Steve Davies writes about some of the things which he has seen that made a convention more fun than serious.
It’s your job to lay out the con so that people will have a good time and not realise that you’re responsible. Look for well-designed bars and conversation areas, or even well-placed function rooms which can be turned into social space. Work out where the main social hub of your convention is likely to be. Is it going to be noisy? Smoky? Unpleasant? Can you do anything about it?
At Confabulation in 1995 we had a large lounge (the Royal Lounge) that we wanted to use as the main mixing space so that we could draw the crowds away from the passageways and from the main bar which was next to it. In fact, the main bar was placed in such a way that almost anyone socialising in the bar would be obstructing access to the main programme, the secondary programme and the Dealers' Room. We salted the room with conversation cards, we put the con desks in there so people would be attracted in to them, we arranged the chairs so that there were natural focii in the room, we even organised some discussion circles in there. The reaction we got was "Had a great time, wonderful, of course with a room like the Royal Lounge you could hardly fail…" So don’t expect any praise for your efforts, if things go wrong it’s your fault, if things go right then it’s the site/the people/the guests. But don’t be discouraged, it’s worth it.
OK, you've set up your programme, your mixing areas and so on. Now, one of the reasons that people say they liked a particular con is "there always seemed to be lots going on, lots of people having fun". You didn't think this happens spontaneously, did you? You did? Can I break it to you about the Easter Bunny? It's your parents who hide the eggs, you know? The term "Micro-programming" appears to come from Minicon (and as soon as I can dig my way through a mountain of old copies of Rune and other fanzines, I should be able to say who it was who actually invented it) . Originally, micro-programming meant a sort of street theatre with people doing strange and interesting things in programme items, parties and mixing areas. I use it to mean essentially any interesting thing going on outside the programme and involving an audience of 1 to 20. If you think you're going to have people sitting around, wondering why they're not having fun, then you need to plan for them. Simple group dynamics suggests that in almost any size of group there's always going to be some people on the periphery, not having fun. You need to seed self-perpetuating centres of fun randomly throughout the con. So, how do you do it? Well, a lot of it is approaching people and asking them to bring along things that they might have brought anyway. For instance:
- A game of Twister
- Balloon sculpture balloons
- Juggling balls and the like
- Interesting and silly toys
- Building blocks/lego
Note that you need to discourage things that involve water, weapons and anything that could damage the fabric of the hotel. You can also agree with people that they will organise various activities like:
- Tarot reading
- Co-operative games (has gone down very well in the past)
- Live-action Space Invaders
- Paper-plane building (but see Fannish Bad Habits)
- Traditional fannish pursuits like nurdling, Astral Pole and so on
Use your imagination...
Didn't we just cover this? Well, sort of. The thing is, you are going to have to organise at least some parties.
Committee hug squadEdit
I know this has been tried at least once.