Convention Idea: Career Tracks

My original column on how conventions could invite more "career" guests (legal reps, marketers, special effects teams) along with their "name" guests generated a good deal of feedback from various people.  After some though, I've decided to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and flesh out other ideas on how conventions and similar fan/geek events can encourage professional development as well as fun.  There's no real endpoint to the series – and I'm always looking for new ideas.

For this column, I want to focus on another way to make conventions skill-and-career building as well as social and fun – a career track at a convention.  I've seen a few ideas like this implemented from con to con, and wanted to discuss my ideal version of how they could be done.

A career track at a convention would be a series of panels and workshops oriented towards career skills that are relevant to the convention audience – animation and voice acting for anime, publishing and webcomics for a comic convention, etc.  A separate area or areas, as well as a block of time, would be set aside so that the career track can run.  In some cases there may be multiple tracks running simultaneously.

The advantage of a career track as I see it is:

  1. The use of specific physical locations allows for better preparation, especially for panels or workshops that have specific needs.  This also allows better cleanup.
  2. The use of a specific physical location or location makes it easier for those looking for career-oriented events to find them.
  3. Having a specific track of time allows one to place professional events one after the other, allowing them to be scheduled to avoid conflicts with each other or relevant events that may produce competition for audience.  It also allows one to aim at different demographics (you don't have a cosplay-to-professional panel at the same time as the costume contest).
  4. If multiple tracks are needed in the career track, they can be arranged so their subject matter is specialized per track – a place for writing tracks, a place for animation, etc. This helps minimize conflicts.

When I've seen career tracks done (and they're usually "mini-tracks" scattered about a convention) they seem to go over well.  I think it wouldn't be hard to pitch one at a convention – one could easily sample demographics, interview those interested, and establish a basic idea of what'd work best.

So work at a convention?  Attend one?  Want more professional panels and events?  Suggest a career track.

– Steven Savage