I randomly heard about a convention in Boston: Arisia.  I was impressed that they posted an organization chart on their website.  With all the new staff interested in working with U-Con, I had to figure out how to put them to good use and work within their constraints.  They are a different type of convention than us, so clearly the org chart would not exactly work for us.  However, I took that org chart as inspiration, and created a theoretical one for U-Con.

This is actually more like a job function chart.  I expect the person who checks the mailbox will work in a number of areas – GM deposits, exhibitor deposits, etc.  However, it gives a pretty good structure regarding who needs to work with whom.

One of the critical pieces of information was whether the job or function requires work before the convention (advance), during the convention (onsite), or both.  While recruiting staff, I discovered that some of them wanted to do all their work before the convention and leave time during the convention for gaming.  Others wanted to just show up and lend a hand.  It turns out we need both kinds of people as well as people willing to do both.  I put each job function into one of these three bins.

I do not expect to put a name next to ever entry on this list.  However, it’s a big help as I try to assign tasks and responsibilities to all our new faces.  So, without further ado, here’s the chart I created.  I hope you can draw some inspiration from it!

Con Chair: (both)

  • Assistant Con Chairs (both)
  • Guest of Honor Liaison (both)
    • Staff (onsite)
  • Special Projects (varies)
  • Treasurer (both)
    • Budget (advance)
    • Staff (onsite)
  • Secretary (advance)

This division represents the leadership, documentation, treasury, and special projects.

Events Division: (mostly advance)

  • Programming
    • Board Games (advance)
    • Role Playing (advance)
    • Miniatures (advance)
    • CCGs (advance)
    • Organized Play (RPGA, Pathfinder, etc) (both)
    • Tekumel (advance)
    • Special Events (including seminars) (both)
  • Gamemastering
    • GM Deposits/Mail-in (advance)
    • Events customer service (advance)
  • Convention Book (advance

Exhibits Division: (both)

  • Mail-in (advance)
  • Assistant (both)
  • Security (during setup, opening, lockup, and teardown) (advance)
  • Minions (could be volunteers) (advance)

Venue Division: (both)

  • Hotel (advance)
  • Scheduling coordination (advance)
  • Venue Liaison (both, mostly advance)

Marketing Division: (advance)

  • Ad Sales/Exchanges (advance, plus setting exchanged fliers out)
  • Flier Design (advance)
  • Flier Production and Distribution (advance)
  • Online Presence (facebook, twitter, blog?) (advance)
  • Website (information content) (advance)
  • Campus Connection (parties, campus groups, campus advertising)
  • Press Liaison? (advance)
  • Survey (both)

Member Services Division: (advance)

  • Registration (advance)
  • Online Customer Service (advance)

Operations Division: (both)

  • Assistant (onsite)
  • Staff (42 con hours * avg 3 staff / 6 hrs per staff = 21, or 16 @ 8hrs per, or 11 @ 12 hours) (onsite)
  • Volunteer Coordinator (both)
  • Signage (advance)
  • Staff Food (cookies & coffee) (both)
  • Tech/Tools (both)
  • Materials (badges, tickets, ribbons, envelopes, table numbers) (both)
  • T-shirt art (advance)
  • T-shirt printing (advance)
  • Prize Support (advance)

Tech Division:

  • Staff (advance)
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Just a few years ago, U-Con had 15-20 organizers.  We made some attempts to recruit into our organization, but we were all mostly too busy running the convention to put serious work into it.  Many of our members graduated or left, and our staff has slowly dwindled.

U-Con came to a crossroads last year.  Our committee membership was way down.  We had 7 people attending meetings regularly.  We had a few more people involved via email.  We were fortunate that a few of the organizers were able to recruit friends to serve as staff at the convention and we managed to pull off a fairly normal convention.  I will not say the convention was perfect.  However we did virtually no marketing and our attendance was flat, but people seemed to enjoy themselves.

I learned somewhere along the way that 3 of those committee members are leaving the state and unable to continue on to 2011.  This sent me into a panic.  I convinced a number of people that we needed a heavy recruiting drive.  Despite having problems with such troubling issues as our location and dates, the staffing problem was a bigger concern.

So, I organized some meta-seminars about U-Con.  We discussed the location and date issues facing U-Con with convention attendees while also bringing up the staffing issue.  Interest in these meetings turned out to be a great indication of interest in joining the organizing committee.  Quite a number of people were interested in contributing, with various conditions on those contributions.

Several of our organizers went into recruitment mode as well.  Recruitment is not an easy chore for me.  Like many gamers, I’m naturally introverted.  I have to fight that tendency in order to find potential organizers.  I inquired with every one of the emergency staff that was brought in if they’d be interested in being full committee members, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that in many cases the answer was yes.

One barrier most people had was that they didn’t know how they could contribute.  U-Con has some processes that have worked for years.  While these systems probably need updating, they don’t feel comfortable changing everything right away.  So, I organized a list of jobs and functions to see what type of help we really need.  I’ll post about that in another entry.  Idea, though, was to try to convey to the potential committee members where we need help and match volunteers with areas of responsibility.

This recruitment drive has been quite successful.  The 2011 committee has not convened yet, but I’ve got a pretty good picture of our participants from this work.  I’m quite pleased that we’ll have some areas covered that we haven’t had covered in years.  I’m very excited to see the new ideas and innovations that all this new blood will bring to the table.

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I think the answer is to just start posting.  I was able to post weekly for 4 months and then ran out of steam once I started organizing the convention.  Handling more jobs than I should is not conducive to keeping a blog on the side.  🙂

I do have to say that I’m amused that more people have found this blog by searching for the “guest of honor invitation” or some variant than any other search term by far.  🙂

For a gaming convention, financial success is a typically used measure of success.  After all, if the convention can’t make ends meet, it’s won’t be back.  On the other hand, too much profit is not necessarily a good thing, as the convention could have provided more services.  A non-profit convention will want to balance cost and income.  Success should, instead, be measured in terms of participation in events, and the specifics of that participation can assist in planning for future conventions.  Collecting information to compute participation can be challenging, but that information is the most valuable indication of success and will help you improve the convention.

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Here is a redacted guest of honor invitation I used for a previous convention.  Use it at your own peril!  🙂
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Select a guest of honor for your convention can be challenging.  You may want to select a guest of honor to please your current audience or to expand it.  You also need a way to contact your prospective guest.  Whomever you choose, you will need to send a formal letter of invitation.

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I’ve written quite extensively about what is difficult about running gaming conventions.  It can be lot of work and require a variety of specialized skills.  With all the challenges blocking the way from putting on a convention, one might decide to give up and go home.  Is it worth all the trouble?  Well, I and many other people find that the rewards outweigh the challenges, and sometimes overcoming the challenges are part of the fun.

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Nearly every gaming convention has some sort of exhibitors hall.  The hall could vary from a few vendors to hundreds depending on the size of your convention.  Organizing a decent exhibitors hall can be a lot of work, but there are a lot of benefits to maintaining one.

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How do you manage your concom? regular meetings? how do you organize the meetings and keep them on track?

There are plenty of philosophies of management.  There are many books on the subject.  Different managers each have their own style.  I’d like to share two differing views from my experience with U-Con.  I’d also like to stress that while there are trade-offs to each approach, that does not make either approach inherently better.

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With thanks to Malcolm for suggesting this topic.

A convention is inherently about connecting with other people.  In any social situation, misunderstandings will arise.  When gamers get together, the misunderstandings are likely to increase due to the reclusive tendencies within the community.  Like it or not, interpersonal conflicts are especially likely to arise within a gaming convention, and as organizers we must be prepared to deal with them. Read the rest of this entry »

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