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In the ideal realm of the con committee all members are equal and when it comes to courtesy and the sharing of information and ideas this is basically the way it should be. But that doesn’t mean all responsibilities are equal and in reality not all committee members are as important as others and those levels of importance will also vary throughout the development of the event. This is where good commonsense comes in play when dealing with inter-committee relations. Individual committee members should understand where their place is within the scheme of importance and priorities at any particular time. In other words committee members, when picking their fights, should quickly work out what to hold on to and what to let go.

Normally, within a committee, the most important person from beginning to end, if you don’t count the charismatic leadership of your convenor, is the treasurer who has to deal with the money. Money is most important thing to be dealt with, there’s little argument of that. Although, it is a not uncommon activity of the treasurer to put all paper work in plastic bag and dump it 3.00 in the morning on the doorstep of the convenor before going on holidays just before the con or immediately after.

The convenor then takes the bag over to the secretary’s house. And yes, some would indeed argue that the secretary is the second most important committee member because they keep all the paperwork together, take the minutes, process the memberships and control all the correspondence. However, it is usually only secretaries who argue this position.

But from the perspective of the convention members there are two positions that are fundamentally the most important and, indeed, all that are important. First is the person in charge of public communications, promotion material, announcements, flyers, brochures and websites. For the year running up to the convention it is this person who is responsible for getting past members to rejoin and to get members new to the convention experience. For the first several months of the year prior to the convention no other committee member is more important to the eventual success of the event.

All too often though, the publicity person is treated as the door mat to the rest of the committee, waiting on their respective department contributions, being made to answer to every little detail for which some committee members have niggling issues because it’s easy to have niggling issues over small details that you can see on paper (like images and fonts) to make one feel like they have power on the committee while still not having any ideas of their own. Remember, nothing gives a committee member a sense of power than saying “No, I don’t like it and just because.” Then the publications person having to go back and make changes continually till the very last minute and then pressured to get the material out on time.

On occasion a person who knows a thing about publicity and publications will understand that the reality is that the committee can go on with time wasting crap all they like but really they have to answer to them, give them the material they need and give it to them on time if they want good promotion material. And a good committee should know that getting the information out there concise and with minimum, but with stylish flare is going to get those needed members to get all the cool stuff happening at the event itself. A good communications / publications person is worth their weight in memberships.

The general convention populace cares about two things. First is that the committee maintain their promise to hold a convention that won’t, at the very least, suck. That duty falls to the people who get the word out there. The second thing they care about is that the promise is followed through to the very last minutes of the closing ceremony and a con is successfully delivered to them that, at the very least, didn’t suck. Con members are good spirited people, if you deliver a convention that achieves a “at least it didn’t suck” status they’ll be grateful you put in the effort and you can consider your convention a success, especially if you're happy with the numbers who attended, thanks to the efforts of promotions.

So who becomes the most important person after communications have done their job? That would be the programmer, but I’ll talk about their job another time.

There’s no real or even magical formula for a great con committee. The usual situation is that you either all get on or some of you don’t. Commonsense professionalism should keep things under control and a good convenor has to put that into play whenever it is wanting. But it helps if everyone can respect each other’s turf provided also each person has respect for their own turf.

There is a general rule; they who do most of the work should have most of the say. I’m not saying that each committee member can be or should be in total control of what they do, they all should be working to a brief collectively nutted out from the beginning. Their respective roles are to decipher and execute to the style and philosophy of the intended convention. A good convenor should find the right persons for the job and then for the most part let them all get on with it. This is the ideal, but the nature of things means it is all too rare for the ideal to be a reality. But if the committee is made up of honourable and responsible people then a great con committee is well on the way to getting there.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
21st Apr, 2010 01:00 (UTC)
I'm really enjoying these Robin, and I'm awed and grateful that conventions happen at all now!
21st Apr, 2010 12:00 (UTC)
Yes, I am enjoying them too. Good to see a fair description of the logistics, without focusing on any particular committee.

Did you see the graphic I did of the whole Swancon/kids debate a few months ago?

21st Apr, 2010 16:12 (UTC)
It appears I don't have access to it...
22nd Apr, 2010 02:53 (UTC)
Fixed I think :-)
22nd Apr, 2010 04:20 (UTC)
Very cool!
21st Apr, 2010 16:13 (UTC)
Thanks guys.

Nice to know people are reading this.

Bec, I did like your distillation of the argument.
24th Apr, 2010 09:26 (UTC)
I just want to add my thanks for these posts.

Having somehow found myself on a con committee for the first time, it's great to have a bit of a guiding light to follow.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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