Things To Think About


What are you going to put in your members’ registration packs? A common list would be:

Membership Badges

Badges actually come under a number of areas. Why do we have badges anyway? Well, the main reason is so that other people can tell who you are when you're talking to them. They also act as a token to show that you are a member of the convention and are entitled to be wherever you are. Let's look at the features a good badge should have:

  • Readable names

Far and away the most important feature of a badge. Use at least 20-point type and preferably larger (36 pt, maybe 48pt or even bigger) on a white or faintly patterned background. Forget cute, forget pretty pictures, large type is essential. And I'd just like to say that gold foil on black has been tried, yes it looked cool, no they weren't readable.

  • Easily identifiable

If Security have a gopher on the door checking badges, it makes their life much easier if they can spot the badge among the profusion of chest decoration.

  • Can easily distinguish full membership from day membership

And also, distinguish the individual days from each other. Normally, day badges look the same as full badges but are on pastel-coloured paper instead of white.

  • Easy to make up new badges

Registration will need to make new badges for people joining on the door. Badges should be simple enough that the process of registering a new member is not unacceptably slow.

  • Hard to counterfeit

Not a common problem in the UK (as yet) but US conventions have suffered from this. If you suspect you’re going to have this problem, ask around for ideas and don’t tell anyone what you’ve decided on.

Let's just mention that one really critical point again. READABLE NAMES. You should be able to read a person's badge from 10 feet/3 metres away without needing to squint. I've been to conventions where the names were in 10pt type and it was pretty hard to read a name without being already extremely friendly with the person concerned. So why do people go for such small type? Well, usually they say it's so that they can fit everybody's name into that same space. Which means that because "Bloodthirst the Barbarian Babyslayer" needs a lot of space, everyone else gets tiny type. This is not a sensible argument. Most names will fit into a small space using large type. The few unusually long names can be adjusted by hand. Incidentally, setting 1000 badges by hand, so that they all fit the space perfectly and every badge has a different slogan customised for that person (as we did in 1999), takes about 2 days. You don't have to go to that level of detail, you can easily afford an hour or so to hand-set the long names.

If you use laminated plastic badges instead of button badges, you can go for even bigger type. For <Plokta.con> in 2000 we came up with a badge design that was unforgeable, had all the convention info on it, and you could read a person's name from over 40 feet away. Take a look at some other con badges and see what you think.

Incidentally, for Contrivance in 1995, I wrote a short VB program that automatically sized names to fit in the space available on a button-style badge. An earlier version of the same software was used for the Smofcon badge above. I don't have the source for this any longer, but it wasn't difficult, it fed directly off the membership database and I think we only had to do one badge by hand.

There's one other thing that's worth mentioning here, and that's the vexed question of real names versus badge names. Don't try and enforce a "real names only on badges" policy, however much you may feel it's a good idea, you'll only annoy people unnecessarily. It's not worth stopping people from calling themselves whatever they want, though Ops and Registration should both have access to a copy of the full membership list giving both real names and badge names, allowing them to do a lookup.

Other Badges and ribbons

You need something to distinguish your members from people who haven’t paid, and this is why you ask everyone to wear a membership badge as a condition of entry. If you’re selling day memberships, then you also need to be able to tell whether someone has paid their membership for the current day. And that’s it, really. You don’t actually need the proliferation of staff badges, ribbons and so on that are so common now. You could get away with one extra badge, for volunteers.

However, if you are determined to pander to the badge-collecting frenzy that grips volunteers as soon as they enter the con, and do badges for everyone, the following areas could have distinct badges:

If you’ve got a lot of spare badges, you can have different badges for workers in various areas such as Ops, Registration, Art Show, Green Room, Tech, Newsletter etc. Remember though, this is icing on the cake, you don’t have to do it. Ops do not need badges to show who they are.

Envelopes v bags

The perennial (if rather boring) question of Registration is "Should the program packs be envelopes or bags?"

Bags Envelopes
Can often be obtained for free from bookshops or publishers Need to buy (say) 1000 A4 envelopes
Hold more than envelopes Pack down better than bags and take up less space
Are easier to fill with lots of stuff e.g. books Can be arranged in alphabetical order in boxes
People can carry them away easily Can be picked up in larger quantities (bags slip all over the place)
People can use them for putting other things in More uniform
  Less likely that the contents will fall out
  Can be easily labelled

Personally, I favour envelopes after having struggled one too many times with bags slipping all over the place. If you get offered free bags, you might consider just having a pile on the Registration Desk for people to take as required.


Comping memberships/rooms/tables

Are you going to provide free memberships, hotel rooms and other resources to guests, fan groups or authors? This is a vexed question, which usually comes down to:

When it comes down to it, what you're doing is cost-benefit analysis. By spending the convention's money on giving this person a free membership, does the convention benefit from it? Remember, "free" memberships are not free, they cost money and resources to service. Especially, you don't owe every person who has ever published a short story a free membership, you'd never make any money at all. Let the pros buy their own memberships, or get a publisher to buy memberships for them, even let them in for half-price. Just don't give it away for free.

The exact boundaries


Programme grids

Define rescheduling policy

Green Room


Radios/mobile phones/room phones/pagers


Lost & Found



How many people? Structure? Large/Small Ops

Need short, simple rules if any

Who does what?


Why "Stewards" not Security?


Volunteer policy


Weapons policy

Badge checking, fights, mundanes, attitude to con attendees


Give them a chance and Tech will eat your whole budget and then some. Be ruthless. Do you really need that third mixing desk? The follow spots? The lighting towers? The extra ten radios so Security can play cops and robbers? The closed-circuit projection TV system that breaks down every few minutes?

Borrow whatever you can, provided you're sure it's of decent quality. If you have to hire stuff then go for a reliable source over a cheap one (but ask around so you don’t get taken for a ride). Remember that when your reflux thingamatron breaks down it’s going to be Easter weekend and nobody is going to have another available before Tuesday, not even if you try and get one sent by courier. And don't forget, you only get one chance at this, discounts and apologies aren’t any use at all.

Art Show

Art boards,

Auction (moving art)


Paying artists

Cash facilities

Print shop

Labelling/forms/bid sheets etc.


Try and find out a bit about your guests. Are they easy to get along with? Difficult? The first committee I was on invited a famous female fantasy writer who (we later discovered) had a reputation for complaining. We took careful precautions to pamper her as much as we could, provided her with a couple of handsome young men to drive her around, top up her drinks and so on. It seemed to work.

Beccon used to have a person whose role was to shadow their guest unobtrusively, turning up if the guest was standing around looking lonely or if they had been captured by a deadly bore. This had the additional bonus that it became a lot harder to lose them.

So, prepare for anything your guest might want, a favourite brand of drink, a chance to meet an old friend, a guitar, a pair of young ladies/men wearing not very much...