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Conventions have been part of my life for nearly 40 years. For many people, much like me, the story is the same – a majority of our life has involved attending, hosting, and even being guests at conventions. Now that they are threatened by COVID-19, we rightfully wonder what will happen to them.
Since COVID-19 has struck, I have wondered how conventions can survive. This is really a two-part goal: how do we preserve what makes conventions wonderful and how to we maintain having events. Vaccine-wise I don’t expect cons until late 2021 at best, and wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see the first until 2022.
So how do we help them survive? One piece of the puzzle came to me recently when Dianna Gunn held an online Writer’s Conference.
This was a tight, focused, effective event. It focused only on writers. Each panel focused on a given subject, such as worldbuilding, and each had a monitor. There were rules, Zoom meetings, an discord, and in short a plan. I obviously enjoyed it – and as a Project/Program Manager enjoyed how well run it was.
Now this small event had all the elements we’d want from a convention. It was social, it was friendly, and of course it was an event. Smaller than even a mini-con, but it had the elements we’d want at larger cons.
What struck me then is that this may be the future of conventions – in part. Literally.
Imagine this as a blueprint for the future:
Small groups like Dianna’s evolve to hold “mini-events” that are tight, focused, and polished. They should focus on a given audience and themes, with a team just the right size to pull them off. They shouldn’t necessarily hold these events as part of cons – they should develop independently but form alliances.
Conventions should also work to create small groups like the above that to tight, focused events that are like the events they used to hold in person. They should not feel they have to hold them as part of a convention – though they may. But any set of events should be considered independent.
And then conventions can use these “modular events” to assemble online conventions as needed. Conventions might even share content and run at the same time.
What do you get out of this?
- You get groups that are good at running a set of specific things – and have a target audience.
- You get groups that can run relatively independently.
- You can have these events happen on their own, but when they are part of a convention, everyone gets to know more about these events.
- You can work outside the usual convention schedule.
- When we can finally meet in person, you have the talent you need to do things in person, or share things virtually, or whatever works.
- If any con falls apart, its elements can survive.
This idea is one I clearly need to think over, but it feels like it’s something that can work, and I’ve seen similar business structures such as Scrum At Scale and even SAFe. Maybe we can save and improve conventions by making them modular and distributed.
There’s a seed here we can grow.