Problems That Can Plague Conventions

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In a mailing list back in 1995, Intersection committee member Fiona Anderson asked:

"What are your lists for the top 20 problems that could hit a Worldcon?"

I'm not a Worldcon expert by any means, but having attended a bunch of Worldcons over the last 20 years, and having worked in many different capacities for Worldcons, here are what I think the biggest problems are:

  1. Hotel/convention center pulling out.
  2. Intra-committee feuds (the public ones are often nuisance enough, but the "private ones" can be even more devastating).
  3. Committee that does little/no recruiting for senior staff (no one city has the depth and bredth of people to create a complete Worldcon committee).
  4. Non-communicative committee members (especially the program folks).
  5. Committees formed around political paybacks instead of competence.
  6. Fixing the blame and not the problem. (Some groups spend way too much time worrying about the personalities involved and not enough time doing the right thing. Related to that is "pretending a problem won't go away" where the problem still doesn't get fixed.)
  7. Some group/individual trying to "hold the Worldcon hostage" over some issue.
  8. Permitting one Worldcon area to "take over." The committee, especially the chair, must try to consider what's best for the convention as a whole and not what's best for one area.
  9. Fear of innovation. Worldcon committees can be frightfully stodgy.
  10. Not planning for various contingencies.
  11. Striking a rational balance between spending money freely and being too tight with a buck.
  12. Hugo/site selection vote fraud.
  13. Not enough gophers.
  14. Not enough security.
  15. Too many attendees/crashers looking for style over substance.
  16. Certain pros/fans who prove the 80/20 rule every dammned year... (that 20% of the people cause 80% of the grief...)
  17. Insuffiently-stocked con suite and no easy-to-purchase food nearby (a con suite can get away with running out of it's near vending machines that are stocked).
  18. Poor room assignments so that people have to dash from one end of the convention center to the other. Cluster similar items together (Art show and art programming; films and media programming...).
  19. Not publishing programming/event/exhibit changes at the con.
  20. Not doing every bit of communication via the Internet/commercial networks that you reasonably can.

Fiona further asked:

"What are your lists for the top 20 problems that could hit Registration?"

  1. Not enough help.
  2. Major database nightmeres just before the con or at the con.
  3. Using packets/envelopes instead of having attendees take those freebies that they want.
  4. Type that's too small on the badge. Names should be huge and all other material should be small.
  5. Power failure and no paper backups. "Just in case" of such a problem, Registration should be able to run on flashlights if it has to.
  6. Badge forgeries. Don't publicize what your badge will look like pre-con and be sure security knows what the real badge(s) look like. Use clever fonts---anyone can forge helvetica and times...
  7. Registration process not properly explained (If you choose to use multi-site registration, the list of WHERE EVERYONE'S badge is must be at main registration. Or, as I'm sure a few people will chime in "one registration site only for all attendees.")
  8. Pre-con, have your registration, hotel & program people work together as much as possible to ensure that records for the same people aren't entered three times. Choose one database, spend some time early on working with it, and be sure everyone uses it.

No, I did not update these lists in 1997. I did, however, make a list of problems that occured at LoneStarCon 2.

Building the Convention Runner's FAQ