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Standard Job Titles for Conventions


Listing of convention positions extracted from several Worldcon staff lists including LAConIII

Please Note: This page is under current construction, which means that some of the things written below will change before I finish going through the descriptions once. Also some things (e.g. the items in the pocket programme/ReadMe) I haven't double-checked yet and may have missed something!

In the following list, I've tried to identify all the major jobs that occur at most Worldcons and the vast majority of jobs will also occur at smaller conventions. At Worldcon level, many of these jobs require a team of people, at smaller cons one person may take on many of these jobs.

While there is no standard way of breaking down the jobs into divisions, I've based the following list mostly on the LAConIII divisions, with minor changes where I felt jobs had been put in the "wrong" division, probably because the person doing that job was also doing a job in that other division and it made sense to have both "jobs" reporting to the same division head.


The "standard" job titles tend to break down into:

  1. Committee
    usually the team actually organising the convention. There is usually less than two dozen "top level" committee members, though the job level of "committee" is used by some conventions to indicate all staff at Division Head and above, because this is quite often the same group.
  2. Division Head
    In the list below I give six major divisions; Site, Services, Admin, Events, Programming, Other. It is up to the individual convention to decide whether Events are part of Programme, Admin is part of Services, or if Site should be split into Site, Hotel and Fixed Exhibits etc. However many divisions there are, it is important to have someone responsible for each division (and they should have at least one deputy to take over in case of emergency) Since running a division means being responsible for the division budget, it is usual for the Division Head to also be part of the main organising committee.
  3. Area Head
    This term is sometimes applied to the Division Heads, sometimes to the Department Heads, but if you really need another layer of management then this is where it would go. For example you might have a Division head responsible for all Site related issues. There might be Area Heads for Hotel, Convention Facilities and Fixed Exhibits. Under the Fixed Exhibit Area Head there might be Department heads for Dealers, Art Show, Commercial Exhibits, Fan Exhibits, Guest of Honour Exhibits etc.
  4. Department Head
    This is the person responsible for a single area of the convention. E.g. Art Show, Green Room, Information Desk etc. As in all these descriptions, some conventions may include more or less in a particular department. E.g. publications may have separate Department Heads for Progress Reports, Programme Book, pocket programme and newsletter, or may combine them in various ways.
  5. Shift Manager
    At the convention, the person who is responsible for a particular area for a period of time. E.g. the Green Room shift manager will be in charge of the Green Room from, say, 9am until Noon.
  6. Staff
    The people assigned to particular jobs and scheduled to do these at various points (usually recruited for those positions before the convention). This is to differentiate them from gophers (who do a marvellous job may I hasten to put in here, since I still do gophering!), who are usually thrown at whatever job needs doing at that moment, whether it is moving Art boards, watching over the autograph queue, or delivering drinks to the Ops room (where you'll usually find me).

Another way of defining the jobs is by money(!)

(again there are no hard and fast rules here, but it should give you some idea…) The numbers below are rough estimates based on a worldcon size budget

  1. Committee: set the budgets so they can spend whatever they need to on anything providing they stay within the budget restrictions they have agreed with Finance. They can also do deals with the other committee members to transfer jobs and money around in order to run the convention successfully. Their only effective limit on emergency spending is getting Finance to sign the cheque.
  2. Division Heads: since they are usually the same people as the committee have pretty much the same spending power, but without power to swap bits around with the other Division Heads (it usually should go through the committee) They should have a continuous idea of what has been spent, what will be spent, and how much money is available so that they can throw money at problems if sensible & prudent. They can probably authorise up to 1,000 dollars to be spent on an emergency without getting severely beaten up by Finance.
  3. Area Heads: will be given an overall budget by the Division Head (which should have been agreed with them beforehand so that they know that they will have the funding to do the job properly) and will have some discretion how it should be split between the departments. They will keep an emergency margin available to cover unforeseen circumstances. This may amount to an emergency fund of 500 dollars (for the Area for the entire convention).
  4. Department Heads will have to agree to a fairly fixed budget and description of what they should be doing with that money. They can probably throw 250 dollars at a problem without Finance going mad.
  5. Shift Managers can probably authorise up to 100 dollars to fix a problem before they have to start working their way up the chain of organisation to find someone who can authorise more.
  6. Staff can not usually authorise any additional expenditure.

The list of jobs breaks down into the following sections:


Facilities/Site

  1. Convention centre/function space
    At Worldcon and major US convention level, the number of people and the amount of function space required exceeds that which a single hotel can provide. At which point you have to look into the use of specialised conference centres. Obviously the negotiating stance must be very different since you are no longer playing off the cost of the function space against the number of people booking hotel rooms.
  2. Hotel Liaison
    For smaller conventions, this role may include everything from booking function space, through negotiating the bar prices, opening times and provision of real ale and inexpensive food, checking that it is OK for the dealers to sell stuff, negotiating the use/price of hotel tech equipment and personnel, checking fire regulations, arranging corkage waivers etc. through to actually co-ordinating the attendees room bookings. At a Worldcon this will obviously be far too big a job for one person.
  3. Safety/Fire Officer
    At an event the size of a worldcon, there are certain things that must be cleared with the local fire department or local council fire inspector. These include ensuring that the aisles in the programme halls, the art show, the dealers room and all other public spaces are sufficiently wide; that the drapes, hangings etc. used in the art show, dealers room etc. are fire-proof/retardant and that fire exits are not being blocked. In addition, there may be regulations about specific equipment due to Health and Safety regulations which may include the mandatory testing of all electrical equipment, appropriate certification for people using "cherry pickers" or working on scaffolding, appropriate clothing etc. The violation of any of these may cause the convention to be closed, to be financially liable for injury or damage, the convention insurance to be voided or, worst of all, someone could get hurt. This may well be more than one job, and in the UK there must be a senior management person on the committee responsible for Health and Safety Issues (though the actual work may be delegated to appropriately qualified individuals). Since certain of these jobs can *only* be done by trained and qualified individuals, if it is not possible to find suitable fans to do the work for free, you may end up having to pay for a professional to perform these jobs at the convention.

Fixed Exhibits

  1. art show
    Warning! The people most likely to want to run the art show tend to be artists (or wannabees!) and with that goes the "artistic temperament". In my experience this means that they can think of more ways of spending money than you ever realised existed, and come up with justifications why your art show will the be worst in history unless you give them everything they demand. They combine the best of the theatrical tradition of putting heart and soul into producing the best possible art show using the resources they can beg, borrow or "liberate", with the occasional "prima donna" that if they don't get their own way in everything they will leave you high and dry. This is a sweeping generalisation since I know many, MANY art show runners who would move heaven and earth to make sure the show happens and will put up with just about anything, but I also know more than one person who fits the above description and so I feel I should give you due warning (when it happens to you once, it is unfortunate, when it happens a second time you start to get suspicious, three times and paranoia sets in!)
  2. dealers
    You need a person/team which combines hard-headed practicality with amazing amounts of patience. For many people a good dealers room can make a convention
  3. exhibits
    These range from "The History of the Worldcon" through professional exhibits (e.g. CompuServe, Publishers, the Sci-Fi Channel) to special exhibits (e.g. if your con is near one of the NASA launchpads, you might be able to get lunar rovers etc.) Among other things the exhibits person/team must co-ordinate the requirements of each of these exhibits including the logistics of getting the stuff in and out, arrange storage if necessary, co-ordinate security (e.g. for moon rocks) and insurance, work with the site liaison on the cost for the space and who is going to pay for it (especially if they need things like electricity for computers, videos etc.). It is also important to consider the flow of people around the exhibits and the amount of noise and inconvenience each exhibit may cause to other things in the area (e.g. putting a loud display next to a programme room or the Art Show may seriously annoy people)

Services

  1. help/info desk
    aside from registration, probably the most important one-on-one interaction for the convention attendees. Obviously you'll need maps, phone directories, someone with local knowledge and so on. But you should consider putting together guides to things like local SF bookshops, shops that sell party supplies/balloons, good directions on how to get to the local hospital emergency department, dentist, wheelchair repairman, camera repair shop, supplier of odd sizes of batteries, vegan grocery store, all night photocopy shop etc. Having ring binders with the information in plastic pockets works well. I haven't seen a computerised version yet, but I'm sure someone will do so (if they haven't already) but if you decide to be among the first, please make sure you have paper backups for everything! There is overlap with the pocket programme/ReadMe, in that the pocket guide usually includes the list of local restaurants, and the info desk should have this also, preferably with a copy of all the menus. Communication can be vital, particularly if there is a medical emergency, and since the help desk is visible and should be manned for as much of the convention as possible (preferably from the beginning of setup until the end of tear down so that the help desk can send volunteers onto wherever they are needed) it may well be the first place people will go with problems.
    It is important that any concerns that are raised are recorded and communicated effectively to the person/people/team best able to sort them out. If people are complaining that they can't hear the programme in Hall 3, then this needs to be communicated to Programme Ops as soon as possible so that a solution (which may involve Ops and/or Tech) can be put in place. From this example it is obvious that there must be some sensible guide for where each type of problem is to be referred. This must be part of the Info Desk manual, so that if someone runs up and says they've seen a bomb/suspicious package/waste bin on fire etc. the Info Desk knows whether to call the conference centre security, the ops room, con security or the police/fire brigade. (The correct answer to the above problem is left as an exercise for the reader... :)
  2. info guide for pocket programme
    The pocket programme consists of seven type of information: 1) The programme in all the various streams and flavours (e.g. video, film, filk etc.), 2) The site map, 3) The restaurant list, 4) Opening/Closing times, 5) Other important information (fire alarms, weapons policy, convention office phone number), 6) Junk (e.g. welcome message from the chair), 7) Advertising. Of these, the programme division produces the information for the grids, publications arranges the Advertising and the production of the pocket programme, the junk is provided by whoever is writing it, and just about everything else either comes from or goes to the Info desk team.
  3. merchandise/sales to members
    If you really want to thank me for writing all this, then the cheap thing to do is to have your convention produce one or more pins and send me one of each. (Of course you could also give me a free membership, and in exchange I'll come along and work in whatever area you need another pair of hands in!)
  4. Fan lounge
  5. con suite/staff lounge
  6. operations (Ops)s
  7. at-con communications
  8. first aid
  9. disabled access
  10. security
  11. newsletter
  12. fan repro
  13. signs
  14. publications
  15. promotion/publicity
  16. gophers
  17. volunteers (pre-con and at con)
  18. tech
  19. parties
  20. bids (at con)
  21. voting (at con site selection)
  22. registration (at con)
  23. child care
  24. press

Events/Extravaganzas

  1. Opening Ceremony
  2. Hugos/Awards
  3. Masquerade
  4. Closing Ceremony

Administration

  1. finance/budget
  2. pre-con office
  3. postmaster
  4. insurance
  5. legal
  6. staff/committee communications
  7. membership (ahead of con)
  8. voting (Hugos, postal site selection)
  9. hotel room booking
  10. web/e-mail
  11. sponsorship
  12. timelines/master convention schedule
  13. international agents
  14. ribbon procurement
  15. badge design
  16. membership pack
  17. freebie procurement

Programming

  1. programme development (science, filk, art, kid etc.)
  2. programme ops
  3. green room
  4. gaming
  5. filk
  6. kid con
  7. autograph sessions
  8. Films/Videos
  9. Guests & VIPs
  10. Kaffeeklatsches
  11. pocket programme
  12. writers workshop
  13. WSFS business meeting
  14. fan programme

Other

  1. committee
  2. wsfs/business meetings
  3. sfwa/asfa
  4. bidding
  5. themes
  6. guests

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