The Cool Kids

I hate that my best ideas come to me when I’m in the middle of something else that I really shouldn’t drop.

Like, right now, I’m in the middle of putting together dinner. Chicken pot pies – I’m not the only one that gets tasty benefits in my relationship, last night it was salmon, caramelized onions, fingerling potatoes, and sauteed green beans.

Anyways.

It occurs to me that the only times I haven’t had a blast at a convention were when I didn’t know anyone, and/or I was majorly ill. There isn’t much anyone else but myself and my doctor can do about the sickness part, but I wonder if there is something we can do about the other. Someone, and I feel really bad but I can’t remember who, on the SMOFS list today wrote about watching a young fan come up to reg, ask how much the cost was, and then go back and try to convince his/her (also can’t remember) friends to come and join. When they were unsuccessful at recruiting, the young person and all the friends left.

What if the main reason (not age problems, price points, or panel offerings) young people aren’t attending Worldcon is because their friends aren’t there? (Even if this is the main problem, I am very much aware that it wouldn’t be the only one, and that the other issues still need to be worked upon.) If this is it, is there anything we can do about it? I think there is.

While I was at school, one of my side jobs was department ambassador. When kids and their families came to campus, I would walk around the Mass Comm building with them, usually try to lose the parents for a while and answer the real questions that students had. I’d give them my phone number, friend them on Facebook and give them my email address. If the students decided on Northwest, I usually got a message through my phone or my Facebook account. I made a point to grab lunch with them and introduce them to my friends.

We could do the exact same thing at Worldcons. If and when a new member shows up, they are paired with a volunteer buddy. One of my favorite parts of Worldcon (well, of fandom in general…) is making new friends, and it’s also usually the hardest if I don’t know anyone who can introduce me. These buddies could/would give their numbers to registration and if they are needed, they get a text message or something. There has got to be a program out there that can assist with this.

How can we make this idea come to life?

13 thoughts on “The Cool Kids”

  1. I think it’s an interesting idea – kind of a “fanmatch” – you probably want to match up people according to the interests. The main negative I can see with this is Worldcons have enough trouble getting enough volunteers to hold the con together.

  2. That’s a really interesting idea. And I like it. It would need a few checks and balances, perhaps, to make sure the buddy had an out if needed. (I could imagine a worst case where the new person became problem.) But just having someone you could have a chat with at the start to guide someone through the convention would be great. Perhaps it wouldn’t need to be a one to one buddy system? But something more personal than a “Welcome to your first Worldcon” panel….

  3. Interesting idea. I think that an “opt in” system might make it more workable. Some people prefer to make friends on their own.

    1. Oh, see there is a problem with me writing stuff like this when I’m on a sugar high, I leave stuff out.

      This would ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO BE opt in. If not, the privacy issues would be insane.

      So yeah, thanks for mentioning that. In my head it was clear that it would be opt-in.

  4. What about a buddy system for the first hour of volunteering – if you are new why not give an hour of volunteer time, we will pair you up with an experienced volunteer buddy to do your hour with so you can start the con with a new friend and get introduced to others – and put all of these in a very high traffic area so they can be introduced to people (con suite, MIMO) and highly reccomend that the experienced volunteer give contact info but they have an hour to decide if they want to.

  5. “This is your first convention?” orientation is a good idea. The idea of such a panel or handout have circulated before. The one to one match could be good or a nightmare. In a college scenario, it works pretty well as A. You know the two are close in age and interest as they are both interested in or attend the same school. B. At the college the new person is still with their parents (until you sneak in your one on one time) C. I’m guessing there is a vetting process for the ambassadors. All three of these issues could be problematic at a convention.
    I am looking at creating a “So this is your first convention?” handout for registration. Maybe a First Time Attendee ribbon so Staff can keep an eye open and be extra helpful.

  6. There were prominent signs as you entered the Registration area (before you actually got to Reg itself) describing what a Worldcon was, aimed mostly at first-time attendees. That was a great idea that I hope is repeated.

    Megan’s idea is fascinating, and if we could get enough volunteers, might be really nifty. I went to my first Worldcon with no known friends there, but as sheer luck would have it, out of 8,000 people attending, the person in line behind me was a friend of the man who had encouraged me to attend the convention in the first place, so I had an initial acquaintance even before I registered. Even little things like that mean a whole lot.

  7. Maybe something like an “unguided Tour” – match ups for a couple of panels in a day that are on a common interest, a short tour of Art Show and Concourse.

    But I agree with others, how to vet the “Guides” is a concern. I think the match ups should be initiated before the Con even starts, on social media or internet.

    AnnR

  8. I like the idea. Even as an experienced con-goer, I get to conventions where I don’t know many people before the event, and being a bit of an introvert, I sometimes struggle to make new friends. Obviously checks and balances needed, but overall it sounds like a positive step.

  9. As I asked in the associated Facebook thread, has anyone tried having a newbie con suite, clearly labelled “For us who are attending our first SF convention”, or something like that? With the usual; tea, coffee, snacks, perhaps some light games. When you sit with people you know are also newcomers, it’s much easier to strike up a conversation.

  10. Megan, As usual you are full of bright ideas! I love this and now you have images swirling around in my head of how we could do this. Like you, I was involved in something similar as a Student Council member. We changed the way our college did things. You can change the way Cons operate. I’m puzzling over this. Like someone mentioned, getting enough volunteers to go one on one may not work. How about having a ‘pool’ of volunteers of different ages have a table in the Reg area and something like – meet a new friend, rent a volunteer or something to let the new folks know they can ‘borrow’ one of these folks to show them the con, or escort them to various areas while discussing it.

  11. You know how we have art show docents? Perhaps, extending on Sharon’s thoughts, it would be great to have Convention docents. A table or area for new people to meet, and then at certain times, probably more times towards the start of the con, the docent would do a bit of a tour of the general areas. This would allow them to point out how to get to various rooms, and what you can expect to see throughout the convention. And even if you don’t get to do a tour, the new people can chat to someone at the new people table…

  12. I wonder how the hours and ratios of volunteers to neos would work out.

    A little more broadly, what might be done with/for neos?
    I have a small share of the responsibility for replicating the neo panel from once to once a day, but that’s not huge.
    Off the top of my head, for instance, maybe a coupon good for one quarter of the volunteer hours necessary for the volunteer T-shirt?
    Possibly working up some sort of survey to be used by large conventions on what was good and what was weak?
    Prominent ASK ME buttons for willing veterans.

    fwiw, my most insistent advice for neos is Talk to people!!

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