Crises and how to fix them

Remember, things will go wrong, it’s inevitable. No matter how hard you’ve worked, no matter how much effort you’ve put in, something will screw up. Be prepared to hack things about if you have to. Don’t ignore problems just because it’s your convention and everything should be perfect. It won’t be.

If you look for trouble and don’t find it, you’ll be happy. If you assume everything’s fine, the problems will get worse until they can’t be ignored and possibly can’t be fixed.

Six important points


It’s very easy to get into the trap of fiddling with the programme. Someone can’t make their programme item and they ask if you can reschedule it to another slot. You do this, publicise the change and suddenly half a dozen other people jump on you demanding that it be changed back for equally valid reasons. If you do this, half the audience won’t realise that it’s back in the original timeslot and when they miss it, your name will be mud.

Remember that you’ve spent months massaging your programme into shape so that there aren’t any clashes and so on. What’s the chance that making a snap decision while you’re tired and being hassled by people is going to be better than months of careful planning? Pretty slim, huh?

In most cases, it’s easier to scare up a replacement panellist than it is to reschedule just so one person can make it. People are far more replaceable than time slots and the audience will usually accept a change of panellist without griping. On the other hand, you can usually assume that every time you reschedule an item you lose anything up to half the audience. Just moving to another location loses maybe 10%, so if you’ve got the option of changing the room take it like a shot.

If you have to reschedule, you can only do so once. After that, you probably ought to cancel the item. If you have left empty slots in the programme, you can consider moving to one of those, but in general it’s much safer just to pull the plug than to increase the general chaos by hunting for a slot you can swap with. Cancelling a couple of items is always acceptable, though try not to make a habit of it. Don’t get into a situation where nobody knows what’s on when or where.

Assuming you do make a change, you have to do a number of things:


The high-pressure, crisis-rich environment of running a convention rapidly brings out personality clashes. Any con usually ends up with a couple of people who aren’t talking to each other any more. If you’re lucky, they aren’t in critical positions. If you’re unlucky, you’re in deep shit.


Don’t be too quick to pull badges. Unless someone's been making a real nuisance of themselves and you have to make an example or risk losing control, throwing someone out your convention means you've lost. This is very much the last resort.

People don't get enough sleep at cons. They make a mistake, shout at someone and suddenly you've got an instant crisis on your hands. Always try and calm things down before they get out of hand. Be careful that Security know that they must work this way too, it's very easy for them to give the impression of trampling over everyone's feelings, even if they aren't.

Negotiate compromises. If you have to, lie. Remember that you've got a thousand people's happy weekend riding on this.


Remember your brilliant guest of honour and how you couldn’t understand why they had never been GoH before? This is where you discover that everyone has been steering clear of them because they have a lousy reputation. Unfortunately, a small proportion of people have appalling manners and every so often you draw a short straw.