Convention Idea: Retirees?

The roundup of convention ideas is here.

When putting people on your career panels, you have many choices; the guest, the hip student, the hard working pro.  Once you start looking for potential guests you'll be amazed at the people you can call upon.

Have you thought about inviting people who are already done with their careers?  In short – have you looked at retirees?

Think of all the people you may know – or others may know – who have had long and successful careers.  Some of them may even be guests or the parents/grandparents of attendees.  Consider, just for a moment, how many people out there who have had amazing careers and lives that can share that information.

To give an example, I live in an area that has a Computer History Museum (  The staff is largely volunteer, and I've met some who were completely or partially retired.  Imagine what they could say to a group of young potential programmers at a science fiction convention.

Or retired actors who may want to speak on the craft – seasoned enough to speak, but out of the spotlight to enjoy enough privacy.

Or writers . . . well, you get the idea.

Tapping into retirees gives you some special edges in events:

  • You have living examples of success.  People may not take the 20-something person who just broke into videogames seriously, but they're going to listen to someone who worked at IBM for 40 years.
  • You have people who understand the sweep of history, which is something that you have to live career-wise.
  • You have people who can speak to evolving technologies and their impact on careers.
  • The retirees can probably help connect you with even more resources.

So when you're thinking profan panels, don't forget those who have already had long careers.  They have a lot to say.

– Steven Savage

A convention idea . . .

I love a good convention – SF, Anime, fantasy, games, etc.  They're usually fun, stimulating, and often educational.  I know I try to ensure all three in events I do at conventions (admittedly, I often focus on the latter).

One of the major reasons people attend conventions is to meet the guests.  It's fun to hear them speak, get autographs, and even chat with them.  They're also often very informative – hearing how someone's career came about, their experiences, etc. can really be telling.  Guests may even host workshops, career panels, etc.

I am of course always for the latter.

So, progeek that I am, I began wondering: should conventions consider inviting more guests who aren't on the front lines?  Yes Scott McNeil is exciting, but what about a sound engineer from a studio that does dubs?  I'm sure people would line up around the block to see Zachary Quinto, but what about a special effects team who did the new Star Trek?  For that matter, I'd love to hear, say, the head of accounting at a video game company speak.

What if conventions started adding guests that did geeky things or did things at geeky companies, and had them speak on jobs and careers?  They could build sequences of panels and workshops around them.

Yes, this would be educational, but it wouldn't necessarily be a big draw, but the advantage in that is that the "non-front line" people may also be cheaper to get than big name guests.  Some of them might come for airfare and hotel fees being paid since it gives them a chance to network, connect, and publicize.  Fans get educated, some people who deserve more recognition get it, and a con gets more events and draw cheaply.

Sounds win-win to me.

I'm sure there are flaws, but someday it would be neat to see the publicity head of Funimation signing autographs, a lawyer from Electronic Arts speaking to a rapt crowd on the advantage of being in law, or a sound studio tech guru surrounded by his or her own legion of fans.

In fact, if you're working at a convention, steal this idea.  You may help the convention, your fellow fans, and do a bit of networking in the process.  Everyone wins, and you may make some unappreciated Project Analyst very happy!

– Steven Savage