Costumes, fandoms, and feminism - this was my first year participating in GeekGirlCon, and boy was it a good experience. The con feels smaller and calmer then many of the nerd-based cons I work at, but had this great, positive energy and feeling of camaraderie running through it for the entire two days. Many people I've spoken with think of GeekGirlCon as having a, "girls only," sort of attitude, but instead it strives to be as inclusive as possible. There were plenty of attendees of the masculine variety there, and I felt right at home.
This is my write-up of my observations at the con, and what I took from the experience. It ended up being quite lengthy, so bear with me as I babble on about my experiences.
This was GeekGirlCon's third year running, and I had heard of it before this year, but I'm glad I came on scene when I did. GeekGirlCon underwent a reorganization over the past 12 months, turning from a committee-run event to a more hierarchical organizational staff structure, which meant most of the staff were entirely new. Because of this, it felt a bit like joining this team on the ground floor - and it can only go up from here.
I joined the volunteers as a panel-room manager. A good friend of mine, Jex (who I know through volunteering at PAX) has been the volunteer coordinator at GGC since the beginning, and asked me to help run one of the panel rooms for her. Considering that's the sort of position I have the most experience with, I was happy to step into the role.
The volunteers at GGC are called Agents, and the Agents in managerial roles are called Special Agents. I was a Special Agent assigned to room 301/302, with an awesome girl called Melissa as my co-manager. While Melissa was fairly new to volunteering at cons and panel room management (and so was sometimes unsure what she did and did not have the power to do), she was super responsible, organized, and proactive, and I felt really comfortable splitting up responsibilities with her. So, we agreed that she would be the "interior manager," helping to make sure the panels themselves ran smoothly, while I stayed outside to manage lines. We ended up being a good team!
Fun stories that happened
So much of the con just just a great experience for me - but there were a few instances of things happening that felt very much like "this is GeekGirlCon!"
The first one I didn't actually witness myself, but was related to me by Jared (aka Wote.) Jared was standing between the entrance to the theater and the elevator bank, at an angle which meant he could see the doors, but not the interior. There was a group of people waiting for an elevator, and when the doors opened they all leaped back in surprise. A full-sized dalek came rolling slowly out of the elevator and into Wote's view.
This Dalek was AWESOME. It was remote-controlled, and very, very well made. It was also apparently hollow inside, because at some point I hear someone got stuck inside, and this tweet went out...
...Which needs some context, of course! There was a team of volunteers at GeekGirlCon known as the Reaction Team - their job is, primarily, guest relations. They are the people we turn to if anything comes up that needs special attention, and the people we escalate to if anyone needs to report harassment. For the sake of visibility and approachability, they wore giraffe ears, and so were often referred to as a, "Giraffe."
A couple of other, quick things that happened that I liked: Amber Benson was there, and while I never spoke to her, I super appreciated her being there. ESPECIALLY because she stood in my line for the Lizzie Bennet panel, and any special guest who insists on standing in line for content with everyone else is wonderful.
Also, after Kelly Sue Deconnick's panel in my theater, Kelly Sue stood outside the theater talking to a group of fans. Eventually, the circle of fans dwindled to about a half-dozen people - nearly all of which were girls dressed in fantastic superhero costumes. I stood there, musing on how this is pretty much the epitome of how I envision Kelly Sue Deconnick: standing in a circle of super heroines, each of them listening intently to what she has to say. I composed a tweet about it -- and she later favorited it. tiny squee.
Stuff that needed solving
When I arrived around 3pm on setup day, we had not yet obtained rolls of Gaffers Tape. Now, Gaffers Tape (also called Gaff tape, or as my friend Lulu calls it, "GAFFA TAPE.") has become like gold to me in convention settings - and Geek Girl Con reinforced it's importance. In my experience, it's far better to use gaff tape for crowd control and line management then to use stantions. It's extremely versatile as a communication tool.
It's also important to know the difference between gaff tape and other sorts of tape, like duct tape or painters tape. Gaff tape has just the right balance of grippiness (totally a word) to cleanliness - it doesn't leave residue on carpets. This is important because people will be walking all over the tape for the entire weekend, but we will still be able to remove it from the floor with minimal effort when we clean up after the show, with no trace of it ever being there.
Anyway. On Friday afternoon the day before the show, we were still without it. I offered to do a run to Guitar Center (the only store in the area that you can walk into and come out with a roll of gaff tape,) and they only had ONE ROLL left of white gaff tape! They had plenty of black gaff, but that is useless to us because we would be using it to create guide lines. So, $20 later and laden with just one roll of gaff tape, I returned to the enter to find out that we had lost some of our line space. A MILD CRISIS ensued.
OOOH LETS TALK ABOUT LINES.
So, on the third floor of the conference center, the three largest theaters were right next to each other, competing for line space. The image on the left depicts the area around 301, 302, and 303 (just off the image to the right!)
This is the original plan for the designated space for lines. As you could see, the plan was to have 301 (in yellow) have all this space in the front of it dedicated to lines and have people enter through the door marked with a star. 302 (red), then, would have people enter through the door in the back, and have lines exclusively in that back hallway. 303, designated in blue, would have all the space along the side of their room, and then have a back hallway they could expand into.
Now, on Friday night we realized that this plan wouldn't work - for both 301 and 302, the projector screen and stage completely blocked the entrances into the theaters from the back hallway - there was no way we could have people enter from the back!
There were a few challenges, here: 303 needed enough space, we had to make sure people could easily get into the back hallway to the bathrooms, and we absolutely couldn't block the DIY Science space - which is marked as a brown box on the map.
A few idea for solutions were put forward, including one (that we nearly did) which had people lining up for events in 301 on the 2nd floor, and then leading them up the elevator when it was time to let them into the theater. Yikes! A possible logistical nightmare!
But then I proposed this:
On Day One of GeekGirlCon, 301 (marked in yellow) had all the line space in front of the two theaters. The line would start where it was marked "1," and then once that space was filled along that wall, the line would start again at the yellow line marked "2." This was the shoots system: Line one would move in first entirely, then line two would move in after.
It was very important to be communicative for this plan. 301's line was actually lining up in front of 302. There were multiple instances of people getting in line for 302 by hopping into the line in front of it, without realizing that they were getting in 301's line. Quickly checking through the line to make sure everyone was in the right place was the solution to that.
302's line, on the other hand, started quite a bit away from 302's door (the red star.) It became a floating line - right in the middle of a space instead of against a wall. We left enough space in front of 303's doors to not block it, and enough space on the other side so that people could easily get to and from the DIY Science space. Because of it's "floating" nature, I actually asked for stantions to run along one side of it to help define it- a rare request from me nowadays, but a request that was very quickly fulfilled by the venue staff!
The line started on the spot marked "1," and went until the end of the space. With comfortable condensing, we were able to fit about 80 people in the first part of the line. When that was filled, I would "break" the line - have people stop lining up in the floating portion, and start lining up where it was marked 2. This required an Agent to stand at the end of line 1, directing people to where the end of the line actually was, and another Agent to stand at the beginning of the second part of the line down the back hallway.
When it came time to let in a line, I would quickly communicate to all the Agents involved that I was about to get the line moving, and would clear the area between the start of the line and the door to 302. (It ended up being a popular spot for photos to be taken.) A quick, "Excuse me, there will be a line moving through this space soon!" did the trick to get people to temporarily clear the area.
303 was relegated to just using their back hallways for their line, and moving their entry door to near the back hallway. This ended up working out just fine for them!
Now, on Day Two, we converted 301 and 302 into one large panel room space. The heavy hitters had panels in that room - Karen Prell, Denise Crosby, Kelly Sue Deconnick. Because we were combining space, we ended up needing to readjust the line. The part of 301's line the curved around the escalator wall became obsolete - we actually gave that to Abby at the signing desk to use, which ended up coming in handy.
So, we combined our lines into one - the line started along the front of the theaters, stopped and then began again in the floating portion, and then we would break the line again and send it down the hall.
Luckily for us, the events in 301/302 never capped - so our lines were never really crazy. This is a good thing!
Man, apparently I really can go on and on about lines. I've been working with them for ages!
Lets talk about the things I learned from this event
The only other real problem I felt we had with this event was the audio in 301/302. We were using the house speakers (in the ceiling), rather then individual standing ones, and the audio never reached a level that I was satisfied with. Everything was just too quiet. I concluded that it would be a good idea to always bring in the standing speakers. That way, the AV guys will have much more control over the audio coverage, and the level of audio within the room.
I had a chance to talk with a guy named Roger from PSAV, who says he has been working with audio for the past thirty years. It was a great chat, and I felt like I learned a lot - he delved into the theory behind audio and in particular the relationship between power levels and decibels. Of course, I wasn't taking notes, nor did I start applying this knowledge directly, so there are just a few things I took away from our conversation that has stuck with me.
A couple, smaller take-always from this event were: Gaff tape really is remarkably expensive, and while having one roll is enough for a show, it's better to have multiples. Not just for yardage of the tape itself, but so more then one person can be using a roll at a time.
I learned the word, "Security," is very specific, and someone who is not a certified security guard can get in trouble for calling themselves security. It's why GGC's version of "security," is referred to as the, "Reaction Team." They're guest relations - not security. (although they ARE who we call if there is a security issue!)
Lastly, I've learned that I should take my own photos during events, rather then relying on someone else's for my event posts. :)
Now, I am finally getting around to wrapping up this write-up a week after the last day of con - my final due date whenever I do these things. Steam Con was this weekend (I just got home!), and you can expect a write-up in a matter of days!
Until next time.