Sunday 20 June 2010

To Con Organizers

I’m sitting a big conference room in Montreal, listening to audio visual staff sing as they set-up equipment for my workplace’s national conference.   My co-worker and I are running through the details, keeping track of all the little stuff that could go wrong over the next few days if we screw something up today.  Is that wire going to trip someone?  Are those signs visible?  Will those people be happy with where we stuck them?  Will our shoes clash with the paisley carpet? 

For anyone who’s done event planning, they know there’s a natural adrenaline rush, whether it’s a personal event like a wedding, or a professional one like a conference.  I can feel butterflies in my stomach even though I’m well aware that, when it comes down to it,  it’s not my event.   It’s important to me professionally, of course, and I take pride in what I do, but it’s still for my workplace, not for my own personal gratification (even though a lot of personal gratification comes from a job well done, let’s face it).  But still, doing this for my workplace means that I’m not personally taking on the risk.  I’ll be disappointed if things don’t go off well, might even shed a tear or two, but I’ll get over it quickly (possibly with a glass of wine), and I won't have lost any money (unless I get fired for blogging instead of running around).

That’s one of the many reasons con organizers amaze me.  Not only are they putting on events that are going to be attended by “their industry peers,” (authors, stars, fans, performers, etc.), they’re taking on all the risk.  All of it, from financial to successful.  They surround themselves with other passionate fans and friends and put all of this sweat, energy and money into it, believing that it’ll go off well, that people will have fun, that reviews will be favourable and that, should they hold it again next year, everybody that was there will decide to bring their twenty closest friends.  Because it rocked that much. 

And that’s just the event itself.  Think of all the work beforehand.  You spend months and maybe even years planning  details and inviting guests, getting the right team together, visiting venues, dealing with feedback and hoping to hell your judgment will guarantee a great event.  But there are no guarantees.  Guests drop out at the last minute, leaving programming holes.  Participants are few because the day after you locked in your dates, Star Trek: The Next Generation announces that it’s having a full cast reunion  on the same days in a much more accessible spot for a much cheaper price, including drinks with Picard AND, while there, you’ll get to be in a scene of the re-launched Firefly series (we can all dream, right?)   And seven of your ten con committee members contract H1N42  the week before the event, hacking up a lung while being enlightened on the meaning of life.  As they say, shit happens.  Yet these cons are pulled off all over the world, successfully, on grand global and small regional scales, and loads of people keep going back and saying how much fun they had.

And I love cons.  I really do.  I get to see friends I only ever really see at cons, and participate in events that are just downright fun and satisfy the geek in me.  They provide opportunities to meet great new people, make new friends and for all of us to showcase a bit of what we do and love in the SF-dom.

So my hat off to con organizers.  They are a rare and much-needed bunch, and the field would be a much different and duller place without them.  They have the guts to take the risks that make it all worthwhile for us, which makes them all worth piles of dragon gold, in my opinion (mean dragon gold, too.  Not wussy dragon gold).

Ooooh, the a.v. folks have stopped singing - a sure sign of good or bad things!  Gotta go!