Convention Departments+You

Every con, big or small, has a department that helps ensure that programming runs according to plan. Or at least as close to the original plan.

So, how do you choose which department to sacrifice those 4 hours of volunteer work?

That, my dear, depends on what your skill set is and how it could be applied to any of the  listed departments at your chosen con.

Now, for simplicities sake, I’ll start with the basic, four core departments most conventions will have no matter where you go.

  • Audio/Video (sometimes split)
  • Press relations
  • Security
  • Programming (sometimes split into Panels, Main Events, Guest Events)

I’m going to try to keep my explanations  short, as I do plan on going to more departments in depth in a future post.

Audio and Video Department

Audio and Video go hand in hand when it involves showing clips, cataloging attendees with special guests during the convention, and of course, sharing the post-con stories over the internet.

This department will need volunteers who have a basic knowledge of video production or photography beyond that of a cell phone. While our little pocket, computers are getting better, nothing beats the actual tool designed to do the thing. They might even ask for references or a simple statement of why you should be allowed to help in this department.

Let me be the first to tell you, saying that ” X person thinks I can do it.” won’t get you far. Give them a link to examples of your work online, via Instagram, Twitter, or even Vimeo if your super like that.

Press Relations Department

Press is one of those rare, rare birds that’ll ask for volunteers as staffing is done by veterans of the convention. A.k.a., those who’ve been around since Con #1. But don’t fret! You can still volunteer for this department if you have a firm grasp of journalism techniques, bonus points if you’re bilingual, and can handle writing a press packet.

This department’s main focus is to clear local press for attending the con, informing press outlets about events at the con and dates of the con,  while also providing a press schedule to cleared press members to attend while at said con. It can also double as Guests Relations (or guest handlers) if there isn’t a designated department. So, you’ll be busy coordinating Special Guests schedules; Panels, Meals, Airport/Driver; on top of private or group interviews with the SG during Con hours.

Lots to juggle, but pretty fun if you manage to handle all that and still find time for sleep.

Security Department

A.k.a. the unsung heroes of herding unruly attendees in wide open spaces. These guys and gals have the toughest job of all, getting people to listen when changes happen.

As security volunteer, your job will often include:

  • Keeping teens out of dark corners of the convention floor
  • Cleaning up messy trashcans
  • Monitoring long lines for popular panels/main events/badge pickup
  • Reporting suspicious behavior to Hotel and Venue officers
  • Stopping fights if no physical comes to you or the feuding parties
  • Blocking off rooms that changing around for another show
  • Directing attendees to last minute, moved panels

The list goes on, but I think you get the gist by now. While many would think this job is the easiest, it is often by far the most understaffed department I’ve seen in all my years of con crawling. However, I will say that anyone brave enough and not too power crazy, could learn a thing or two about crowd control just from joining.

Just keep in mind, you have to be polite, personable, and commanding when asking someone to please move to the side. I can not stress this enough.

Programming Department

And now, we’ve come to the programming department. The epicenter of all activities going on throughout your convention experience.

This department manages the schedule of every dance/ball, main event (Welcome/Closing Ceremonies, Musical Guests, Cosplay Contests), Special Guest Panels (Writers/VoiceActors/Musicians/Directors/Local Celebs),Art Auctions and other panels or coordinated entertainment for all you lucky attendees with a badge.

To enter this side of volunteering, you’ll have to master the art of “Selling Yourself”.

That’s right, you have to really, really try to convince the convention that your worth a salt lick and can handle just about anything.

To be honest, getting into the programming department requires more of a ‘who you know’ than ‘what you know’. This area is hypersensitive and is often the bain of many congoers as this aren’t always communicated efficiently.

Say, a Panelist cancels the day of the con, but not a soul was told.

And it’s a popular panel.

And it’s on a Saturday. The largest high traffic day for people attending, both out of town and local.

Anger, rising.

You get what I’m trying to say here. Just. Be aware of what you’re dedicating very, very sensitive time and stressful energy to making things run as smoothly as a Pirate ship, possibly sinking into shark infested waters.

Again, programming needs a go-getter, over organized, self-monitoring volunteer that can handle high volume, scheduling, and a fast paced environment. Sometimes longer than just a weekend of the con, you might have a week of pre-work to do.

But, hey. This is just my experiences with each department, it’s not all set in stone and varies in other places.

Just think, you  get a free $50 -100 badge, with free food for the staff (cons may vary on this) and crash space if you give enough hours just from volunteering.

Plus, you’ll have the experience to add to a resume and get to party pretty hard with the staff, if that’s a perk to ya.

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