Work Less, Achieve More, Have Fun

Don’t Do It Yourself

As someone who has been on the receiving end of this problem, I cannot emphasise too much the need to do as little work as possible. Look at all the things that need doing. Consider that you‘ve probably missed half of them. You are not going to have enough time to do it all yourself. Do not make additional work for yourself by creating work out of nowhere.

The Low-Hassle Approach

This is a philosophy that we developed when I was on the committee of Confabulation, the 1995 Eastercon held at the Britannia International in London’s Docklands. We had an unusually small committee for an Eastercon, only 5 people, and it was a Worldcon year so quite a lot of the usual people were working on that and couldn’t spare time for us. We got into the habit, when someone suggested a new idea or boondoggle of deciding whether or not to do it based on how much effort it was going to be. Every committee gets offered ideas, some of them good, some bad, some dubious. What they all have in common is that someone needs to put some effort into making them work. Our selection process went something like this:

This may seem like a fairly cynical procedure, but it does have some very convincing benefits. Firstly, you can say to the person who originated the idea, "Yes, this is a good idea but we do not have the resources to implement it properly" which tends to go down a lot better than "No, we aren’t doing it". Secondly, it keeps the committee’s minds focused on what they personally are going to be doing at the convention. And lastly, you’re a lot more likely to have fun running your convention if you don’t have to run madly about the place trying to do a dozen different things and failing at all of them.

Once you decide you are a low-hassle convention, suddenly you start to look on even standard events with a different eye. Remember, an item may go down well, but if someone burned themselves out doing it, then it was a failure to some degree.

Areas Which Can Be Delegated

The following areas can almost invariably be delegated to people not on your committee. Find someone who will turn up on the day and run it for you, agree a budget and then leave it to them:

This next list is of areas which can be delegated with a bit of care. Make sure you know what they are planning and keep tabs on staff allocations and expenditure leading up to the convention:

Things you probably want to keep in-house:

Do You Need It?

Be innovative. Look at these hoary old ways of doing things and decide whether or not you can do without something. Almost every committee I’ve been on has sat down at some point and said "do we really need the masquerade? It eats money and people, and it makes a mess of the room allocation." Of course, every time we’ve agreed that we’d get lynched if we tried to drop it, but it’s always worth asking the question.

Rules For The Con

One rule that should not be broken is this:

This means that you don’t get to appear on all of those panels you always wanted to be on and you don't get to be chummy with the famous names you've put on the panels. Tough, you’re going to be too busy and you have to be able to go deal with a problem at any time. This is not compatible with appearing on the programme which in any case counts as unnecessary work as far as you’re concerned. Quite apart from anything else, it looks bad; give someone else a chance to make a fool of themselves in public. If you’re short of a panellist, pick a random passer-by before putting a committee member on it. It’s just too easy to get trapped on a panel.

There is a second rule, which can be bent but which should still be adhered to as much as you can since it follows pretty much from the first rule:

Somebody should always be out dealing with problems and running the con. Wallyphones (walkie-talkie radios), portable phones and pagers make it easier to drag committee members out of the programme, but you can’t rely on them being switched on (or being audible if, for instance, the programme item in question is a rock concert or a disco).

Oh, and don’t forget Yalow’s Rule which is:

Seems sensible enough, but you’d be amazed at how many people work through mealtimes and then stay up all night fixing problems or partying. Set up a system whereby each of you keeps track on whether or not the others have eaten and don’t be afraid to send someone off to bed if they need it. Remember that lack of sleep inevitably results in poor judgement.

The famous example here is Gytha North at Follycon in 1988, who somehow managed to stay awake for the best part of three days and ended up completely wrecked. Don’t do it. If you need chemicals to help you stay awake, don't. Go to bed.

Updated 9 April 2002