When spell-checking this document, the word "Worldcon" keeps throwing up as an error. "No alternative found" says the spell-checker. I know how it feels: there is no alternative to Worldcon. "Skip all" I tell the spell-checker. I tell you the same thing.
First off, I'd better make my intentions with this report clear. I've read Claire Brialey's detailed autopsy on the workings of the Intersection Promotions Division. Claire covers the ground pretty thoroughly, which will be unsurprising to anybody who knows her, and I'm largely, if not entirely, in agreement with what she says (except for her tendency to put herself down - I think she did a really good job). This should be regarded as a supplement to Claire's report, and I've tried to concentrate on the areas where I was directly involved in the hope that I can offer a micro (as opposed to Claire's macro) impression.
Again, like Claire, I suppose this is really for anybody who winds up doing Promotions on a future British Worldcon. I'm not for one minute saying this is definitive, that this is the way you *should* do things, but I do very strongly believe that you should read it; it's one person's (fairly personal)take on what we did and what we should have done, but it's got to be better than nothing. I'm not by any means setting myself up as some kind of guru for Worldcon Promotions - Heaven forfend that I set myself up as any kind of conrunning anything - but I did it, and stuck with it 'til the end which is a lot more than can be said of some people.
So I'll arrange to get this buried in a time capsule in Pat McMurray's back garden marked "Do not open until the next British Worldcon bid". I suspect it may not stay buried as long as it should.
When I first heard about Intersection, back before it had a name, a date, or a venue, I thought it was a pretty damned neat idea. By the time it won the bid, I was equally strongly of the opinion that it wasn't a neat idea at all, that we'd really be better off without it. I am, by and large, still convinced that it would have been better if it hadn't happened; I know most people seemed to have a fairly spiffing time on the day, but that just makes it easier to forget that most people who were involved didn't have a particularly spiffing time in the months and year s leading up to the convention. I don't think this viewpoint impeded my ability to do my job within the Intersection organisation. You may think differently.
From some of the above it will be clear that there were a fair few aspects of Intersection with which I was less than entirely happy. I haven't changed my mind on this, but it might be worth mentioning that most of the members of the Board with whom I had any personal dealings were competent and generally doing a good job (singling out here Fiona Anderson, Margaret Austin, Martin Easterbrook, Tina Hewitt, and of course Claire, as already mentioned). Many of the senior staff were equally competent (in Promotions, John Bark, Alison Freebairn, and John Philpott). Unfortunately, there were many perfectly nice people out there who shouldn't have been allowed to run a raffle, let alone a Worldcon. There were also several first-rate dickheads, who somehow got through to the end without anybody decking them (much to my surprise). Unfortunately many of the people in the latter two categories tended to be very visible. As a general principal, I won't name neames unless it's in a positive context.
Before I was actively involved, the subject of Worldcon communications kept cropping up: the overall perception seemed to be of a bunch of idiots busily emailing one another and using new technology to make them even more inefficient. OK, biases up front: I don't have net access and at present have no great desire to get net access. My reasons are really academic but, for what it's workth, the only computer I have is a laptop borrowed from work and which might have to be returned at any poijt,, and if I didn't have that I'm not sure I would bother to get a machine of my own; before I had the laptop I got by using machines at work, either during lunchtimes or before or after the working day. So I don't have net access. Neither does Claire. Or Alison Freebairn. Or John Philpott. In other words, a fairly large chunk of the active element of the Promotions Division.
It seemed to me that Intersection had formulated a communications policy based on a flawed assumption: that everybody is on the net. Unfortunately, we are currently at a stage, at least we are in fandom which is full of the kind of computer freaks who think that email is not only useful but somehow intrinsically *interesting*, where net access is sufficiently common for people to make that assumption. However, it's not yet sufficiently common for the assumption to be true. As Claire says, either you decide to run your convention on email, in which case you do not offer senior posts to people who codon't have net access, or you accept that some people do not have net access and you communicate with them by some other means. Basically the former wasn't a realistic option - it was hard enough to get staff anyway without imposing further limits on eligibility - so the latter course had to be pursued. It wasn't. I didn't feel this as acutely as Claire; the bulk of my contacts tended to be with other members of Promotions and, as far as I'm aware, only John Bark had email (and he's a really clever chap who has mastered the art of using the postal system and the telephone, as well as his computer).
I suppose all this may be academic as far as the dreaded "next British Worldcon" is concerned. By then somebody will probably have developed a whole new communications medium to be misused.
Selling Worldcon To Fandom
The problem with selling a convention to fandom is that it's basically the same thing as selling a convention to your friends. This can be tricky. Obviously this is a hell of a lot easier if you have one hundred per cent faith in what the rest of your organisation are doing, and I don't think anybody within the Intersection organisation could honestly say they felt that way. I strongly advocate a policy of total honest here; there's no point in lying about things and pretending that those areas that are going wtong are actually going along just fine thank you very much. However this doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be negative. I usually work on the basis that, no matter what people might tell you, the vast majority of the attendees will enjoy any particular convention - it's just that the ones who don't tend to be more vocal.
Whatever the actual horrors of your organisation, there will always be plenty of rumours circulating that are far worse. If you can sit on these promptly and effectively you'll do a lot of good. The problem with Intersection of course was that we often didn't know about the rumours because they were being merrily disseminated on the net.
However, you are almost inevitably going to have genuine problems with your convetnion which you will have to deal with from a PR angle. Rumours of general email incompetence and general stupidity were always kicking around. I tried to adopt a policy of defusing this by making a joke about it, mainly by issuing fliers quoting my "email" address (my postal address with an @ and several full stops inserted). I'm not sure if this actually worked; certainly there seemed to be plenty of net partisans within the organisation who didn't get it at all.
Seriously, the only effective way to deal with stuff like this is to tell your colleagues not to be stupid. Better yet, don't let the idiots get involved in the first place.
Selling Worldcon Outside Fandom
At the time I became involved, we had a number of leaflets available. Some of them were, not to put too fine a point on it, crap. We had no colour poster; somebody had allegedly asked David Hardy to come up with something, but nobody seemed to know who was dealing with this and the current state of play. A number of leaflets were redesigned and a colour poster was eventually produced but this was really a bit late in the day for full effect.
I would suggest that what you need is a uniform look to every piece of paper generated by your organisation: fliers, forms, posters, letter-headed paper, business cards, adverts, even some of the merchandise. Spend some time at the beginning, when you have time, designing it all and getting it right. Get people who know how to write advertising copy to write your literature; fandom is full of people who have useful real-world skills and talents - find them and use them. Having designed the material, stick with those designs making only minor changes to reflect changing circumstances. Try to devise a uniform way of highlighting new (positive) changes.
I believe a colour poster is a good idea and well worth the investment. You will not need many at sizes other than A3 or A4 but it might be a good idea to get a design that could work at larger sizes. I would suggest a design that allows space for special announcements: an imminent rate rise, a special offer, a local agent for non-UK use. We tried to do this, but the space turned out to be too small. I would suggest that anything up to a quarter of the space could be needed for this.
what may seem like a minor point, but if you're going to list any guests on a particular flier, poster, or advert, you should list them *all*. A couple of our adverts left off the fan GOH on the assumption that nobody outside fandom would know who he was. This may well be true but it's beside the point.
This is, as Claire says, a biggie. This wasn't my area - Alison Freebairn was in charge here - but I got involved two or three months pre-con, I think because we needed somebody's phone number to go on a press release and I offered, seeing as how I knew I tended to leave work at a sensible time (unlike Claire). I can't really say anything useful about press relations before this point.
We did one, a month or so before the con. This was probably too late to do much good, and wasn't sent to many people who hadn't already expressed an interest. It did generate phone calls, for which see below.
This was, in characteristic Intersection form, a rush job. It was produced by myself and Claire, and largely involved cannibalising bits of the PRs. Unlike some previous Worldcon press packs I've seen which just photocopied the articles they wanted, we obtained disk copies of the PRs, imported the text into a new document and reformatted it; this looked a lot better I think. We did have a few pieces written specifically for the Press Pack, mostly on matters such as press access rules and the like. I understand that some criticisms have been voiced that the Pack made too many assumptions about sf, fandom, and Worldcons. This is probably true - the PRs are, after all, largely targeted at people who know what they're talking about - and it's largely a product of the last minute nature of the production. I also understand that, in typical fashion, the people who have been voicing these criticisms have been doing so on the net, rather than do something vaguely useful like telling me or Claire about it. The original intention was to produce a Press Pack with loose-leaf sheets in some kind of card wallet but we couldn't find anything suitable so we slide-bound it with a card cover. We made up 100, which we are told wasn't enough. I think it looked quite nice. Based on most of the subsequent phone calls we received from journalists, nobody bothered to read it.
Press Phone Calls
The bulk of these calls were received in the month leading up to the convention. They can come at any time of day but, inevitably, most of them during office hours. I would suggest that anybody dealing with press enquiries at a furture Worldcon should really be in a position to take and make phone calls during office hours in the month leading up to the convention. This is tricky. It really needs somebody who is at home(and not working from home) during the daytime; that or somebody who's employer is *incredibly* tolerant of personal phone calls. Ideally they should also have access to a fax machine. You may not find somebody in that position. I would suggest that as a bare minimum, whoever gets the job *must* have an answerphone, and be in a position to return calls during office hours within a couple of days at most. For what it's worth, I managed to do it because I work flexi-time; by starting work at 7.30 I could do a full day and be home by 16.30, giving me half an hour to an hour to return the day's calls (an average of about 3-5 per day throughout most of August). Even then, I had to supplement this by taking odd days off work to catch up. I still received phone calls at work. If you are in any way bothered by the idea of receiving private phone calls a t work, do not tell *anybody* in the organisation your work phone number. It will get out, and people will phone you at work, not because it's urgent or anything but simply because it suits them and it never occurs to them that it may be less than entirely convenient for you. They will also have no compunction about giving your phone number to callers from outside the organisation. Beware: fandom is full of thoughtless gits.
There were two things that I needed to deal with these phone calls that I didn't have and couldn't get: a programme and a guest liaison contact.
You can explain until you're blue in the face that most journalists won't really want a programme at this stage - there are loads of items and as long as they know the dates/times of the main ones (opening, closing, masquerade, guest items) they should be ok. They will not believe you. They want something tangible : a list of what's happening when. You really need some for of programme with participants and times that you can send out at least two weeks before the event, even if it's only provisional. Intersection was ridiculous in this respect; I only got to see a copy ot the programme at 10.00pm on the Monday before the convention (21August) and had to phone through a last minute entry for the local listings magazine (The List) on Tuesday morning based on a few notes scribbled on the back of a napkin in a Chinese restaurant the night before. This is what is known as professionalism. Not.
Journalists will want to interview guests, and may want to do so before the convention which will give you some free publicity. A number of people expressed an interest in interviewing Chip Delany and/or Gerry Anderson. In most cases I was unable to help them as I couldn't tell the caller when the guest would be available or even, in the case of Delaney, when they would be in the country. Out guest liaison person had resigned, sometime in May 1995 I think, and hadn't been replaced. I assume that this was because no replacement could be found. Fair enough, I suppose there was nothing that could be done, but it made us look unprofessional.
Press Liaison Personnel
we were under-staffed on Press Liaison at con. Granted, there were probably plenty of people who could have done a better job than me before the con, but we got by, just about I think. Potentially you need a lot of people available on the day. However there is a danger here: just because somebody offers, or wants, to do press liaison , they should not necessarily be allowed to do it. Some of the people who wanted to get involved for Intersection seemed to be acting either to promote their own agendas or because talking to journalists and tv companies made them feel important. Make sure you get people who know what they're doing but be careful who you let loose on this one.
You will need people manning press enquiry phones from the moment you arrive on site. I would suggest that you need at least one, preferably two, phone lines available from the Monday morning (assuming a Worldcon running on the same lines as theis one, and starting on a Thursday) . These phone lines should ideally be in a separate room and will need to be manned from about 9.00-10.00am until 5.00-6.00pm. You need to ensure that whoever is manning these flindes is fully briefed on press policy, filming rules, what's happening when. Ideally they need to know absolutely everything about the convention. You will get asked all manner of stupid questions. You should kick everybody out of the room who has no reason to be there. You should not allow anybody else to use your phone lines unless it is a *real* emergency (somebody having a heart attack in the corridor outside type of emergency). This should get you through the Monday and Tuesday. I don't know what happens next; I wasn't there.
Some of this will not be relevant to the next British Worldcon, whenever that is. Some of it will. In any event this is not an instruction manual. I am not an authority of conrunning, or convention promotions. I just did a bit of it once. Some of this may be useful, some may not. However please don't ignore it.
A few people who weren't directly working for me (or Promotions, or even Intersection) but gave some much appreciated assistance:
Tom Abba I asked Tom to do me a poster design. He came up with an incredibly striking image although not at all what I expected (please note this isn't meant in a negative way). He did it quickly and well.
Kay Hancox Who, despite having nothing to do with Intersection (she wasn't even going) ended up having to deal with loads of phone calls from vacuous journalists in the last few weeks pre-con.
Paul Kincaid Paul words in advertising and knows his stuff. He produced a number of excellent leaflets and the like, at very short notice.
Shep Kirkbride I phoned Shep - he didn't even know me - and asked him if he could do me a t-shirt design. It was, of course, urgent. I got several designs almost by return of post.
Maureen Speller As always, a good source of miscellaneous useful advice.
By Fiona Anderson
Now one thing I've never been known for is any sort of Promotions work, however at some point prior to Confabulation (the 1995 Eastercon) the Board had finally noticed Claire was being run into the ground, and Martin did his thing of appealing to my nobility to get me to do something about it. I don't have much nobility, so the thought of anyone appealing to it was so stunning that I agreed to do what he wanted before thinking what he wanted…
So Confabulation, it was an Eastercon, what the hell could I do to get people to notice us? We not only needed them to become aware of our existence, but to actually enthuse and volunteer to work on our staff on the day. This may not seem a big deal now, when everyone is going round patting themselves on the back how well it all went, but back then most fans rather suspected Intersection's glorious leaders would have difficulty locating a whelk stall let alone running it, and were not exactly queuing up in droves to volunteer.
However, the first step was to ask everyone to come up with ideas, no matter how ludicrous, then I'd see if they were workable, if they'd have the desired effect, and if I could get any poor sods to carry them out. It turned out quite a few of our staff did have ideas, and were willing to help put them into action, so we ended up with:
A party, organised by Jacky Grueter-Andrew and Heidi Lyshol
A ceilidh, organised by Clare Goodall
A comedy item on Confab's programme, organised by Gary Stratman, along the lines of a Kenny Everett sketch, where the team mercilessly ripped the **** out of Intersection and it's concom
Nessie posters, with various different Intersexy captions, stuck up round the con. The design for these was done by Dave Carson, who I'd never met, but who was only too helpful when I rang him up out of the blue one day.
Photos of our staff doing embarrassing things, with different Intersexy captions on each, stuck up along the glass wall behind our condesk, and for several feet either side. The Intersexy captions were all contributed by Ian Sorenson, along the line of Essex Girl jokes.
Our condesk had all the usual merchandise on it, plus two new t-shirt designs. The new design for "Intersection Ladies From Hell" by Sue Mason, from an idea of Jacky's was incredibly popular… We also had a range of "Get out of Worldcon Free" badges for sale. The desk was manned by different staff members taking turns, including the Co-Chairs and Deputies.
Actually, since Martin wasn't going to arrive until a day or so into the con, I'd also arranged that Jackie McRobert would impersonate him…she looks nothing like him obviously, it was precisely the silliness of this idea that appealed to me (can't remember who thought it up), and it did help the effect we were trying to create - that of being fun people as well as organised.
All these items together did generate a quite different atmosphere in the way fans were talking to us and about us by the end of the convention, but Gary's item has to be singled out for special mention. Since it came first on the Friday night, it set the tone, and since it was incredibly funny (and comedy isn't easy) as well as a mickey-take of us by our own, it made fandom realise we weren't necessarily the sad desperate types that many of the rumours abounding previously had suggested.
Following this up with all the other items gave an overall impression of us as willing to laugh at ourselves, as willing to have a good time, and as knowing what we were about. I think fans generally had come to Confabulation hoping to be convinced of that, but fearing that they wouldn't be.
We were also very fortunate in that the Confabulation committee found slots on the programme for all the things we wanted to do, and that they too decided to make jokes about Intersection as part of their closing ceremony, giving the "Intersection Ladies From Hell" team a sketch, and tossing out their own home-made Get Out Of Worldcon Free badges to the audience.
My whole approach to Promotions at Confab therefore, was to realise it would be far better to get other people to do a whole range of stuff, and just stick with co-ordinating it myself, than try to do it myself, when it's not exactly my forte. Luckily there were sufficient talented people around with ideas and willing to have a go at all these different things, that it came off ok in the end J
(These are the instructions that went into the final version of the Ops Manual)
There will be a Press Liaison room near Ops. This will not be staffed full-time, instead the Press Liaison people will be contactable by bleep.
Press have 4 options:
a) they can register (and pay) in the normal way for any con-goer, and make their own observations as they wander around the convention, exactly as other attendees can.
b) there is free admission for the Press on Thursday
c) they can make arrangements to have a specific interview at a specific time with representatives of Intersection, or with fans, or with whoever, and will then be escorted to and from the Press Liaison room by our own Press Liaison people, and to anywhere else suitable (if they want a photograph for example)
There will be two interview slots a day, by appointments - this has been announced in our press pack, issued prior to the convention.
d) they can be with Channel 4, with whom we have an agreement - see next section
Journalists will be given Press ribbons - as a warning to the unwary!
We will not be issuing general press passes / giving more favourable rates / letting them in free (except under the arrangements specified in (b) and © above
There may be a photo/interview call for press after the Hugos/Masquerade, for which journalists will have had to sign up in advance
In the even of a press problem, it should be referred to our Press Liaison staff - if they are unavailable, then it should go to Claire Brialey or Mark Plummer (both of whom are likely to be found in the Dealers Room)
(Channel 4 TV had negotiated a deal with us, which gave them certain priveleges, hence these details going into the Ops Manual)
Channel 4 TV will be filming around the convention. Their plans at present include:
a) An outside broadcast "special event unit" in Glasgow Thursday/Friday, which will be talking to local people about SF etc
b) Thursday - filming of people preparing for the convention, and talking about what they want out of it. They will be looking for costumers and filkers to show what they will be doing. This will go out on a TV programme to be broadcast during the convention weekend.
c) Saturday/Sunday at their studios - a live debate on SF
d) "The Big Breakfast" may be filming on Friday morning at the convention.
By Mike Cheater
I'd been meaning to write up the details of Wincon 2's dealings with the Arts Council for some time. The talk about funding in intersmof has given me the necessary impetus. I hope that this will be of interest to anyone involved in British conrunning up to and including Eastercons. I also hope that I don't bore any foreign readers.
For the uninitiated, Wincons were a series of three conventions held at the King Alfred Teacher Training College in Winchester. They had a memberships in the region of 150-200. Wincon 1 had been part of the Unicon series (conventions held in places of further education principally run by student of first-time committees.)
Having successfully completed Wincon 1 we decided to go ahead with a second con under our own aegis. We also wanted to try something a little different and more ambitious than had previously been seen with a conventions of this size and had determined to go ahead and get an American GOH. After the programming brainstorm session, we also realised that a guest from continental Europe would give the programme a bit of contrast as well, and we also wanted to programme a writers' workshop, since the workshop at Wincon 1 had produced a large amount of positive feedback. Unfortunately we had just about spent our budget. One of our committee members who is heavily involved in the local arts groups suggested we try the local Arts Council, conveniently based in Winchester.
The Arts Council in the UK is divided up into National bodies for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and is further divided into a series of regional councils. We were approaching Southern Arts, which covered the South Coast of England.
Our treasurer made the first contact, but the reply from Southern Arts showed that they did not really understand SF cons, since they were insistent that we should be paying our programme participants a fair fee for their time. They were suggesting GBP 50 for panellists, and GBP 75 for speeches.
I arranged for a head-to-head meeting between myself, our treasurer, and the Head Of Literature at Southern Arts. Their main areas of concern were that the event would be open to everybody (ie that they were not financing a party for members of a club), that the event would be properly promoted, and that we were paying the going rate for our guests' services. Apparently Poetry Societies and Writers Circles were notorious for expecting authors to give up their time for little or no reward.
We had come armed with a draft programme, a budget for the whole convention, detailed budgets for the European guest and the Writers Workshop, and samples of fliers, posters, and Progress Reports. We dealt with the matter of public access quite quickly. On the matters of promotion we explained something about how we would promote the con within the SF community, and, by quoting membership figures from other cons, why we were reasonably certain of meeting our membership target. The sticking point was over payment for programme participants. We showed the draft programme, and pointed out that if we were to pay all the authors at the con, the membership rate would have to rise from GBP 20 to nearer GBP 200, and that it would be difficult to pay one group of programme participants (the pros) and not another (the fans). I then explained something of the ethos of conventions and how many of the authors present had also been fans at one time, and that it was considered quite normal to give their services for free, since the convention was really an extension of their hobby rather than a professional engagement…
The discussion then got down to specifics. Who did we want to invite etc. Fortunately their representative was quite knowledgeable about SF, and recognised most of the names that came up in tthe conversation. She said that she would like to see more women on the programme and suggested the idea of a "Women in SF" panel. We pointed out that this was a somewhat cliched topic that had been tackled by other cons, although we were not averse to a woman guest per se. She advised us that due to the climate of political correctness in the Arts Council we were more likely to get our grant approved if we had more female names on the programme.
On the matter of the European guest she was quite enthusiastic about Josef Nesvadba as a candidate, since "Eastern Europe" was the flavour of the month (this was 1990 about the time of the Velvet Revolution), and she thought that she would have no problems in getting that passed.
We also learned something of the internal structure of the local Arts Council. The two ideas (European guest, and Writers Workshop) would have to be considered separately since they came under two separate budgets (Literature and Training), but this was good since neither would come close to the ceiling at which they would have to refer upwards. It was always a good idea to come to them with a number of small projects in different fields since they had more chance of each one being passed individually rather than one grand design. Larger projects were better off going direct to the relevant national Arts Council. She suggested that the National Arts Council would be the best place for events of Eastercon size to look at.
Other areas they might have been able to help with were deficit funding (guaranteeing against loss up to a set figure for new or experimental events), and subsidising memberships for the unemployed.
In order to get the grants we had to agree to carry their logo on all of our publicationsand publicity material, to provide them with a full set of accounts at the end, and to provide them with reports from convention members and workshop attendees as to the value of the event.
In the end we got everything we asked for (about GBP 700) which I reckoned to have been the most productive 45 minutes I'd ever spent. Wincon 3 went on to achieve similar funding without the necessity of repeating the negotiations, although Keith (their treasurer) reported that there was much more paperwork and bureaucracy to go through.
In conclusion, the Arts Councils are a good way for conventions to obtain funding to support the services to their members, but anyone planning to use them should also be aware that they have to do their homework first, and come prepared with figures and hard facts to back up their arguments. Likewise you will have to put some effort into explaining fandom and the value of SF to a possibly sceptical body.
Intersection's sponsorship was negotiated by Dave Power and Mike Westhead, and altogether they raised around GBP 16000 for us, which was very much appreciated!
Below are the instructions which went into the Ops Manual:
All our problems with sponsors need to be logged.
Our sponsors include:
Wizards of the Coast
and a couple of others that are as yet unconfirmed
Details that need to be logged are:
1. the name of the person and their company (since WOTC may have 24 staff on site, it is essential to get the name of the person as well as the company)
2. date and time of the problems
3. description of the problem
4. solution of the problem
The Ops Room should attempt to solve the problem, and should also bleep Dave Power to notify him of the problem and the solution.
However, if the sponsor has a problem with the terms of the sponsorship deal, this must NOT be handled by Ops staff, but given to Dave Power instead. Dave negotiated these deals, and he knows the details. There is no circumstance under which Ops should agree to giving any sponsor anything new, without referring this to Dave.