Monday, 22 September 2014

Building a Great Convention Part 2

In part one I talked about the need for data, not guesses, with which to build the future.  In part two comes the more important part of the plan.

The Team...

And I say team, even if it’s one person at the top organising everything, they still need a team around them to make sure that everything comes to pass.  At Expo we’ve got to the stage now where we need a number of levels to the team to make sure everything works properly.  Starting at the top where we have a set of jobs that are allocated to all of us at that level. We have the greatest autonomy in our roles, but that comes with the price of having to ensure that whatever we do delivers what we need to.

From there we go to the volunteer captains, and we’ve got a bunch of them, from the three volunteer captains who make sure that all the other volunteers know where they need to be, to the desk captains, responsible for making sure that the million questions that are asked of the front desk are always answered and answered right.

Then we’re down to the most vital of the volunteers, and those are the people that run the errands, move the tables, show people where things are, even just stand on guard against those that want to sneak in and get the shiny first, and they’re most vital because of all of us, they get the least reward from the event, usually the day pass to come in and look around when they’re not on duty.

But the most important thing for all these people, the single defining characteristic of someone who wants to be part of the team that runs a convention...?

They have to love it...

And I don’t mean the rewards, because to be fair, for the rewards any of us get from running a convention (including the people on the top layer), we’d earn more working mcdonalds for the time we put in.  I mean that they have to love it, they have to want to be there, not just turn up for the free entry and the can of coke and chocolate bar.  It’s what makes a convention into a great convention, all those who work there being delighted that they’re part of this, knowing that everyone’s having a good time because of something they’re doing and getting a kick out of that.

And that’s where a lot of places fall down, when it gets to a certain size, it’s difficult to keep a track on everyone, it’s difficult to make sure that you’ve got the right people doing the right things, and it’s only by continuing to take an interest from the top down that we manage this year in, year out.  We watch our people more closely than anyone else does, and we do that because if they’re not enjoying what they’re doing, if they don’t want to be there, then we need to do something with that. 

Which is not to say bring them in like Alan Sugar and start pointing fingers, but instead to find out why they’re volunteering for something that they don’t want to do, when they could be doing so many other things.

For myself, it’s a matter of finding GM’s that actually want to be GM’s, not because they think it’s the easiest way to get room and board at the convention.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve built up a list of go to people that I know I can rely on, that I know love running games and even more so, love running games well, and it’s that spirit that makes the best conventions, people who want everyone else to have a good time.

The management team had a meeting today that lasted a few hours, we had to cover a number of things in that meeting, and while I can’t give you the full details of the things that we covered, one of them was the allocation of the jobs that we take on ourselves, and the need to make sure that we don’t overreach ourselves in our need to make things excellent, because it’s so very easily done.  It’s difficult sometimes to trust things to others, knowing that they might not care for it in the way you do, but as the conventions gets larger, so the trust must grow with it, and the trust you place in people is often repaid because they can see that it’s all part of a greater endeavour, and those that want to make it better will work with you to make that so.

But everything starts with a first step...