Posted By Kathleen David on January 31, 2007
Running a convention is like walking a tightrope with someone holding a burning torch to one end of the rope. I applaud all those who spend their free time creating a convention for their form of fandom. It takes a lot to keep the fans, the convention staff, and the hotel/meeting space happy. There is a balance that has to be struck and that is hard to do. When it works, you might hear from other people what a wonderful time they had at the convention. When it doesn’t, then the convention is to blame for their bad time, which sometimes is true but a lot of the time it has to do with other factors that the fans don’t know and really don’t need to know.
Hotel liaison gets my vote for one of the tougher jobs of trying to balance the needs of the fans with the rules of the hotel. Then there are the local laws that have to be kept which has lead to some interesting calls of judgment on the fly.
So there is a lot going on behind the scenes that the fans don’t need to know about. The staff is there to facilitate the convention’s smooth running and there are a million of different problems that have to be solved on the fly. Like the art show that had to go through and figure out how to either put “pasties” on the naughty bits in art work or get the work down and out of sight. The artists were not too happy about that one but when informed that it was either this or no art show, they adjusted. It had to do with a local law that had been passed between the time of the convention the previous year and the convention that year so the rules had to change for the art show to be allowed.
There are rules at many conventions that are stated in the release that the fans sign when they register or pick up their badges. One of these is that badges must be worn at all times. Which has lead to the phrase in a lot of these releases and program books that “Yes, you do need your stinkin’ badge” (a take off from a line in Blazing Saddles of all things). The reason for the badges are many but it allows for those who have paid to get into the convention facilities and programming. It also can let the convention off the hook for damages if it can be proven that the individual who caused the destruction was not part of the convention. I can remember the Atlanta Fantasy Fair almost got chucked out of the Omni because someone took a battle-axe to an elevator in the hotel. They did have to pay for the damages which was a chunk of change.
Also it has to do with fire regulations as to the number of people who are allowed into the convention area(s). At Shoreleave a number of years ago James Marsters was one of the guests and the convention sold all the memberships that they could sell and still be within fire regulations. I heard many a person plead that one more person wouldn’t hurt but they didn’t seem to understand that the convention was not being mean but working within the rules given to them by the hotel based on what the fire marshal would allow and believe me the fire marshal was there that weekend. Nice guy with a good sense of humor but a strong belief in the fire code which the convention followed so there was no problem.
Now if you get a room in the hotel then you do have the right to go into the public areas but what is a public area is defined by the hotel and sometimes an area that had been public is now considered private by the contract of the convention. I can remember a book sellers convention where a garden area that had been a great place for everyone to meet up and chat with each other one year became a private party area the next. Much grumbling but the hotel owns the space and says what is public and what is private. Technically the hotel could insist that you present your room key as proof that you are a guest of the hotel at anytime that you are in the hotel if they wanted to. The hotel trusts the convention to keep their people in line but are ready to step in if needed and they are much meaner than the convention could ever be.
There are some fans (thankfully a minority) that think by buying the membership, this gives them the right to act like a total git which is why most releases now have the “we can yank your badges for being a total git and no you can’t have your money back” clause in them. I have more of those stories than I care think about and have had to yank a couple of badges in the past when I was on staff at a couple of conventions. Never a fun situation but for the health and safety of the other people attending the convention it had to be done.
I have heard people crow about the fact that they got into a convention without a badge and how clever they are. When in fact there is another title they have gained which is Thief. The membership to the convention is used to pay for the convention. Each meeting room costs money. Each piece of the facility that the convention uses costs money for rental. Then there are the con suites and other amities that the fans enjoy. Parties are a whole other web log entry.
So the next time you are at a convention and you have a good time, thank the staff and the con committee. Put it out there on the web for all to see that you had a good time so we can balance the b**chfest that seems to come on the heels of a convention. Remember these people gave up a chunk of their weekend to make sure that you had a good time.
I am grateful for all the people who work to make sure that the fans have a good time.