Geek Networking At AODSF: Con Report And More

Discussion Communication

(I wanted to post more on franchises, but I’ve got something worth interrupting my Soul Train of thought for.)

A few years ago I started doing Geek Career Networking events at conventions. It was a mixture of discussing networking and connecting people in the audience. It wasn’t a true networking event if you want to be technical; it was a panel on networking with real networking bolted on.

I’ve always wanted to try a “real” connection-focused Networking even in the convention scenes. The kind where you mix around and meet people based on your professional interests. I figured one would be useful at a convention, and perhaps in a time where ConSuites aren’t always a guarantee, necessary.

Fortunately, the crew at AODSF let me try out a full Geek Networking event.    The results were “pretty good” but let’s get into the details and the lessons learned – because I’d like to not just share, but hear other ideas.

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Convention Idea: Cover Part-Time Businesses

The roundup of convention resources is here.

Plenty of people think about starting a fannish business.  Of course such events rethinks you can try at conventions.  Certainly they're useful and of interest.

Let me suggest that, if you're going to do such an event at a convention, you consider something a little different.

Do a panel or series of panels on starting part-time fannish businesses.  How to run something on the side, on your weekends, along with your regular job, etc.

There are several advantages:

  • It's less daunting to people than panels on starting one's own business without doing it part time.  You'll get better attendance.
  • It is frankly easier to staff – you'll find more people qualified to speak on these issues.
  • It's a nice compliment to more "intense" business and career panels.
  • You'll have more diverse choices of subjects to cover as well, considering the many manifestations of part-time businesses.
  • It's often less formal.  Admittedly if we're talking conventions, some of your attendees will be doing gender-bent Watchmen costly, but you know what I mean.

Next time you want to talk business at a convention, talk part-time.

– Steven Savage

Convention Idea: A focus on failure

The roundup of convention ideas is here.

How to use Photoshop.  How to find an editor.  How to make a portfolio.  Good events at conventions teach us how to do things.

How an author succeeded.  How an artist became famous.  We hear how the successful have achieved their goals when they speak at conventions, when they lecture, when they instruct.

Positivity is all fine and dandy, but let me suggest that, when doing pro-fan events at your convention, you also keep some events to focus on failure.

Yes.  Failure.  What are the ten things not to do to be an author?  What are the five careers that sports fans think make lots of money but don't?  What would professional artists say in a roundtable if asked "what's the dumbest thing you did in your career"?

Having pro-fan events at your con that speak on mistakes, on what to avoid, can actually have a lot of benefits:

  • Done properly – the "I did this wrong, this is why, this is how I fixed it" people can learn how to avoid or fix common mistakes.  Always make sure any panel on failure includes a  how-to-get-over it section.
  • It can defuse dangerous delusions of competence people may have about their idols and successful people.  Knowing how people make mistakes helps people face their own.
  • It makes people able to face their mistakes easier – especially if it's delivered with humor, understanding, and ideas of how to fix mistakes. 
  • It helps people develop sympathy for others who make errors – knowing others fail, acknowledging you fail, let's you accept it in others.
  • It acknowledges that your convention accepts that finding your dream job is hard, and people will view your events for pro-geeks as more realistic and balanced.
  • It gives you new material to work with as opposed to the same-old-same-old.

So go on, embrace failure as a subject at your convention.  Think of the topics you could cover, the laughs people could have, and the different viewpoints you could bring.

A few suggestions:

  • Have professionals speak on their biggest career mistakes.  Especially good in a more casual or roundtable setting.
  • Combine a discussion of the best software for a profession (writing, artist, etc.) with the worst (though you might annoy some people that make the software).  Make it a debate.
  • Have panels on the "X" most common mistakes in "Y" profession; the five worst things artists do, the six biggest mistakes people make getting into video games, etc.
  • Do a roundtable discussion where attendees themselves discuss the mistakes they made.
  • Discuss great historical mistakes relevant to your convention that relate to careers; what's the worst dub in anime (I was on several panels like that), the biggest flub in film releases, the worst-marketed video games, etc.  Make sure lessons learned are clearly called out.

Remember, you want your attendees to be successes in their geeky jobs.  Help them out by introducing them to failure.

– Steven Savage