Monday, January 22, 2018

VLOG: On "Perks" and Convention Guests

This weekend (as those of you who follow my YouTube channel have already seen), I posted a vlog/heart-to-heart on the subject of people who ask to be "tour guides" for major attendees at conventions. If you haven't seen it, enjoy eleven minutes of me trying to hold it together:

I actually snipped a lot out of this video concerning individual rights, what being a con staffer actually entails, etc. Because I needed the video to get to the point a lot faster. And considering it's already eleven minutes long, you can probably imagine.

Non-convention-knowing people will generally ask me the same sort of question whenever I go off on a tangent like this: "People actually do that?" And I can understand them being surprised, because cons have a real special dynamic when it comes to what people try to get away with.

So for those who are shocked that people try this, I'll lay out how and why:

1. The convention generally affords brief moments between guests and attendees in the form of autographs and photo ops. In most cases these are kept very short (timed, even), but it is still an opportunity for a fan to have face-time with a celebrity.

2. Con staff for fan-run events are not a faceless corporation. They have social media and they wander around the event. This means that the people who are presumed to have "full access" to the guests are "fully accessible" themselves.

3. Many smaller events are actively working to bring down the corporate barrier between creatives and fans, in a way that improves the quality of the event while preserving the guests' security.

All this put together means that attendees experience both an intentional and unintentional closeness to the guests... many of whom they've put in time and money and vacation hours to see. For most, that's a valuable experience. For others, it is a foothold.

Here's the deal many forget: cons are extremely structured, even if they don't see it. No matter how free and casual you feel at an event, no matter how accessible a guest is, all of that is tightly monitored. Meetings have been held in advance for months to dictate where attendees go, which guests want to be easily accessible outside autograph time, and how the whole flow of the con will run.

Attendees who want a little extra time with that guest -- be it "happening on them" in the bar or being chosen to be their personal tour guide -- are skimming over that planning. Because also into that planning goes sightseeing, as well as who they want with them.

My accessibility online, combined with my overall activity in Onezumi Events and my onstage appearance, means that I get lots of people asking if I can get them places. I won't list them off because hopefully the people who need to read this are reading this, and I don't want them to see themselves flat called out and get alienated. But the fact is, I've been asked repeatedly by strangers for personal access to guests in ways so weirdly casual and naive that I actually get a little scared.

Because when people ask me those things, whether they realize it or not, they sound like they're asking for a commodity. And considering that some of those "commodities" are friends or friends of friends... that really sucks.

I've tried to think of as many ways as possible over the last months and years to tell fans to please not just come up and ask for access to guests beyond what the con plans and the guest seeks out. I'm pretty sure I'll never find the right way to put it that'll click for everyone because everyone who asks is always the exception.

"No, no, this is because I really care and want to volunteer my time for them."

"No, I'd totally stay within your rules, you can vet me and everything."

Or the worst: "Oh, I was just kidding."

If you respect the guests, and you love the event they're at, stop trying to back-door in for extra access. Consider their feelings. Consider that, this weekend, they will be meeting a few thousand people (more at bigger events). Consider that we the staff work for the guest's comfort... and if you truly truly feel that the event you are at is not working in the guest's best interests, don't support the event.

As I said in the video, supporting smaller cons will help everyone. But not putting con staffers on the ropes about things they can't, shouldn't, and won't give you is another biggie. If you love the guest, respect the guest. Respect the business arrangement. And support the events that treat them well. If that's not enough for you... maybe it's not the guest's happiness you're interested in.


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