for their entry volunteer work force. Getting to the early and following meetings increases the chance of open spots in specific departments, more so than a generic gopher (someone who “goes for” stuff). Gophers are important too, but if you want options, start early.
The idea of volunteering in some areas may be scary, but it’s usually not so bad. For example, some cons have some pretty sophisticated audio/video/staging set ups, and that may be intimidating. Remember though, all cons have a serious need for all the help they can get. Most staff will be happy to teach newcomers what they need to know to help them do their jobs. As long as you’re dedicated and ready to learn and work, you probably won’t be turned away.
(Side note: To be technically correct, almost every staffer for fandom conventions is a volunteer. Few actually get paid, and those who start cons to get money typically lose way more than they bargained for. So remember, everyone started right where you’re at, and we all pretty much get paid the same thing.)
Second Step: Find What You Enjoy & Build on It
If you already know what it is you want to do when you start volunteering, then good for you. That’s fine too. This step can take as long or as short as you like. Think of being an undecided undergrad. Try as many classes as you like before you pick your main area, and even then you can switch if you change your mind.
Positions in conventions are about as varied as courses of study at a university too. If you want, you can major in Game Boy, and by that, I mean you can work in a video gaming room. From public safety to programming, from technical services to talent relations, from handling the money to handling the people and more, there’s no shortage of things to do.
Once you start volunteering though, you get more insight into the organization. You can see how the thing works, what jobs need filling, and what aligns with your interests and skill sets.
In my case, my first volunteering gig was working in the dealer room. I helped load-in and load-out and occasionally watched the door. It’s not a position of interest for me, but it got me started (and some discounts from dealers I helped out). The next year, I worked the new info table because customer service was an area at the time I was getting into. That with my activity on the con’s forum community lead to me taking a job made for me – Community Relations. After my former boss stepped down, I then took over the department as Senior Director of Public Relations. I’m in my area of interest (public relations, customer service, information distribution) and I built on it.
Third Step: Get to Know Your Fellow Staff
One of the best parts about working with a convention is the relationships formed with your fellow staff members. When you dedicate yourself to a labor of love, with other people dedicating themselves to the same labor of love, you all tend to grow close. But you have to let yourself do that.
It’s easy to stay at an entry volunteer level, just show up for meetings and do the minimum work to get in for free. That’s all important, but you’re missing out on one of the biggest rewards of doing this if you don’t get involved. This is typically true for any job. Make an effort to be friendly with the people you work with. Get to know them, definitely their names at least.
You don’t want to be too forceful though, to assume levels of friendship that haven’t been built yet. It’s tricky, especially since some of us geeks (myself very included) often prove the cliché that we’re socially awkward. Just be genial and natural. It will happen. Working together through a con is surviving a battle… where your life probably isn’t in actual peril. It still builds tight bonds.
Fourth Step: Know Your Limits
It’s really easy to get caught up and try to do everything you can. Which leads to doing MORE than you can.
Remember, this is a volunteer job. You likely have a real job or school. You have friends and family. You have responsibilities outside the convention, and you have a responsibility not to neglect those. It’s a balancing act, and you have to find a general point where your con work and the rest of your life don’t conflict, which will be incredibly difficult depending on your level of involvement (and how close it is to the convention.
If you don’t find a good balance, your personal life is going to go down the crapper, and your convention life will soon follow. Every task will become increasingly difficult and stressful as you can’t focus. You’ll snap at every perceived slight. Minor disagreements will devolve into shouting matches that split the organization. Eventually either you’ll want to quit, or you’ll make everyone else want to.
If it looks like you’re about to go down that path, or if you’re about to start, stop. Step back. Take a breather. Sure, things may be hectic. Sure, things may not be going how you planned. Sure, you may not agree or even like everyone. It happens. Just remember that everyone is in the same boat as you, with stressed-out lives in their own way and working for the best con they can make.
If you have to, take some time off and trust the staff you’ve grown close with to pick up the slack. You can even sit a con year out or take a lesser position. The whole point is to have fun putting on the best show you can. If it’s not fun anymore, if it’s stressing out your life too much, then take some time to find that fun again. It does work. Some of my fellow staff have taken breaks to come back with renewed vigor and excitement (and that’s without the help of little blue pills… I think).
I’ve been official staff for MTAC for five years now, volunteering for two years before that. It’s all a lot of work and sometimes really stressful, but it’s an incredibly rewarding experience. The experience and skills I’ve gained are invaluable, and the friendships I’ve developed are some of the deepest I have. Sure, we conflict internally at times, and the con conflicts with other aspects of my life at other times, but when I balance it out, it’s all worth it.
Do you work a convention and have something to add? Are you interested in one and have questions? Leave them in the comments!
I’ve been having some serious writer’s block about saying anything about this latest Geek Media Expo (GMX vol 3 – October 21-23 in Nashville, TN). So instead of a usual report, I decided to do a point-by-point with some photos.
This year was held at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel, which was a bit of a nostalgia trip. My first MTAC, MTAC GO in 2005, was held at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel. It’s been a long ride since then. It was fun returning back, but then I remembered the elevators.
The Flash Dash Speed Drawing competition yielded this gem: Pimpachu and the GMX Girls! The GMX Girls are the mascots of the convention, and the subject of this round of drawings was “a superhero team up with the GMX Girls.” What better superhero than Pimpachu?
Setting up for Saturday Morning Cartoons. I’ve done it every GMX, always associated with cereal and milk. That was gone by the first episode. We had some technical difficulties at first that delayed the event, but we got it going. Wrapped the showing with an episode of Jem and the Holograms, in honor of our guests Samantha Newark (voice of Jem) and Patricia Alice Albrecht (voice of Pizzazz).
This… Well… This is what happens at 3am Saturday night with a Twister mat open.
The hotel itself had just undergone renovations in some of the rooms. I couldn’t exactly get a picture of the persistent paint smell, but I did get one of a hastily assembled door handle.
And this can stand on its own.
You can view the rest of my pitifully few photos at my Flickr page. I really need to start taking time out of each con to take photos.
I also recommend visiting the GMX YouTube page to watch continually updated videos from the con. Especially funny ones like this clip from the exceptional Geek Slam:
(Off Topic: I am working on a new theme and design for the blog. I like this one, but the background is just a placeholder. Let me know if you have any thoughts.)
Sometimes I get so used to regular geeky/anime conventions that I forget that “normal people” actually go to cultural festivals. That happened this time with JapanFest, Atlanta’s Japanese cultural festival, where I helped with some of the anime viewing content. Turns out, Akira and New Cutie Honey aren’t the most family friendly titles (retrospect d’uh). Thanks to my good friend Jess Merriman of MomoCon with helping in the selection.
I even had to quickly end my Cutey Honey: The LIVE clips in my “Tokusatsu Heroes” (Japanese super heroes) panel because it has partial nudity (sparkles cover the NSFW bits, but still…).
JapanFest is a rather large Japanese cultural event held every September in Atlanta, GA. It’s often on the same weekend as Anime Weekend Atlanta (which I also attend). This year, it wasn’t, so I got to stay the whole time. Again the con promo thing, as well as running panels and video.
I’m often surprised by how large JapanFest actually is. Anecdotal conversations said over 10,000 people, and I believe it. We ran through most of our promotional stickers and all of our fliers at the MTAC booth, and most of that was within the first day. I’m sure not being on AWA weekend helped, but it gets fairly large numbers anyway.
As a cultural festival, the big draws are the events and the exhibitions, of which I hardly got to see. The exhibition hall was littered with vendors and sponsors selling and promoting. Including a bunch of Yamaha vehicles. More importantly and probably just as big of a draw, the exhibition holds a popular food court of various Japanese restaurants. I was able to get some delicious okonomiyaki for just $3.
It’s nice to see so many different people from what I typically see at anime and geeky conventions. As a promoter, I get to reach a slightly different audience. As a people watcher, I get to see a new variety of people who aren’t all used to the foreign and “strange” costumes and content that I more or less see all the time at anime shows.
As a panelist, it’s a different experience as the audience for this rendition of my Tokusatsu Heroes panel seemed less interactive but just as interested versus the other cons I’ve presented this at.
JapanFest falls in September every year, also known as the month I might as well live in Atlanta. As mentioned, it’s around or during AWA as well as near to Dragon*Con. All three are worth it for the trips. JapanFest is a more peaceful show, partially because of it only being two days and no night content, but also because the crowd is calmer. I’m glad Nashville has been getting a similar event in the spring, with the three-year-old, one-day Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival, but I don’t see that supplanting the interest in going to JapanFest.
Off topic: how do you prefer seeing titles of works protrayed on the web?
- “Quotation marks?”