What's on at the Con?

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What’s on at the Con?

General Programme Information

Find out what else the guests might like to talk about besides the obvious! You need to emphasise to guest that WA is different. We really are happy to have guests on whatever panel they want.

Richard Scriven's Ideas

  • Your program is built around your main and secondary guests and the venue that you have. These are the main criteria for any program.
  • If you have one guest, you cannot do multi-stream programme with him/her; conversely, you can have 50 guests, one room, and underutilize the lot of them!
  • Any program should try to cater for all the membership at the same time.
  • Any program must be built around your main events.
    • Opening ceremony - acts as introduction of guest to members.
    • Closing ceremony
    • Guest of honour speeches
    • Awards
    • Masquerade
    • Auction
    • Banquet
  • Get together as many panel, discussion ideas as you can. Try each one out by starting to discuss it with a group of people. If you run out of things to say in five minutes, you can probably discard this as an idea. If the discussion is getting hot and everyone has something to say, then you probably have a topic that will work. This system takes a long time.
  • Subdivide your items into different types, perhaps presentations, discussions and interactive items. Have one panel room for each type? or mix them up in an even sort of way?
  • How many streams of programming are you going to have? Cross reference with your video programme and gaming programme so that there aren't any obvious clashes of interest groups.
  • If someone puts their name down on a panel, make sure they know where and when to show up. Tell people if they are on a panel or event well ahead of time.
  • Some discussions need moderators! Especially if there are a number of guests, like at Swancon 21. Let the person know if they are on a panel to be moderator!

Video Programming

1.Richard Scriven's Video Philosophy

  • Video programming should be for all the members and should not conflict with other major events. *Major events can be scheduled in the video room.

2.Other Video Programing Ideas

  • Programme fudgespace so you can keep to the schedule.
  • Murdoch Animation Directive did video room management in 1996, and have said that they will do it again. Andrew Leech is the contact.

3.Video Equipment Video projection equipment is cheap to hire. Rent-lo $154 for weekend including insurance, no charge for holidays (1996).

4.Other Video Comments Three things you must know:

  • what you are planning to show;
  • how you are going to show it;
  • and who's going to look after all this stuff.

5.Videos and Laser-discs You are restricted by the videos/LDs you can get your hands on. Don't promise something you haven't got yet.

6.Sources for material:

  • video shops often have preview copies you may be allowed to use;
  • media clubs;
  • media fans;
  • Your TV guide and a good VCR. Be careful of copyright infringement.
  • You will sometimes be loaned material which is irreplaceable or difficult to get hold of. It will be up to you to provide some sort of security, even a box with a working lock. You will be held responsible for anything that happens to them.
  • Where possible, do not use originals; make or get copies of the material you want to show and use these. Be careful that bootlegging does not occur. If you have to use originals, treat them with care.
  • Try to have all your videos/LDs prepared at least a week in advance (including fast forwarding as necessary) and finalise your schedule then. Check all your videos that they are correctly labelled, and have all the right bits on them.
  • Cater to your audience: if they're there to be entertained, keep it fun; if they want art-house, give them art-house.
  • It often helps to plan with some theme or common audience interest in mind. Avoid clashing -- where humanly possible -- with the other programming streams.


  • Laser-disc players: preferably one of those which will play both sides of the LD, so you don't have to change the LD over. It just speeds things up and makes life easier for the video room manager. If you are planning to show more than 12 hours of LD a day in one stream, you should consider a second LD player. Some movies run to two or more discs. If you have a second LD player, set up the second disc in the second machine and simply switch between the players. This can be especially useful with a series such as Bubblegum Crisis or Area 88 (3 or 4 discs each).
  • Video players: preferably one which can handle more than one format, i.e. both NTSC and PAL, especially if you plan to show overseas material.
  • A good stereo system is essential, especially for LDs which sometimes have surround-sound tracks.
  • The screen can NEVER be too big, but you need a projector capable of handling it.
  • Get equipment appropriate to your needs. If you only have a small room, then a cheap, small projector is probably enough.
  • Have one more monitor and VCR then you will be using. You will need them. The extra monitor and VCR are generally used for cueing videos and are there as a back up. People will also turn it into a freeform video stream. This is great for con-goers but can be inconvenient for video managers trying to cue videos.

Video Room Managers

Don't wait too long to find video room managers. You should have a good idea who's on your team by the last month before the convention.

About 2 weeks before the con, you should have a video managers' meeting. This is where they get to find out who the other managers are, make up their duty roster, and familiarise themselves with the equipment they will be handling. The video managers' meeting is also a good time to finalise who will be bringing which bits of equipment, how they will be transporting them and when, where and how they will be stored, and who will be setting them up at the venue.

Make sure your people know what their duties and responsibilities are. You will be ultimately responsible if they fuck up because they don't know what they're doing. The video managers need to be briefed AND supported. The front desk should know the schedule and who can be called on in an emergency. Keep the schedule tight and the shifts as short as possible (4 hours minimum, 8 hours is the maximum and should be avoided). Generate a procedures document/manual and keep it handy.

Other Things

Get insurance to cover equipment damage, theft, acts of god ... etc. You will need it. Find someone experienced in getting insurance for these sort of conventions to do it. Otherwise, you may have to be careful about declaring what you need insured. Your state/country may have laws about the showing of videos under certain circumstances which may make them technically illegal at your convention. Find out. You can also use our language translations service for your personal or business purposes.

Think about having a break in the video room (or rooms) at least once a day to clean up accumulated rubbish and air the room/s. 10 to 30 minutes is usually enough. It also allows the equipment to cool down. Some venues will insist on cleaning breaks and provide staff for this purpose; give them definite times and stick to the schedule.

If at all possible, keep to the schedule!!!! Many con-goers split their time between the video room/s and other bits and will plan their time accordingly. Buggering up the schedule can ruin a con-goer's day.

Advance planning is always good - try and think of everything. You will fail BUT you will have fewer problems, and maybe no major ones. Really Useful Things

  • List of contact numbers
  • Labelling stickers
  • Marquee
  • Small desk lamp with red light bulb, or a torch (one for each video room)
  • In and Out boxes for videos/LDs
  • Daily schedule of who's on when
  • Program guide
  • List of who owns what

online jobs


Anonymous comment after Swancon 20, in 1995 Some of the people in a gaming club said that they would not attend Swancons, because it costs too much: Apparently, in similar conventions in the eastern states, people can pay about $6.00 if they only want to come in to play one game, then leave, instead of paying for half a day (currently @ $20.00 at Swancon) for a few hours of gaming, and not attending any other event. Although I think those people are confusing gaming conventions and general SF conventions, I can see their point: could the costs be based on full convention, etc?

Someone else's comment after Swancon 20 in 1995 NB: Swancon is not a gaming convention!!! It is a Speculative Media Convention that covers all facets of Science Fiction/Fantasy/Gaming/Horror/Media/whatever. People DO expect you to do better than the previous con(s) therefore the committee has to try bigger and bolder things. Hence the high price. Gaming cons are cheaper cos they usually don't have GoHs and don't run 24 hours. This cuts costs considerably.

Other anonymous comments after Swancon 20, 1995 Think about the security of any games borrowed for the con. Are you going to have a tournament? What prizes are going to be offered? If you have tournament(s), can people come in and just pay for attending the tournament? (Full and current day/half day memberships free, provided membership expires after the finish time of the tournament and then have "tournament only" tickets?) - hey you've proved that only our thinking stops us from doing anything we want to do.

Don't even bother trying to organise a role-playing tournament for a Swancon. Firstly you'll have to run it yourself cos nobody really wants to spend 4 hours of their con running something serious, like a tournament. Even if you do get enough people to GM it for you make sure everyone knows when the tournament will be held. Times, dates and rooms should preferably be finalised by the time the final PR is sent out. That way people can more or less plan their con around the tournaments if they are so inclined (not many people are).

Ask for games as early as possible, as soon as you get the bid is preferable. Then keep hassling people all the way up to the con. Keep reminding people that they have promised a game for the con and that fire and brimstone will rain down upon them if they don't deliver. Make sure they know exactly when they are expected to run the game as early as you can (preferably by the last PR).


Various Anonymous Comments No, you don't have to have one.

Swancon 18's masquerade was the reasonably successful. Some of the possible reasons why so many people joined in with this one include:-

  • A prize for the best Discworld costume. Although there were not too many Discworld costumes, mainly because so many of the characters are just 'ordinary' people, it at least gave people a starting point when thinking about their costume.
  • It was 'advertised' as a masked ball and there was an implication that you at least had to go masked to get in.
  • There were face paints and face painters available for people.

Successful masquerades get atmosphere. Keep the lights in the masquerade room low! Have the 'traditional masquerade' first and then the masked ball or whatever. Who is going to MC the masquerade? Needs to be someone with personality, not necessarily a guest. They need to know that they are doing the job well before, as they may have filler acts which they want to work out/rehearse. If you have a guest MC, maybe you should find some people who will do fill in acts.

Judges can be guests, especially useful for fan guest of honour, or notable people who have won a number of masquerades.

The traditional masquerade consists of people who have an 'act' to do, plus those dressed up who will want to be announced. Some people like just to walk on, it would be a good idea to have these people first. All people who want to be part of the masquerade, as opposed to just dressing up for the fun of it, have to fill in a form of some sort -

  • name(s)
  • costume/act/character name
  • walk on or act?
  • how long?
  • anything the mc needs to say as introduction?
  • music?
  • lights?
  • anything else?

The main problem with masquerades is what do people do once they're dressed up. Dances have been traditionally under-attended, although enjoyed by those who did go. Combining dressing up with a champagne and orange book launch was fun at Swancon 17. and so was having a masked ball Judging of costumes needs to be thought about before the con. Some suggestions for prizes awarded are :

  • Most colourful costume
  • Best performance
  • Most outrageous costume
  • Best costume in the theme of the masquerade
  • Best female
  • Best male
  • Best group
  • Most original costume
  • Most amusing costume
  • Most amusing performance
  • Best 'copycat' costume
  • Best make up
  • Costume that took the most work
  • Best formal dance
  • Best informal dance
  • Judges choice
  • Each guest's choice?

It is not suggested that prizes are given in all categories, but maybe a costume stands out as being the best in one of these categories. The categories can be decided before the con and advertised, or not, but the judges need something to guide them when they are judging. Of course how many prizes are you going to have, and what are they, are good questions to be answered before the con too!

Jobs that need doing during the con

1.Registration Desk Have two tables, one for pre-registered people, one for people who have to pay. Casual volunteers on the pre-registered table only have to give things out. More experienced people should be on the money taking desk. Any money taken from registration must be accompanied by the same number of receipts. Take receipts, add them up, take the same amount of money or expenditure vouchers, from the cash tin, and 'the float' should be left. Try and balance the cash tin against the receipt books each night, but not if you are sleep deprived, drunk or in any other way incapacitated. It takes two people to do the accounts each night.

2.Front Desk The front desk should have a list of contacts (including home numbers) for services that may need to be maintained during the con (look at the internet connection at 95). If people aren't contactable, it's very difficult to get time-critical things sorted out.

Roles and responsibilities

  • Desk manager - Desk manager runs Registration Desk and Front Desk. Not inconsiderable tasks. Can't move from desk, so is limited in other jobs they can undertake.
  • Floor manager - In charge of everything. The person on the floor.
  • Room manager - In charge of facilities in the room, water. This is all function rooms, fan lounges etc.
  • Video manager - Runs the video program.
  • Program manager - Responsible for making sure that program items are going to be run properly, i.e. special people are there, special equipment. Probably useful if they have been part of the programme subcommittee, so they have some idea of what is happening.
  • Member Liaison - Calling this person 'security' makes hotels worry.