By Fiona Anderson
I'm not actually going to say anything about how it worked, but rather to point out that we fell down on this one badly, in that it not only underwent several changes in DH, but also that none of these were given a clear brief from the Board, nor sufficient support thoughout, being left to manage very much on their own.
Since Promotions is one of the most important areas of the con, in that all income ultimately derives from Promotions getting the punters in, this absolutely needs to be thought out in advance Next Time, and also given the sort of support it deserves from the concom.
When reading Claire's article, you may be tempted to skip straight past the first parts - which are *deeply* depressing - and onto her later recommendations as to actual practical steps to take. But I would recommend everyone to read the first parts too - so many people seem to have forgotten in the after-glow of Intersection's successful outcome how very much hassle many people went through to get us there.
Many of the articles of AFN not unnaturally concentrate on what we did right, and how we did it, but it's also very worthwhile reading how things went wrong, and the underlying causes for that, if you seriously intend to avoid repeating our mistakes.
Claire's article concentrates on failures within Promotions, but it has to be said that the underlying cause for Promotions' difficulties was a lack of interest/support/direction from the Board, to which we must put up our hands - it would be utterly wrong to let Claire shoulder the amount of blame she feels she does in this article, without prefacing it by saying absolutely explicitly any failure was caused by the way the Board failed, and Claire herself was heroic to carry on in the almost-impossible situation into which she was thrust. It says volumes for her ability and dedication that Intersection's reputation and PR was turned around into something positive in the months she ran the Division, especially in those circumstances, and Intersection owes Claire a great debt of thanks.
Claire's article is followed by Mark Plummer's, and various others' on this theme. Mark was also one of the unsung heroes of Intersection, not only supporting Claire in Promotions, and Caroline in the Dealer's Room, but also in negotiating the deal with one of the hotels we used for our Staff Meetings in the run-up to the convention, for which I personally was profoundly grateful at the time J
And now Claire can speak for herself:
By Claire Brialey
This is an odd mixture between advice for the unwary who really want to run the "next bloody British bloody Worldcon", and a proper attempt to look back and assess what we did right or wrong. The only reason I think we need to do the latter is to provide the former; I've not named names here, except to thank people, and I don't think that we did anything so badly that scalps need to be sought. The only point of doing this is to look forward - there's no point in seeking scapegoats for the sake of it, particularly as on balance I think Intersection has got to score as a successful convention. This may consequently take rather a different approach to the various comments and critiques which I gather have been bursting forth as soon as fandom got back from Glasgow, but I hope it will be *at least* as useful.
This is also, necessarily, a personal view. My area heads are very competent people and are perfectly capable of contributing something similar themselves if they feel the need. I think this exercise is one of the aspects of Intersection which doesn't need to be done by a committee…
I was DH Promotions for less than fifteen months before Intersection took place. Consequently, I know very little about the work which had - or hadn't - been done in advance. This was actually one of the problems at the time; there didn't seem to be any material which could be passed on to me, apart from requests for information and past Board minutes. I took over as the third (I think) DH of Promotions: Chris O'Shea had resigned in 1993 and Eddie Cochrane had also had enough by June 1994, although he agreed to stay on as deputy.
The other problems for Promotions, put simply, were as follows:
The last three need to be covered separately, because they were fairly significant…
I was not on email. Eddie initially lent me a modem and cix software, but I didn't have the time to get to understand the system and then to use it; since it could only be a temporary loan I decided to get my own modem and use that instead. In the event I didn't; partly as a result of having lots of higher priorities, but the main factor was cost. Although virtually everyone connected with Intersection told me I should get on email, I wasn't exactly on the breadline, so I was clearly going to have to pay for it myself. And so much rubbish appeared to get sent to everyone on email that it was no incentive for me to get it; I'd just have to waste my time reading all the waffle about other areas which so many people (many of whom seemed rather peripheral to the subject under discussion) decided to contribute. My perception of how electronic communication was used was the other reason I decided not to get it; people don't seem to have used email effectively until the end, if at all (Fiona's Ops bounce did seem relevant and useful, for example). I did have some mass mailings to staff which it would have been useful to send by email, and perhaps it would have encouraged more of a response; sometimes my mailings got delayed because I didn't have time to get all the various papers copied or even to write the letter. Having email wouldn't have helped that much, however, because less than half of my area heads had email either.
Overall, communications did seem amazingly bad. It may have been exacerbated because I wasn't on email, because whenever a member of the Board or other staff member sent something out they had to remember to print off a paper copy, stick it in an envelope and send it to me. But that still doesn't seem incredibly onerous. There were occasions when I didn't find out about a change in venue for a Board meeting until the day before, and only because I'd phoned someone to check. There were other occasions when there had been long and involved discussions about a general subject affecting the whole convention which I had missed because there was too much stuff for anyone to copy to me, and no-one ever remembered who was supposed to send me paper copies. Whilst I wanted to avoid the waffle, I didn't feel able to serve as a full or useful member of the Board (and certainly not the Executive) while I was missing entire, potentially major, problems.
So, no email was my own decision (although I rather felt everyone missed the point about my not wanting the cost - I was already forking out for travel, accommodation and food at staff meetings, travel to Board meetings, catering for the Board meeting I had here, larger phone bills which it seemed to fiddly to claim for, etc), and it may have caused other people problems in contacting me, and it certainly caused me problems in not being contacted by, or being certain I'd made contact with, other people. The decision had been made that the convention was being run on email, and by the time I cam in no-one was geared up to doing it any other way or seemed prepared - or able - to adapt.
I often found out via someone else that someone "had been trying to contact me". Well, there was an answerphone on all day or when I was out in the evenings. The phone was not, although it sometimes seemed like it constantly engaged all evening, and, if the worst comes to the worst, it takes a maximum of five minutes to scribble a note on a postcard, find a stamp and post the thing. Internal first class UK mail travels overnight and would therefore have got to me quicker than some people read their email. Often, though, the person passing on the message would have assumed that I was the one being completely inefficient and would have made some attempt to deal with the issue - whether this meant not really grabbing a good promotional opportunity, committing us to a fairly useless one, or just committing me to handle something in a way I didn't want to approach it, with too little time to do it effectively anyway by the time I finally found out about it.
One of the other problems I had was communicating with my own staff. When I took the job on, I rather got the impression that everything was running terribly well, just needed geeing along a little, and that what I needed to do was to facilitate effective communication all over the place. This, again, may have been my own fault. And it may not. A few of my staff I saw regularly; typically they were the best at communicating anyway. Others were a bit more spasmodic, and, as the pressures on my time grew, I began to lose contact with them, because I couldn't meet their deadlines for response, and they couldn't meet mine, and so it went on. Others I sent things to and never heard from at all. This is why, although I know my staff list in the souvenir book is grievously inaccurate, I still can't be sure exactly how inaccurate it is. My area heads often worked alone, but, where they didn't, they rarely actually told me who worked for them.
And, finally, no-one seemed to know how to communicate with my division in general. The number of times I got phone calls which should clearly have been directed to my area heads is incredible. And even when I explained to the caller who dealt with the subject, they inevitably expected me to call the area head and pass on their request, which I had almost certainly imperfectly understood, rather than to call the area head themself. Or people assumed that we had somehow established perfect communications in Promotions, if nowhere else, and that I would know exactly where one of my area heads was with a long term project which was almost the last thing I personally was worrying about. I wish I had known, in fact; it would have made me feel better because I wouldn't have felt that everyone who phoned me up must be getting the impression that I was totally incompetent and outof control. The fact that a fair few people who enquired after certain projects had no official reason to need to know didn't stop me feeling harassed and defensive, and because of that I didn't just tell them to butt out and stick to their own job. I suspect that a few people telling a few other people that would have kept the whole situation under better control…
If anyone does this again, the main thing to ensure is that there are suitable mechanisms for area heads to report to the DH, for the DH to pass stuff down, for area heads to know who to contact in other divisions, and definitely for other divisions to know who to contact within Promotions. And everyone must be happy to use those mechanisms, and use them - or if they can't, make it their priority to let people know that as soon as possible. If there's an entirely different structure, there must still be extremely good, relevant, and useful communications.
What I think it needs under the structure we used is for the DH to agree the division of labour, and for everyone to note any variations in that and consider whether tasks should be divided up differently. If anyone has to leave the organisation, someone other than them should thus know what their replacement needs to do. The DH should make it clear to people in other divisions who is doing what (not wait for a central communication which is already out of date to do it for them); arrangements should be made for the relevant area head to keep the DH posted about specific urgent problems, and to make regular reports to cover other progress and problems. The DH similarly should regularly report downwards about what's happening on the convention as a whole, and encourage area heads to make direct contact with people who have information they need. Information must flow in all directions, and people *must* allow time enough for people to deal with and respond to the requests they're making (I got very, very tired of "the deadline's in three days and we've simply got to do it" when they would have got a much better result speaking to the person with the advert copy/ the person with the fliers/ the person with the posters/ anyone at all, at least a week earlier). If people can't or won't do this, this sort of structure won't work. It may work most simply on email, but provision has got to be made for people who haven't got the same access as everyone else, unless they are to be excluded completely (which seems like a bloody silly way to run a convention to me). The fact that, when I took over as DH Promotions, no-one could give me a full staff list and contact details - that the first thing I had to do was establish who was meant to be working in the division - is, I think, a pretty good example of how communications weren't working; at that late stage, I couldn't even get people to respond to tell me if they were still involved, never mind set up and use a new and effective system of communications.
The other thing is that I think fans working on a Worldcon have got to accept a bit more of a corporate approach (by which I do *not* mean that we need an opportunity for more frustrated managers and management consultants to practise the techniques they learnt on their latest personal effectiveness course). It may be horrible and unfannish, but then so are parts of any Worldcon and I think that if you want to run a Worldcon you just have to take the rough with the smooth. If there are going to be vast discussion groups, whether on the internet or down the pub, people working for the convention have got to stick up for it a bit. It's just no good staff agreeing that it's all going to go horribly wrong - whether because they actually think that or because they don't want to stand up and be hated - or wading into a discussion on a subject which has little to do with their area of work, just because they have an opinion on it as an individual fan, and creating confusion and dissent. Worldcons have to be run as a company; there are many roles for the many individuals and free-thinkers of fandom, but the structure has to work to accommodate them and then expect them to co-operate and play by the rules.
ME I think I have to admit that in some ways I was a problem - not just in my dogged refusal to join in the email games, as above, but because I didn't totally grasp what I was meant to be doing. I have run conventions. I have chaired a convention. I have promoted conventions and organisations, and I have merchandised subjects virtually to death. But I never had anything to do with a Worldcon other than attending a couple, and I'd only in the past few years taken any wider interest in fandom than in my own circle. Consequently, I didn't know some of the people who were supposed to be working for me, and I don't know some of the people who others suggested I could contact. Others I knew only by repute, and the repute indicated they wouldn't take kindly to a nobody like me phoning up and asking them to help with Intersection, of all loathsome things. I did what I could to make contact with everyone and explain in a cheerful and upbeat way what I thought we were meant to be doing now, but even at this stage some people never replied and for all I knew may already have resigned.
I never knew how to handle the USA - not least because I was told that the USA was doing just fine by itself. I wrote to TR on a couple of occasions, but about specific things, and was far too tentative about finding out what was going on over there. Joe Siclari and Edie Stern, the official US Promotions people who are, I now realise, terribly experienced in the way of Worldcons, eventually let Martin know by email that they really didn't think there was a great deal they could do for us; the USA seemed to carry on ticking along without me doing anything either. Certainly, if that wasn't the case, no-one told me (the may have moaned about me in email I never saw, but no-one told me) I had no feedback and no way of knowing what was happening in the USA because no-one told me; since I was rarely challenged about it, I let it run by itself and let TR continue to run the entire USA as one division since she seemed to be managing terribly well. I wish that the USA had had similar confidence in me, but that's a personal gripe I won't raise again.
I knew there were things I didn't know about, and in the early days I pestered Eddie for information - or at least we talked to each other's answerphones quite a lot. After a while, though, it wasn't background information I didn't know, but current stuff. I took it as a failing of my own that when various people phoned me up and said "I don't suppose you've done anything about…", or "I don't suppose you know anything about…", or "what have you done about…", I didn't know and therefore hadn't done anything. I then rushed around trying to find out what had been done, or not done, who should have done it, who might know about it, and who could do it now, because I felt I had taken on this responsibility and had to get it sorted out and working by myself, because I'd been entrusted to do an Important Thing, and, given the number of people who thought I was too young/ too inexperienced/ too little a Real Fan (by whatever standards they judged that), that if I failed or even asked for help, admitting how much I was floundering, then I would be summarily dismissed. I didn't realise at first, that, if I could have coped with the embarrassment, there would be many times in the next year when I would have considered being sacked as a blessed relief.
(Fiona: when I read that paragraph I was truly horrified. It exemplifies exactly how far the Board had failed, that one of the Division Heads thought that asking for help would be a sacking offence. In my mind the Board members should be always aiming to be functioning as a team, offering support to each other, not as a collection of individual players each on their own - and Intersection's Board took far too long to realise that.)
Only when my paid employment meant I had hardly any time to deal with Intersection, and - fortunately - not even the time to stop, consider my position, and have a nervous breakdown, did I start to be ruder and snappier to people who made what I considered to be unreasonable demands. Unfortunately they either didn't notice, or merely noticed that I had become rude and snappy, rather than trying to work out why… And they usually still expected me to do the thing they wanted, or to carry on nobly doing it themselves because I was patently so hopeless, depending upon their original assumption.
Work was a real problem. If I'd not agreed to become involved with Intersection, my job would have been completely fascinating and just enough to keep me interested in life without making me want to do much fannish at all. If my job had been boring and routine, I would probably have revelled in Intersection, and may have been able to do Promotions the way I thought it needed to be done, even at that late stage. But work involved me working an average of 10 hours a day (and hence being out of the house for an average of about 13 hours a day), and rarely being able to take a day off. I still had to do things like washing, shopping, eating and sleeping. Usually, if I was lucky, I had Sunday free to work on Intersection, because I was too tired on weekday evenings - and, in any case, I usually spent the evenings when I wasn't at work answering or returning Intersection phone calls. If there'd been an Intersection meeting on a Saturday, half of Sunday involved domestic mundanities so I was able to do even less. I was also trying to keep up some other fannish activities; I eventually resigned from the committee of ZZ9, even though the workload was quite small, so as to have one less thing to worry about. But I refused to give up Incon because I had to have something *after* Intersection tocling to, and I wanted to stay in the APA I'd just joined for similar reasons.
And, apparently unlike some staff members, I had to work at work, for all the time I was there. The 10 hours I worked every weekday was in addition to any lunch breaks I may have had. I couldn't produce, print, and copy Intersection documents at work. I didn't really have time to take personal telephone calls (some days I had barely time to take work-related phone calls), and I'm not technically allowed to *make* personal phone calls. Similarly I'm not meant to fax from work. I shared an office with my boss, and she wasn't really wild about answering my phone to someone who wanted some A3 posters - which I didn't keep anyway. I realise I may be labouring the point here, but I feel a strange desire to make people understand after the event at least, what they clearly couldn't grasp before.
Maybe I was just the wrong person to ask to be a division head. I thought I could cope with it, but then what did I know?
(Fiona: We had a lot of people appointed to things they weren't suited for, usually because no-one had sat down and thought through a job description first, so the person didn't know what they were getting into. Sometimes the person then shone, other times they didn't - and there was a culture of not addressing what they needed by way of support, or IF they needed support, or would they be happier doing something else anyway. Claire's appointment was a godsend from Intersection's point of view - though she obviously never realised that - we were going down for the third time in the UK when she came along and got it back on track. Undoubtedly she could have done better with more time to get control of things, and more support from above, but I don't think anyone could have done better than she did for us when she came in to rescue things from complete non-existence promo-wise in the UK)
By just before Easter 1995 I think I was on the verge of a nervous collapse; the horrid inevitability that I couldn't give up Intersection, and the increasing feedback I thought I was getting - that I wasn't doing enough and anyway it was all going to go horribly wrong - made me wonder why I had ever wanted to be in fandom. Intersection sometimes seemed more like work than work - at least at work I got paid and people noticed when I worked hard and tried hard and even occasionally thanked me, even when they were under just as much stress as I was. And at least people outside understood why I had to work, and were therefore a bit more sympathetic about that. Come to that, at least I understood why I had to work; my reasons for offering to help with Intersection seemed less and less convincing, even to me.
But I couldn't give up Intersection. One of the main problems I'd had to contend with from a promotions point of view was the apparently amusing perception that virtually everyone to do with Intersection had resigned - so I couldn't resign myself, could I? And there was so much which I hadn't done, which I'd taken on because everyone else was horribly busy and I couldn't ask them to do any more, or because I felt I wasn't pulling my weight, or because I knew that otherwise stuff wouldn't get done at all and as DH I'd get blamed anyway - and it would have taken longer to have explained to anyone else what needed to be done than it would to have done it myself. And there was no-one else who had the time to take on the additional workload (divisional reports, financial reports, timelines, Board meetings, etc, etc) of being DH, not to mention that I didn't think it fair to land anyone else with the additional responsibility of knowing that their mortgage might be on the line. And of course, resigning would have been embarrassing. And there came a point when I felt that to lose a division head, particularly from the division which ultimately determined all of the income which the convention had would have been just the final straw for Intersection. (I'm not trying to inflate my own importance here at all; I'm just trying to demonstrate why I felt hemmed in).
I had a list of Things to Do which covered three sheets of A4. And a good week was a week when I actually managed to make it shorter - when I dealt with all the urgent things that got scribbled on the end, and all the really urgent things which I just had to sort out immediately and never wrote down, and even did a couple of things at the top which had seemed urgent before. There didn't seem to be too many good weeks.
This section may be too personal, too long and boring, and too little to do with conrunning, and you may have been inclined to skip it. Don't. Go back and read it. Because, even just writing it, I was seized again with the sense of desperation and outright despair I used to feel on a Sunday morning, knowing that today I *must* make time to do all the Intersection work I hadn't done so far; with the horror I felt on Sunday afternoon when I realised it had taken me two hours to do my divisional report, and I still had the financial report to go, and then I had the real work; with all the tiredness and the worry and wishing it was all over, and that *no-one* understood both what I was going through and why I carried on. Until I remembered that it is over, and I wanted to cry again, but this time from relief. Read it and remember - because you'll have problems of your own. Probably new, exciting, and different ones which we weren't well enough organised even to notice. And it takes six or seven years to run a Worldcon - and if you can't hack it, someone else has got to carry the can for you. So you still think you want to run a Worldcon?
It's simple really - or so I keep hearing now at the Tun. Build your own team, or be part of someone else's who you trust and like - and make sure as far as you can that you're working with people who not only want to do the work they've taken on but, more importantly, can do it. And make sure that *you* are interested in the area you're working on, and that you'd rather be doing that than anything else. And make noises to the people who can do something about it if what you're trying to do isn't working, but not to everyone else with a vicarious interest in watching it fall to pieces. And, ideally, don't resign. Don't have any of your staff or colleagues or "leaders" resign. Keep your life on an even keel and sail gently through it all. Go on, try it. If you're really that confident, you could do with a rude awakening. And if you succeed, you're a better fan than I, even if your name isn't Gunga Din - and also a more foolhardy one.
(Fiona: depressing as this was, I thought it essential to include it all. Many of the real problems Intersection had at the beginning are only too well known, but many of the other problems we had later on have had no publicity whatsoever - and the fact of Intersection being a success has blinded many people to the cost of that success. Cost in people terms, not money terms. After Conspiracy, I almost gafiated entirely, because the whole experience for me was so utterly vile. After Intersection I was hyper instead. But my areas went well, the people I had working for me had a clear picture of The Plan for their areas, and I approached the original Budget by tearing it up as complete rubbish, I approached divisional reports by point-blank refusing to do them "you can have the report or you can have the work", and was generally absolutely dictatorial about how I was going to interact with anyone else: "this is what we're going to do". Not everyone is like that (thank God you are probably saying!) and indeed most fans would rather proceed by consensus, and too many people on Intersection felt that admitting they needed help was somehow a failure on their part - when instead we should all have regarded asking for help as absolutely natural and have been looking for ways in which we could offer support to each other. I would hope that Claire's article becomes mandatory reading for any future UK Worldcon's Board, so that they not only understand what they're asking people to take on, but set themselves up to act as a supportive team right from the start, instead of expecting everyone to be lone players left to sink or swim on their own.)
This was a problem I inherited. And it was a real problem. By the time I got involved, quite a lot of fandom was also involved, and signed up - or had been involved, and was still signed up despite having resigned from the organisation. So I was left with the task of promoting to the fans who hadn't joined yet, and the fans who had pretty good reasons for not having joined yet. The main perceptions were:
Worldcons are expensive, and there are always going to be people who can't afford to go. Registration is the first obstacle; you have to convince people two (or even three) years out that it really is going to get more expensive and if they want to be able to go, GBP80 next year is going to seem even worse than GBP60 now. If you do this too effectively however, your Finance people will never speak to you again due to the lack of income at high rates in the last year. We eventually agreed rate rises which allowed little regressions for people we particularly wanted to bring in, and let people have a second chance - old rates for the last Albacon before Intersection, slightly higher rates but still less than the standard price the next month at Novacon - or, as is usual, raised the rates after a well-publicised blitz at a large convention (Conadian, Confabulation). We also eventually got day rates set, and I think we were wrong not to publicise them openly until after the Office closed for postal registration; people would still have been able to plan on attending the convention, if only for two days instead of the full five, and I think we might have made ourselves a bit more accessible and popular.
(Fiona: we also had 2-day rates, which was an idea from the media cons we thought we'd try out. I don't know that it was particularly successful, but that may have been because no-one expected it).
The other thing I wish we could have sorted out was a student discount. The difficulties included identifying *when* people were students if pre-registration was allowed, and whether discounts should be extended to other grups, eg UB40s or OAPs. I think the simple way round this is to agree in advance a student day (probably Saturday), when students and other agreed groups can buy a day ticket for a significant discount, and publicise this. They have to have a valid form of identification when they turn up, and pay then; they can't register in advance on the basis of their student status two years out. It may even be possible to budget in a student etc weekend rate if you could get some figures about how many more people this is likely to bring in. And from a promotional point of view you need the rate rises and any special on-the-door rates as early as possible so people have the opportunity to think about when to register, or about coming along at all, and to plan for it.
(Fiona: I understand one of the Eastercons is experimenting with a form of student discount, and decided to go for people having to write in in advance to notify the con that they would be wanting this. However, what I hear suggests that they have had such endless hassle with this, that it has been far more aggravation than any possible extra memberships could possibly justify. Multipy this for a Worldcon's attendance, and I think it would take a lot to convince me this is workable, however laudable the aim.)
There is always budget-rate accommodation available in any city (I stayed in the YMCA at GBP75 for a fortnight and still got to all the early-morning Board meetings without inconveniencing anyone but myself; the tourist-grade flats, which I was in, were clean and comfortable, and I heard no complaints about the slightly cheaper standard flats. The SECC was two buses away, and the central hotels one; taxis cost between GBP 2.50 and GBP5.00, so cab-sharing was also cheap). If you can find out about this, and publicise it at the same time as the cheap rates, people will be able to work out for themselves what is affordable or not.
It's all going to go horribly wrong:
This needed more work. In the end, I think it wasn't until Albacon that people in Scotland began to get a hint that maybe we would actually be able to put on some sort of Worldcon, and it wasn't until Confabulation (the Eastercon less than five months before Intersection) that British fandom as a whole began to suspect that possibly the Intersection committee could run a whelk-stall, just about.
The problem is that every cock-up or set-back you have will only serve to confirm the doom-mongers' suspicions, and every good point will be a fluke/luck/temporary/exaggerated - or they won't even notice. You may also find that some fans who left the committee at an early stage will be amongst the loudest doom-mongers for whatever reasons of their own.
It shouldn't be happening anyway:
This is a deep-seated problem and needs even more attention. If fans are still stomping around considering your Worldcon to be an aberration against the natural progress of fandom, you may never convince them otherwise. I now have some understanding of how much time and how many people running a Worldcon demands, and if anyone tries to mount a bid without the initial support of the vast majority of active British fandom, they are heaping coals of fire on their heads before they even start. A British Worldcon needs British fandom (otherwise what exactly is the point of running it? I'm afraid that the only other reason I can think of, of impressing the American SMOFs who usually run Worldcons, is not what I consider to be a good reason), and I don't think British fandom is convinced it needs British Worldcons.
If your bid is done properly, this problem won't arise. Bid promotions are, I think, done for three reasons: to get money in, to let people know about your bid and encourage them to vote for it, to bring in as many people as possible to feel ownership of the Worldcon-that-might-be because if you haven't got their support for the bid you may not have time to get it for the Worldcon.
For reasons I've never really gone into, quite a lot of British fandom didn't want another British Worldcon after Conspiracy, and felt side-lined and ignored by the bid committee for Intersection, who carried on regardless. And quite a lot of British fans never really recovered from this feeling, and seemed to feel that they'd done their time on Worldcons and, since this one shouldn't be happening, Intersection could be comfortably ignored while they waited for it to go horribly wrong. This is why you shouldn't just dismiss the group above…
You don't want us there anyway:
After Conspiracy, in particular, there was a bad feeling about Worldcons. Media fans didn't feel that there was anything for them in a Worldcon, and all lit fans hated them anyway. There are also so many other fannish groups - costumers, gamers, comics fans, filkers - who will have some members who consider themselves "mainstream" and will almost automatically attend the Worldcon, and some who consider it's not for them. If you feel that they are wanted, and my feeling is that a Worldcon is for *all* science fiction fans (especially because it's a really good opportunity to find out about other fandoms), use the "mainstream" contacts from each group to find out what their group wants, how to provide it, whether it's actually feasible, and how to promote the Worldcon, not just in terms of promotional material, but also in approach.
I suggest you use fan clubs and appreciation societies and university societies as well as conventions and local SF groups and pub meetings. You can promote more than the convention; at the same time as you're providing an advert or an article or a poster or fliers or just some information which you can ask these groups to pass on to their members, you can also tell them what they could get out of it - they could come as a group to publicise themselves and get more members, or they could arrange to meet overseas members of their group, or have a reunion, or they could suggest items for the programme which reflect their own interest in fandom, or actually run the item themselves.
This is shorter term and therefore more intensive in the last year when you've probably got the majority of existing fans signed up who you're going to get at all. People who arent' yet fans are not going to register for something three years away when they have no idea what they're going to be doing, no matter how cheap it is. Mind you, it is worth trying, even if just for the sake of one of the three bits of free press coverage you might get: when you win the bid, put out a press release to every major serious newspaper and SF magazine you can find, worldwide - especially the ones in your venue. Stress how cheap it is to register now as compared to what it might cost on the door, and use every stereotyped Worldcon attraction possible to get people's attention. They might just sign up. You'll also need decent "What is a Worldcon" fliers with a good bit of information available for those people who do write to the contact address, which the occasional newspaper might just include, because if you want their money early on you'll need to tell them what they're getting so cheaply…
Advertising outside fandom does need to be carefully targeted and timed. We had hoped to get some of the Scottish local papers to run competitions about six months out for which we would provide prizes of two registrations, and could get information provided to everyone who entered. In the end it fell through, but I wish we could have done it. Paid advertising probably needs to be targeted in two phases: six to three months out, and three months to about a fortnight out. From then on, your press liaison should provide you with some sort of unpaid advertising, but there will be much more about this later. From about a year away, hit as many outlets for fliers and posters that you can; if you want to use a paid distribution company wait until the last three months or so and use your day rates and discounts at least as much as your full membership rates. It sounds obvious, but advertise in the sort of places where your target audience will be: SF magazines, local papers, local listings sheets, the venue itself, SF bookshops and video shops, libraries (if there are any left!), pubs, theatres, cinemas, if you can afford it. If you can stack your advertising budget sufficiently, I would have loved to have advertised on a bus…
One of Promotions' main tasks, in fact the only real reason for its existence, is to get the money in. If people don't join, the convention will fold - not just through lack of warm bodies to attend and take part, but through lack of money to put on a convention. Merchandising contributes a bit; sponsorship can contribute a fair bit more. But memberships, and to some extent day attendances, are what bring in the real money. Promotional materials are thus extremely important; they shouldn't just inform people about the Worldcon - they should make them want to come so much that they part with money. We didn't do so badly; overall it seems like Intersection will break even, so we must have done something right. But it wasn't until near the end when we got it right, when I started letting people spend sensible amounts of money, and indeed made sure that all areas were being properly covered.
Cultivating a good local (local for whoever's going to be storing and/or distributing the material, that is), reasonably priced and quick printer is vital. We swapped around quite a lot, mostly to obtain the best price, and given our timing problems, the quickest results. I'd have preferred not to have had to do this as much as we did, and I also wish we'd had the time and money not to have to fold and/or cut things up ourselves.
Fliers and leaflets:
You will always need more fliers than you suspect. Unfortunately this does not mean that you can print 50,000 at the beginning and then sit back on your bulging budget surplus; it means that you will always need more variations on your basic design of fliers than you suspect.
I still don't know the best way to do this. As a core I think you need:
I really wanted to have a flier or a poster with a huge list of attending celebrities, but until Programme had got them all agreed and signed up it wasn't possible - and by the time we had enough it was really too late. Conspiracy managed it, and I wish I knew how, because it was one of the good bits of Conspiracy's promotions (which were rather well done) which people remembered and kept assuming I would be able to do as well.
There are certain things you must have on your fliers, or else you'll have to reprint them even more often as people remember. This may sound like a list for very vacuous people, but you'd be surprised how easy it is to forget stuff:
We found out about some of these things just after we'd had a big run done of what was otherwise rather a nice flier…
If you're having folded leaflets, try to get the printer to fold them. If you're cutting copies in half, try to get the printer to do that. It will never look as professional if you have to do it yourself and it will always take far longer than you imagine.
For the actual text of the flier, unless you are any sort of writer by profession, work out all the facts you want to include and the effect you want to get across, and find someone who can write it properly. We were extremely fortunate that Paul Kincaid, who is a professional and extremely good copywriter, was willing to compose our information leaflet. It made a world of difference.
Posters are an invaluable way to attract people's attention when they're just walking along, as compared to the more active act of having to spot and pick up a flier. I suggest two designs: one for conventions (again, capable of being adapted for non-mainstream conventions) and one for the outside world - shops, universities, libraries, etc. We had a very impressive colour poster design by Tom Abba for the latter - the former we just cobbled together from various flier designs at the last minute and could have spent more effort on, in retrospect. The only problem with the colour design was that it had been commissioned as a design for A4; it looked OK in A3 and in fact most outlets would have had difficulties taking larger ones. But now and again we could really have done with an A2, A1, or even A0 version, and few designs will be that adaptable - not to mention few printers.
Ad copy should, I feel, have a consistent look to the other promotional material you're putting out. You can probably also draw on some of the fliers for both the look and the text of the advert, particularly for SF magazines. Try to ensure that all your designs look best in black and white, or with one extra colour. Anything else will be too expensive for you to use it often. Aim to have ad copy ready for all sizes of advert from A4 to A6 (postcard size) and have some little column-fillers; you may be able to get better rates by providing ad copy which fits in conveniently anywhere.
Get a wide range of advertising rates and compare them for an overall strategy; it may be better to place three quarter-page ads in one newspaper and a full page in a magazine, rather than a regular series of small ads elsewhere. Or vice versa.
You'll almost certainly have someone in Sponsorship or Publications arranging reciprocal advertising and selling advertising space for the PRs, souvenir book, and Read-Me; our problem was that they inevitably managed to arrange these really close to the copy deadline for the magazines or other con's PRs, and if you don't have up-to-date ad copy ready you'll either miss the slot (maybe until after a rate rise), or have to use an old and less effective advert - both of which happened to us. Keep in touch with them though, or you could find yourself paying for an advert with someone with whom they're cooking up a reciprocal deal.
I mention these merely for information. They are part of a corporate image and you may decide you want them. If you're going to do them at all, keep them simple, and make sure they have the consistent look of all your promotional material. (If you've got any feel for your budget at all, limit each staff member to a certain amount and then require them to make a budget transfer.) Include their names only, with the general convention address and phone/fax number(s). If you put on their convention title, it's bound to change; ditto their personal contact details (which some may prefer not to use, and which they can write on the back if necessary)
I never did get round to doing these for Intersection, as they seemed a really low priority compared with all the other promotional stuff that needed doing. This made one or two people really irritated…
(Fiona: The number of people who expressed irritation about decisions outwith their own area of responsibility was really quite amazing, and I think cons should make very clear the lines of demarcation before they start out, to avoid this sort of unnecessary hassle).
I don't consider that this should have anything to do with Promotions; the only circumstances under which you might want to kidnap it is, again, corporate image concerns and a wish to ensure that all relevant information appears. In which case, make sure you get a realistic estimate of what you need and an appropriate budget.
(Fiona: throughout these write-ups for many different areas and divisions, you will have noticed the recurring theme of budget, budget lines, budget transfers, budget virements by now. The hardest part of running a division or area is not organising it, nor getting the appropriate people, but instead making sure you have a sensible budget to pay for everything, while yet not bankrupting other divisions or areas to pay for you, and getting to grips with the full horrors of what individual lines mean, why you've got those lines and not lines for stuff you actually need, and how to get more money out of persuading other people into making transfers to you. Nothing can possibly express how deeply vile getting involved in this game is, and yet if you get it wrong, the convention heads straight for a financial nose-dive.)
Merchandising is my own first love, and after conrunning itself, is probably my second priority even now. The aims of promotional merchandising are to get as many people as possible walking around in clothing with your name on, to raise money, and to raise awareness that you exist and are at least organised enough to produce merchandise. You therefore need attractive, clear designs, a good t-shirt printer, and a sense of what will sell in terms of smaller merchandise items. My first involvement with Intersection was throwing myself bodily at the Merchandising area head (a friend of mine, I hasten to add!) and demanding to be allowed to help him with the task. It was possibly a lingering memory of my envy of his task (to a merchandiser trained on small fan clubs and conventions, the sheer scope of both the possibilities for merchandising for a Worldcon, and of the budget available, seemed almost irresistibly tempting) and of my affront that they hadn't asked me instead or as well, that made me accept the offer of becoming DH Promotions…
I'm ready to bore for Britain on this subject, so I'll try not to go into it at greater length than I need to here. But I'm more than happy to give people advice if they want (except, no doubt, you won't need advice. Dear me, no, it's all ever so simple and straightforward and you won't cock anything up when you run your Worldcon, will you??)
You should concentrate on t-shirts; you'll always get the best profit-margin on t-shirts ifyou get a good printer, and they're the only item which really achieves all three aims at once. Sweatshirts can be worth it, because fans have a lot of t-shirts and sweatshirts are something a bit different; because some fans don't actually wear t-shirts, and a sweatshirt can look a bit smarter; and because some dealers' room can be really cold (some can be really warm, though, so that's not an entirely safe marketing point). They do cost more to buy in as well, so you have to sell them for more; and if people just want the cheapest thing they can buy to advertise the convention, or are really taken with the design but only have a fiver, they won't sell as well. Also if con sweatshirts become as common and easy to get as con t-shirts, their novelty value has gone - which is why I elected to do them only as at-con merchandise. Polo shirts apparently go down very well with US fans but cost a hell of a lot to get done. If you're looking for a subtle breast motif for people who don't really like t-shirts, my advice is to put it on a sweatshirt rather than on a polo shirt.
The price you sell at is also important, of course, to raise enough money without putting people off; and remember VAT. Work out what nice round number you want to sell for, and work out what VAT is for that VAT-inclusive total - just so you know when Finance and/or Americans ask.
Colours are important as well. Most fans prefer black or brightly coloured t-shirts, so you'll need a design that will print up well on that - probably a line drawing. It was my constant regret that I never managed to get the red and green "tartan" Intersection lettering on to a black t-shirt, because it would have looked wonderful. It would also have cost quite a lot because it would be difficult to do, and would actually have looked horrible, and obviously horrible, if it had gone even slightly wrong. I found out that natural (cream) is better than white, and grey is better than natural.
As for sizes, take a good look at the distribution of sizes amongst the people you're selling to (you'll need to consider the sizes they actually buy, rather than the sizes they patently are. Women often buy bigger t-shirts than they need and many men buy smaller t-shirts than they should). Do not, *do not*, order Small t-shirts. It's just not worth it.
For novelty items I also did china mugs with a variation on the basic flier logo, plastic mugs with a sort of joke, pens, and keyrings. They all made money, but I think that china mugs and pens (in moderation) are probably the best bet in that respect. But although they might have a good profit margin, even they don't make that much actual money - they just make your table look a bit more interesting…
Make sure your merchandising income gets credited to your budget - far too much of mine got lost as membership income until about three months out when I saw the up-to-date budget for the first time… I got no credit on the Promotions budget for membership income, even though we'd technically generated it; the merchandising income did show up there though, so I was held responsible for that. And because of those original errors, we will never know what income was generated from Intersection merchandising, certainly not at the promotional stage rather than at the at-con stage. Remember that - those figures could get used to devalue the importance of promotional merchandising in future, and they're *wrong*.
Make sure that new designs can be sent to the US in time for people there to get their own ones printed; they can get cheaper t-shirts, cheaper printing, and can also get XXXL and even XXXXL t-shirts (which some US fans need) easily - so there is no advantage in shipping printed t-shirts to them.
I had a few problems - not least with having to do the area work myself. My are head had been so pissed off by not being able to get information he wanted from my predecessors (not entirely their fault, I'd point out) and other likely Board members, and had so many other priorities of his own, that he seemed quite happy to leave it all to me. By about September 1994 I'd accepted this to the extent that I just asked him for advice, and got him to help me find some suppliers; by Christmas he'd resigned in all but name, and had no intention of attending the convention because he had other things to spend his money on. I wouldn't let him actually resign, because I thought the Board would object to the knowledge that, in addition to all my other problems, I was compounding the potential for disaster by acting as merchandising area head. But merchandising was the only thing I was enjoying doing - and the only thing where I *knew* I could get results, and consequently where I felt I was doing a useful job. The Board must have realised what I was doing, and did let me carry on doing it. It was a mistake on my part, but it was one I made with relatively open eyes.
(Fiona: I'm not so sure everyone realised the full extent of your problems, or that you had taken on merchandising directly too. From what else was going down then, I would suspect that most of the Board didn't think too deeply if at all about Promotions, except to notice merely that you were depressed and overworked. There were a couple of areas with *far* more serious problems than you had, that the Board missed completely until it was very nearly too late. Then again I'm not convinced that your decision was actually a mistake at all - we all have one favourite area that we really want to do, that compensates for the rest of it, and that gives us joy even when all else around is the pits.)
Sales to members:
By the time it came for me to think about sales to members, I had two big problems. In addition to having to act as merchandising area head, my pet t-shirt printing partnership had decided to go their separate ways.
This meant that I'd landed myself with a lot more work; I had to find new, reasonably priced, good quality, quick, efficient printers. The two different printers who were used for the t-shirts that we did at Confabulation, a job which I was heartily relieved to delegate outside my division (Fiona: there's a separate short write-up of Confab later in this series of articles), were quick but not particularly cheap, and they didn't produce completely ideal results. And I needed printers who would print a full colour design (Les Edwards' artwork from the cover of the souvenir book) onto a t-shirt, who could reproduce the green and red "tartan" logo, who could print sweatshirts, baseball caps, and a range of t-shirt designs. And by the time I finally forced myself out of exhaustion to confront the problem, I needed printers who could do all this quickly.
I was lucky. I found them. I also found suppliers of novelty items, producers of extremely nice enamel badges, the manufacturer of little cuddly Nessies, and various others. To my regret, I didn't have the time to do colour posters of the souvenir book cover design, the foresight to do golfing umbrellas, or the technology to do fannish postcard designs. Maybe next time (see what I mean bout my love of merchandising? NOTHING ELSE, thinking back to all this, could make me even consider next time).
I got it nearly right. Two t-shirt designs sold out too quickly; one of my favourites didn't sell well at all. And the sweatshirts were maybe a bit too novel, although they went pretty well in the end, and they're one of the few items where Novacon, almost in the winter, should be a good market. The first day covers went far less well than I'd hoped and expected, although we should have a market amongst philatelists and this is one of the outstanding things I really must try to arrange. I wasn't happy with the way I was able to display the smaller items, either, and the fact that people didn't really notice they were there may be one of the reasons why they didn't sell so well. But in the end I have only about 15% of the total stock left, in bulk terms, and I believe we can sell quite a lot of that off cheaply and therefore quickly. So I think merchandising is one area where Promotions did quite well.
The booth wasn't quite ideal, through no-one's fault. It wasn't in a fantastic position, it wasn't as big as I'd had the impression it would be (which caused me to revise my layout and especially my storage plans for about the fourth time, on the spot), and it took me ten hours to set the bloody thing up. But enough of that.
Sponsorship technically came under Promotions for Intersection, which meant that all the convention income came through my division. In practice however, Sponsorship operated almost as a separate division, reporting directly to the Co-Chairs, because so many decisions needed to be taken at a high level (such as the rights which Channel 4 would have). In retrospect, I would have liked to have been able to take more of a role and thus to be able to make more of an argument for being kept informed, particularly since Channel 4's position had a bearing on the dreaded press policy; but I was so busy I decided to let everyone else get on with it.
You do need to keep an eye on it however; not least because a considerable amount of sponsorship may come from the media, and your press liaison is going to have to take that into account. In addition, the income coming in from sponsorship will affect the income required from registrations and merchandise, and you should try to keep abreast at all times of what you're actually aiming for in both respects.
It may also be the case that some degree of advertising intersects with Sponsorship (see above), so it helps if you can find out what's going on at a timescale that suits you as well as the Sponsorship people.
This is the big one of course. I'm aware that there has already been some chuntering about press liaison, and indeed that there was during the convention and to some extent before the convention. And I'd like to ask all the people who apparently so clearly saw it going wrong why they didn't offer to help or at the very least point out our so blindingly obvious errors, with some constructive criticism *before* Intersection?
No, I won't be so childish and embittered. This is an important subject to discuss, and one of the things to discuss is whether it sits well in Promotions. It's true, of course, that the press can contribute something to promotions; at the very least, from two weeks out until a day or two into a Worldcon, any positive press coverage that can be got can act as another advert, particularly in the local press. This is where press liaison fits into Promotions division. The intersection (sorry!) with sponsorship, certainly in Intersection's case, gives it another tie there, if that's where Sponsorship is meant to go as well. But handling the press who're going to publish too late to do the convention any good at all, or who may never file a story, or who have clearly written their "Sci-Fi loonies beam down" story before they even arrive, doesn't really strike me as having much of a promotional angle, and in a way, I'd like to see it as a freer-floating area with good communications and connections to the other relevant divisions - like Programme, Extravaganzas, and the Fan Fair, which was pretty much all the press was interested in.
Opinions are divided on the subject of the press. There is the school which thinks they're all bastards and shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the convention; the school which thinks they're all lovely and should be allowed in free for the entire con (strange, strange people); the school which thinks they're all appalling but consequently should be allowed in and kept on an exceptionally tight rein because then you know what they're doing; and the ditherers like me in between, who don't trust them but hope that if we're reasonably nice and professional towards them we might get some advantage back - and won't totally scre up press relations for fandom in that area in the future. Implementing that was exceptionally difficult, and we didn't really get it right, and that's a shame. But, especially considering the press coverage we actually got, it's not the end of the world either. We had one truly horrendous tabloid story which I still think would be actionable if it weren't also such a hysterically amusing how-to-write-a-tabloid-story-in-ten-easy-lessons piece; we had a few relatively indifferent and neutral fillers; and we had quite a lot of TV, radio, and newspaper interviews and articles which were non-sensationalist, quite sensible, mature and generally positive.
(Fiona: there was even one on catering for SF fans at convention centres, which the journalist concerned has kindly given me permission to quote from, and which is quite interesting for a trade point of view regarding SF fans as customers).
The actual work of press liaison was simply horrid. I had shamelessly poached my press liaison officer from Programming because she'd been recommended to me so often; we agreed to work on the basis that I wouldn't ask her to put one or the other division first, and that in general we'd only ask her advice and not expect her to do vast amounts of work when it was all straightforward and stuff we could manage elsewhere in the division. I feel guilty that she got more hassle through press liaison than I'd ever envisaged, some from semi-external causes, some from staff and Board members who didn't realise how much she was having to juggle (both before the con and on the day), and some from me and my cruddy communications. Because she really couldn't do any more, and the rest of us were also so busy, we didn't address the question of the press until quite late on.
In practice, I ended up with two other area heads who shouldn't have had to have too much to do with press liaison, and who had other important tasks to do both before and at the convention, fielding calls for about two months before the convention, and helping to handle the flood of calls we got from Monday to Sunday at the convention. I stuffed any volunteers I got who were known either to me or to another Board member as being competent and trustworthy, into the press office, so that it should always have at least two people manning it, and I was as delighted as some of them were when some experienced US volunteers turned up at the con.
But our press policy hadn't been intended to work that way. I got it wrong, but very few people pointed out any qualms they had that it wouldn't work. To her credit, my press liaison area head did make her reservations clear, and I believe we worked out an acceptable compromise - at least it seemed acceptable in advance.
(Fiona: Claire is quite wrongly taking the blame here. The press policy was extensively discussed at a Board meeting, and just about everyone was determined to have as little to do with the press as possible, so that when one Board member suggested we try out the policy we eventually agreed on, because it had apparently worked very well at media cons, everyone was very keen to go with that, and that was the Press Policy Claire was instructed by the Board to implement).
The main problem was that I knew how overloaded the obvious people (obvious to me anyway) who were competent to handle press liaison at the convention would already be. I deally, I would have liked to have stuck to the apparently usual policy that press attendees who weren't members of the convention should be escorted by a member of the press liaison staff to wherever they wanted to go, accompanied while they conducted their interviews or took their photographs or filmed their footage, or did their sneering, and escorted out again with polite smiles and intelligent comments. But I didn't have the staff. I'd wanted to have at least two people on pagers, rather than stuck in am empty press office, to be summoned at any point when a member of the press turned up unannounced, or be there to meet them when they arrived for their pre-arranged appointment. We had also decided, not least because of the perceived shortage of suitable staff, that press should generally be encouraged to purchase day tickets or even memberships (surely they'd be able to claim back such expenses, we thought) so that they would be able to have access to all public areas of the convention without having to be accompanied; if normal rules of courtesy about interviewing people or taking their photographs were explained and observed, most fans who were prepared to talk to journalists at all would be sensible about how they represented themselves to the press. We made an exception for local press, particularly in the early stages of the convention when we would still derivesome benefit from publicity; and we had a free press day on Thursday, which we hoped would maximise our benefit frompress coverage and would steer the press and media towards a convenient opportunity for them to see the convention free, as they wanted, thereby containing them to some extent.
I reckoned without press expectations of having their egos massaged, but I still don't see why Intersection should have allowed all these people free access when we were getting little out of it (I recall a passing comment from an acquaintance at work that she had a journalist friend who would get her into a highly expensive film premiere for free; not at my Worldcon, I remember thinking). Nor did I see much value in the arguments from local interest groups or US fans with their minds on higher things that we should be nice to the press (and indeed run the whole convention) for the purposes of promoting (a) their pet projects that had very little to do with Intersection, (b) the great and worthy cause of SF - not even fandom I hasten to point out, but SF, © Worldcons in general, and (d) Glasgow fandom. Any of the last three that happened incidentally were fine by me, but that was not what I felt we were there to do, particularly with the limited resources we had. I would far rather have been able to give the press free but escorted access, but I DIDN'T HAVE THE STAFF. Or so I thought. Some US fans did make the point that a number of them (with experience) had volunteered previously. Well, sorry I never got those volunteer forms (in fact I got only about half a dozen volunteer forms, none of which emanated from people who had ticked Promotions or indicated relevant experience anywhere on their form, but who - perhaps because I seemed myself to be muddling along with precious little relevant experience, or perhaps because conversely, I seemed in need of any help I could get - someone seemed to thing would be just ideal for me). So I had to set up a press policy which seemed likely to work with the limited resources I had, and which, when those volunteers arrived, they found unworkable.
I'm aware that I hopelessly underestimated a lot of this, and I take responsibility for that. But I wasn't exactly overwhelmed with experienced voices telling me this in advance. The main problems we actually had, for anyone who failed to notice for themselves, were:
lots more press were interested than we'd anticipated, and they phoned almost consistently from Monday afternoon to Sunday morning, necessitating a manned press office (on top of all the enquiries, often from the same people, in the weeks before we got to Glasgow) because of all these enquiries, particularly on the Monday to the Wednesday, a lot more press packs got sent out to people than we had anticipated we would need at the convention and we ran out we only had one phone line, which as we sometimes only had one person in the press office, was fortunate from their point of view, but we pissed off the At-con Office by tying up their phone lines while they tried to put yet another press enquiry through to our (engaged) line this was not helped by the number of journalists who wanted to do telephone interviews, the number of journalists who couldn't be bothered to read the press pack and phoned up to ask lazy questions, and a few members of Intersection's staff who used our phone too often to make phone calls out which responded to that and consequently took far too long - and some phone calls which were not on press liaison or promotions business there weren't enough press ribbons (partly my fault, I suspect, in missing the emailed call for requests for types of ribbon required) staff were too tied up in the press room or elsewhere on the convention answering phone calls to be paged and called to registration to take charge of press visiting in person, which annoyed registration's staff and the press people so affected the paging system collapsed into chaos anyway, due to the SECC's habit of only occasionally answering their central phone number - so those of us without radios, just mobile phones and pagers, couldn't get through to Ops to ask for a page or to answer one. I also couldn't contact the press room direct; I had to use my mobile phone to try to get through to the switchboard to ask for the press room. This is actually a more general complaint: not being given a list of mobile phone numbers made it impossible for me to contact Finance too, so I often found myself stuck in the sales booth with no way of contacting the rest of my division or the people who were responsible for collecting the money I was taking. This wasn't such a problem for the people actually in the press office, as Ops was just across the corridor - provided they had a moment to charge across and then find someone with time to deal with their problem some of the press were a bit pissed off about being expected to pay, which may have been the cause of the silly tabloid story
There are (probably quite simple) ways of avoiding this, mostly involving having numerous experienced staff who'll be able to work on the area from some months out *and* at the Worldcon itself. How to deal with the quality of programmes like the Channel 4 contribution is an entirely separate problem and one which I really think should have nothing to do with Promotions!
I hope that if I'm remembered for nothing else, my clarion cry "It's not coming out of *my* budget!" will go down as one of the memories unique to Intersection. I did actually have an advantage in budgetary matters over some of my colleagues on the Board, in that I understood from professional experience how Finance were working: if you wanted more money you had to be able to prove that you really couldn't shave it off another part of your budget, and if you were going to offer them cuts you'd be wise to offer them less than you actually had available, since they'd try to press you for more anyway - and you should still keep some in reserve, because they wouldn't let you have it back later. This may have played havoc with Finance's projections, but they started it…
I never worked out how items got noted against my budget; certainly the sums I recorded and authorised never quite seemed to match the items that went through into the budget summaries we got (eventually), and the version we ended up with by the end owed more to Finance's willingness to bring their various budget lines roughly into line with mine in order to have some sort of coherence somewhere than to the veracity of their records or mine. As for the hundreds, or possibly thousands, of pounds (and dollars) which went straight into membership income instead of merchandise income - well, I shall smart about the way it makes my deficit look for years, or at least as long as anyone else mentions it.
My main problem though, was the set-up of my budget. Whoever did it originally had more of an eye to either the way another Worldcon had been run, or the way in which Promotions ought to operate than the way in which any of us found it practical to actually operate it. The merchandising expectations were a particularly sore point, and I'd love to know what "special projects" was originally intended to be. The items which had been scored against my budget when I finally got a list were also particularly bizarre, and hadn't been allocated to any relevant budget lines, possibly because there were no relevant budget lines (a fairly common problem), or because people were being expected to complete detailed paperwork who were actually pretty crap at filling in forms.
Having done it once, I suppose I could now set up the right sort of budget lines; I might even be able to estimate likely spends. But I doubt anyone will be able to remember by the time it becomes necessary, or that the person setting up the budgetary package next time will have any idea what Promotions is actually going to do in practice. Maybe the next part of this exercise should at the very least be to set the structure of the budget, and let the poor sods who run the next one contend only with the actual numbers?
I appreciate that Finance have a horrible job, and the badly-completed expense claims, late invoices, and last-minute requests for really urgent huge cheques (I was guilty of the last, and perhaps the second) do not help one bit. But unless the Finance package is capable of pulling off regular reports, intelligible to the average Board member and to their area heads once disaggregated, and unless those reports get pulled off once a month, there's no way that a Board member can track the real position; Finance have a proper system to record expenditure and income, and trying to keep any more than interim records on the same sort of scale for a division is not easy. I accept that this does mean that Finance need a monthly report from Division heads as well, to find out where any future discrepancies may creep in and to get some sort of feedback for projections.
I also found it impossible, as a new DH, to revise the divisional budget without an idea of what had already been spent and committed; I had to wait for months before I even got a copy of the budget, and months more for a list of expenditure against it.
(Fiona: nothing can possibly compare to the horrors of Intersection's budgets:
First off, as Claire says, I too never understood how the overall Divisional Budgets had been arrived at - none of the figures I was originally given made any sense in relation to the job the Divisions had to do, and I can only assume two possibilities: either someone had taken a previous Worldcon's budget and assumed our needs would be identical - since the last UK Worldcon was Conspiracy it seems unlikely that that was the template, and adopting a US template had to be obvious lunacy - or they had just arbitrarily assigned figures and hoped for the best, with inevitable results.
Secondly, the individual lines in the various Divisional budgets I was responsible for were either completely inappropriate (too much, too little money, or lines for stuff we weren't ever going to do, with no lines for obviously vital things), with the result that the budget bore no resemblance to the reality, and if you attempted to go with it you were inevitably going to have problems - so I didn't. I tore up my allocated budget, wrote a new one (jumping from a Divisional allocation of around GBP5000 to around GBP 17000), and got it approved, almost without a murmur.
Thirdly the method Finance used to predict budget expenditure along a timeline projection may well have been perfect for their purposes, but made no sense to non-Finance-experienced individuals, with the result that very many DHs never understood what their particular budget meant. At Albacon, I was sitting in the corridor at one point when X came up to me and asked to see my budget - I had by then rewritten it entirely into the format I intended to use, which bore no resemblance to that issued by Finance, but instead related absolutely to area kit lists plus division-wide expenses. X on seeing this cried in tones of amazement "I understand that!"
By six months out, I had got to grips sufficiently with budgetting, that I had taken up a sideline as "Ms Gecko", persuading many other DHs and AHs to give me smallish transfers from their budgets on the strength of promising to arrange whatever for them. I only had one person even query this, everyone else was pathetically grateful, and I accrued enough money to both do what those people wanted done *and* to pay for the GRTs in their entirety ie around GBP 10000 total.
The point of this diatribe is to emphasise that MOST of Intersection's Finance problems could have been avoided if all the DHs had sat down, ignored the money to start off with, put together their wish lists of whatever they thought they would need to run their Divisions, and after that costed up those wish lists. Then everyone on the Board should have looked at all the wish list totals, against estimated total income, and come up with negotiated Divisional allocations after that, as a Board. And it is the Board who are ultimately responsible if the convention goes belly-up financially, so it is in their own best interests to *take* that responsibility, and act accordingly.
But of course, financial matters on that scale terrify most fans, so that far too many people left the budget design to Finance instead of actively challenging the reasoning behind whatever budget they were landed with. We were lucky, but the next UK people shouldn't count on luck to get them through.)
I also found some of the experienced at-con staff difficult to deal with; they had no idea who I was, so I had to flap my board ribbon really hard before they even considered doing what I'd asked them to do (not that hard a task, usually). I certainly go t more help from dealers room staff and other dealers than I did from the many people wearing their gopher ribbons with pride. But overall it all passed in a blur; I wish I hadn't had to attend the opening ceremony to be humiliated, and I wish someone had persuaded me to attend the closing ceremony where I would actually have been thanked, but at this stage in this review, as at that stage in the convention, I feel too exhausted about it all to go on any longer.
I feel particularly strongly that no-one who didn't do this job themself and stick it out the way that I did, has any role in criticising me, or especially my staff. The time I could have done with comments - and I still mean constructive ones - was before Intersection actually happened. So all the retrospective sages who want to tell me how crap I was, and how useless my division was (and in some cases how utterly brilliant their own contributions was by way of contrast), can basically go take a running jump. I shall not be doing this job again, so I don't actually care about their personal opinions of my performance - and if they know so much, please let them volunteer now to run the oh-so-simple Promotions division next time. I shall then take my turn at watching with vicarious interest for it all to go horribly wrong…
I would like to thank all the people who worked for me - the ones I know about anyway. They are John Bark, Mike Bird, Eddie Cochrane, Noel Collyer, Alison Freebairn, Jane Killick, Heather Petty, John Philpott, and one of Worldcon's unsung heroes Mark Plummer, without whom very little of Promotions would have been possible. I'd also like to thank Mike Westhead and Dave Power for their work on sponsorship, in case, not having a formal divisional home, they don't get thanked by anyone else; everyone in the US and the Foreign Legion who did promotional work without my ever really knowing about it; all the other people who worked for me who I don't know about; and the people who worked on Promotions before I had anything to do with it who at least had got some of the way towards what we needed to do.
In the end, we got the sort of results we needed - the same goes for Intersection as a whole. Virtually every successful convention of more than 50 people has attendees who really enjoyed themselves and a committee and staff who ran themselves ragged behind the scenes and are stunned that people didn't really notice the colossal cock-ups or near-disasters. With a Worldcon, all of that is magnified on a huge scale, and more people are interested in dissecting it afterwards (more, possibly, than were interested in running it, at least at the hands-on level). We do need to look forward, and I think that there need to be a few more votes of thanks, however small, and a few less recriminations at this stage, in order to ensure that British fandom doesn't have the excuse to tear itself apart again that some bits of it seem to think it must now have.
On that note, I'd personally like to thank Martin Easterbrook and Vince Docherty for co-chairing Intersection, and Margaret Austin and Fiona Anderson (one of the other unsung heroes of Worldcon) for their very effective deputising. But I'd be more than happy to kick the arses of any of the people - including these ones if applicable - who're *already* planning the next one. Can we have a rest please? And can we have a consensus from British fandom that another one is really a Good Thing before plunging headlong into it?
Thank you and good night.