Lighten up kid, its only a con!
This is the point at which the chairman stands up, introduces the guests
so that everyone recognises them, and informs everybody of any late-breaking
developments. Make all of these announcements now, so that when people come and
complain you can say "it was all explained at the Opening Ceremony."
If possible, the opening ceremony should last no longer than 15 minutes.
Don't try and make a big production of it. Don't do something big and flashy.
Most people just don't care, they want to get on with the convention, not
listen to you wittering on or watch some half-baked presentation. If you have
something very flashy, and you can guarantee that it will take no longer than 5
minutes and will be visible to everyone, then you might consider giving it a
go, otherwise just forget it. Consider scheduling a panel in the 45 minutes
after the end of the opening ceremony, so you've got an incentive not to run
Things that the chairman should say include:
- Welcome everyone to the convention
- Point out the guests of honour and ask everyone to be nice to them,
buy them drinks in the bar etc.
- Ask for people to come and volunteer as gophers.
- Remind everybody what the policy is on smoking, mobile phones and
other areas of contention.
- Remind everyone that they should wear their badge as they wont
be allowed back in without it.
- Announce anything that got omitted from the Read Me by
mistake, like times for the Dealers Room and Art Show.
- Request that everybody be polite to hotel staff and non-convention
people staying in the hotel. Some people do need reminding.
- Remind them to lock hotel doors, not leave wallets in the bar and so
on, especially if you are in a hotel where this is going to be a problem.
- Remind them that, if they have a problem, please come and talk to the
committee first and not either shout at the hotel staff or feel miserable about
it for the whole weekend.
- Tell them to go away and have a good time.
Who goes on?
Notes for moderators
Mikes, sound-proofing, external noise
Not to be confused with the games room
Auctions are a perennial favourite at British conventions. They
generally fall into 3 categories
- Book Auction: Do you have books to auction? If so, off you go.
- Art Auction: If you have an art show, then it is generally assumed
that you will be auctioning off some of the pictures. Just make sure you don't
accidentally auction something that wasn't intended for sale
- TAFF: Miscellaneous bits auction for the benefit of various fannish
causes and charities. All you have to supply is a room.
Generally, these items are organised by a group of people who have been
doing this for ages and who understand how the whole thing works. Don't forget
that in addition to one or more auctioneers (two is a good number) you also
need to allow for someone to handle the money side (and they may need money
from the convention for a float). Auctions, especially the Art Auction are also
real gopher sinks. Be careful when you schedule the auction because you can
pretty well guarantee to run low on gophers at this time.
Masquerade is generally the most hassle-intensive part of the programme.
Most of your tech budget is probably going to go on supporting the various
presentations. The participants are going to be highly stressed and quite a few
suffering from stage fright. There is a potential for people hurting
themselves, tripping over, chaos is always only ever a heartbeat away and more
people are going to be watching than at any other item.
With this in mind, every year people suggest doing away with the
masquerade and saving a large chunk of their budget. Nobody does it because, as
I said, its a very popular item even if it is disproportionately
- Dont make things more complicated than they are already. This
goes for unusual layouts, special rules and exotic tech. For instance, putting
the MC in a separate room, only able to see the presentations on a 2" monitor
seems to me to be unnecessary complication.
- You have to have a marshalling area (a place where people wait for
their turn to go on). This needs to be taken into account when laying out the
- You need a calm, competent, sympathetic person backstage to ensure
that the participants are kept in line and gophers are available to feed and
water them. You need someone who can cope with 30 prima donnas having hysterics
- Your backstage manager needs to find out in advance exactly
what each participant is going to do. People like surprise items, but the
backstage manager and the tech crew must never be surprised. Every participant
ought to run through a rehearsal the morning before the masquerade, but this
isn't always possible.
- Dangerous actions, live flames and so on need to be prevented or made
safe (for instance: one person at Beccon 87 wanted to fire blank shotgun
shells at the ceiling he was persuaded otherwise). Don't be afraid to
tell someone, anyone, that they can't do this stupid thing they've got
- If there is a hold-up or a change in running order, the backstage
manager needs to be able to communicate this to the MC.
- You need an entertaining person out front as MC who can fill in
awkward gaps (perhaps while backstage are desperately trying to mend a
disintegrating costume) and who can announce every item in an interesting way
without seeming bored or making cheap cracks at the entrants.
- You need to decide what you are going to do in the interval, while
the judges are deliberating. This should be a visually interesting item which
can be stretched to fill anything from a 10-minute to a 40-minute gap. If the
judges are still out after 40 minutes, threaten mayhem unless they hurry up and
make a decision.
- The judges must have been informed in advance what is expected of
them, and what prizes they are allowed to award. Imagine your horror when the
judges, instead of awarding "Best Workmanship" decide to give an award for
"Cutest Dragon", especially if youve already had the prizes
- Provide lots of gophers backstage to look after the participants.
Water, cereal bars and sympathy are probably the main ingredients for keeping
them happy. Make sure everyone knows exactly where and when they go on.
- Mark out waiting areas and so on with hazard warning tape. If there
is any chance of people going the wrong way, mark out the route with tape. If
there are steps, stages or anything that could be tripped over, fallen off or
run into, either get rid of it or mark it with hazard tape. Position gophers at
the entrance and exit to steer the participants the right way.
One unusual feature of Eastercons is the bidding session at which groups
compete for right to run the next but one con. This has been going on since
time immemorial and we're certainly not going to stop now.
Since we went to two-year bidding, its been traditional for the
next years chairman to chair this. I don't have a problem with this, I
did it when it was my turn, but do warn the person you think is running the
session, just in case they weren't aware of it.
Things to remember if you are chairing the bidding session:
- Discourage more than one spoof bid. Please. Spoof bids are a
tradition and occasionally they're mildly amusing. If they've put a lot of
effort into it, then they can be very funny. Unfortunately, this is rarely, if
ever, the case. Usually, a bunch of drunken fuckwits get together in the bar,
come up with an idea that seems amusing at 2 am, and proceed to hammer it into
the ground. Boring. Boring. Boring. Try and convince competing spoof bids to
merge if you have to.
- Ask half a dozen people in advance (the night before will do) if they
will be tellers. The bids also get to appoint a couple of tellers if they want,
but it's best to have some sensible people prepared.
- Keep rigid time slots, especially for the spoof bid. If they take
more than half their allotted time, they're probably boring everyone to sleep
so rule with an iron fist.
- During the question period, try and make sure that questions go to
both the real bid(s) and the spoof. Passing a tricky question to the spoof
first gives the real bid time to think of a convincing answer.
- Keep control. Don't let the session degenerate into random baying for
blood. You have the mike, use it wisely.
Here's my introductory speech from when I chaired the bidding session at
Sooner or later youll have to bite the bullet and go to the
Business Meeting, also known as the Gripe Session. Do not be tempted to put
this in a small room, only allow half an hour or cancel it altogether. These
are sure fire ways of ensuring that lots of people suddenly turn up with
serious problems, and you take a lot of flack for not letting them sound off at
- The one essential thing is to arrange for there to be a neutral
chairman who is prepared to tell people when to shut up. Do not under any
circumstances whatsoever have this item chaired by a committee member.
- Use a room thats too big, quite apart from anything else, it
makes it look as if there are fewer people present.
- Use a 2-hour slot if you can, but plan to only run for 1 hour.
- If you have the meeting miked, ask Tech to arrange for a single
floor-standing mike in front of the audience. This will give better sound
quality and people are less likely to stand up in front of everyone unless they
have a real problem. Failing that, go for a couple of radio mikes and gophers
who know names and faces.
- Have a selection of people up on the panel, but try and avoid having
anyone you know to be aggressive or long-winded. The next years chairman
should be on the panel (possibly chairing it).
- Be firm about dividing the session up into topics (e.g. Hotel,
Programme, General) and disallow questions outside of the time for them.
- Let different people talk, dont let a few loudmouths hog the
- Be prepared to admit where youve screwed up. Trying to deny it
just prolongs the agony.
Recently, a new alternative to this was tried out (at Intuition in
1998). In this variant, the people on the platform are all from the committees
of the following two Eastercons and there are no committee members of the
current convention visible. The emphasis is all on things to be learned for the
next year, and less on complaining. We tried this again at Reconvene in 1999
and so far this seems to be a successful strategy. It does remove some of the
overpowering sense of looking for someone to blame that hangs about the
traditional gripe session. However, if you do this then you must:
- Have a visible means of expressing gripes at other times during the
convention a box of written complaints or regular early-morning feedback
sessions at the very least. Its very dangerous (and very easy) to be seen
as uncaring and uninterested in peoples problems. In fact, this applies
no matter what sort of session you have.
- Announce (e.g. in the newsletter) what is being done to fix problems
that are affecting everybody. Get back personally to people with problems and
make sure that they are now happy and have not just given up trying to get a
- If you go to the session, dont be tempted to get up and start
apologising for your con; if you want this item to be directed towards the next
years con then stay out of it. This means you dont turn up
at the item if you dont think you can keep quiet.
- Warn the people you plan to put up on the panel. At Intuition we
(Reconvene) learned maybe 20 minutes beforehand that we would be fronting what
could very easily have turned into a nasty gripe session.
This is where the Chairman stands up and tells everybody its all
over. Its nice to go out with a bang, it gives everyone a feeling that
the convention has really finishedeven if youve got more items on
afterwards. In 1993 at Helicon, we closed with a 3-screen slide-show of about
200 photographs taken throughout the convention (a gimmick we ripped off from
Noreascon 3, the 1989 Worldcon). It was an awful lot of work, but it went down
Things to say include:
- Thank the guests for coming and for being wonderful. Its
customary to present them with a memento, like a plaque or a glass or
- Present any prizes that havent been presented previously.
- Tell people when and where the dead dog party is being held.
- Thank everybody who worked on the con. This is fraught with peril. If
you miss people out, they will be upset. In 1992, Sou Westers
chairman omitted to thank the Newsletter and was promptly roasted in a special
edition. In 1999 we asked everybody who had worked on the con to stand up and
then gave them a round of applause. I still dont know if this was felt to
be acceptable, but at least we tried.
- Ask for volunteers to help tidy up the hall/hotel after the ceremony,
especially the technical equipment.
- Its traditional for the chairman to hand over responsibility
for the con to next years chairman at this point. Give them the DCM badge
or something. Now you can relax.
Things not to do:
- Dont congratulate yourself and your committee on what a
wonderful job youve done. Its tacky.
- Dont go on too long.
- Dont try and make excuses for problems. Its too late for