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The Care and Feeding of Your Artist GoH

The idea for this has been kicking around for awhile, and I figure perhaps I will finally get it down, in hopes that it might be useful for con organizers (and artists) out there somewhere.

I have been a Guest of Honor at a fair number of conventions over the years, starting back in the early 2000′s, and since we’re coming up on ten years of GoHing soon, I figure I’m probably as qualified to talk about it as I’m going to get.

So let’s say you’re a con organizer, and you want to get an Artist Guest of Honor at the con…

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Every once in a while I start to forget why I stopped going to cons with more than 150 people or so, and then a post like this comes around and reminds me. So thank you. I really like my introvert convention circuit, where most of this is completely irrelevant.

Just out of curiosity, what would it take to get you to a convention that didn't have an art show/dealer's room?

Money. I have to at least break even, which means a per diem that includes the checked luggage fees and food. (Around $250, I'd imagine, if I can't get both our stuff into one suitcase.)

In general, though, unless I have a really compelling reason to go---birding, local friends/family, etc, I'd be pretty unlikely to do a con that had no potential for profit. This is work. It's often fun work, but it's definitely not a vacation.

Edited at 2012-07-25 03:21 am (UTC)

I might also add that some cons might want to be a bit more careful about scheduling known attack-happy panelists with axes to grind with GoH's, who may not know who they are in advance to ask not to be scheduled with them. Especially don't schedule attacker types as moderators........

"3a. Be a responsible art director. "

My only suggestion on that one, is ask early on for the contact info for Pubs. A lot of the issues you talk about can be avoided completely by getting the artist and Pubs talking directly to each other. We have all the sizes, layouts, and templates, and it's all going to end up in our hands anyhow.

This was so perfect, I passed it along to our two co-chairs and our GoH liaison.

Feed the artists! They are like stray cats, they will love you forever.

Seriously. I gave Ursula some Red Vines at Trinoc*Con because I knew she disdained Twizzlers. This has lead to eight years of bruises, threats, insults, and friendship.

Ha ha... I was there when you shared the stage with GRRM and I have to say that it was a great panel. I just wish I had read Digger before I met you instead of after, and that I hadn't made the mistake of calling the Lannisters the Lancasters to GRRM's face. Argh!

"If somebody says “I love your art,” and you say “My art is awful,” then guess what? You just insulted them. You have told them, in effect, that what they love is crap and that they have poor taste."

The corollary to this is an information thingy going around one of those Young Kids' Networks (I think it's Facebook, but can't guarantee that) explaining that this is Something That Artists Do, They're Not Insulting Your Taste, Artists Just Think That Way.

I've only been to one con of any real size (this is for values of "any real size" which include "about a couple of hundred people, tops") and the one Big Name Author they had visiting was Barbara Hambly, who was awesome.

Thank you.

The taking praise part is relevant to online interactions, too, and I need to be reminded of it.

It's really good advice in general.

Reminds me of a convention where a friend and I checked into our hotel room, and found a fancy cellophane-wrapped cheese plate along with a few strawberries and a little bottle of wine. We weren't sure what to make of it, and asked other friends if they'd gotten something similar in their rooms (because the hotel was mildly swanky), but they hadn't. I eventually asked the front desk about it, and they got strangely distressed and nervous, but said it was ours, no extra charge... but gave us no explanation. So it sat there for most of the con because neither me nor my friend felt like being the first person to unwrap the cellophane (and personally, I'm not a cheese person).

Finally on the last day of the con, I was a little drunk, the strawberries were in no state to be eaten, and I opened the card that came with the platter. It turned out to be a gift from the con staff, so I ran the names of the GoHs through my head, and finally figured out that my first name and my friend's last name matched one of them (one of the Over the Hedge guys), so we'd gotten one of the complimentary GoH platters by accident, and had been too shy to take advantage of it. Later on, I learned the GoH had finally gotten their plate too, about halfway through the con.

I eventually asked the front desk about it, and they got strangely distressed and nervous

the GoH had finally gotten their plate too, about halfway through the con

Hmm, I wonder if there's a connection there.

A good and useful post, though I'm going to boggle slightly as some of the implications.

Author GoHs, as per 2B, are not in my experience paid a fee at fan-run cons. Travel and bed and board, of course, and reasonable expenses. Also some authors do run dealer tables anyway, so that can be covered. But I know of only one person paid an appearance fee and, oddly enough, he wasn't even the main GoH. (But he was a TV person: different rules apply there.)

What Terry Pratchett says, and other author friends seem to concur, is that book tours and convention attendance "is part of the job". It's exposure, and as they're further up the pole than the Artist or the Filker or the Fan GoH, they're getting more than you do.

Interestingly - most of these points apply to huge swaths of life.
It Never hurts to be polite and say thank you. Also, making sure everyone has all the necessary information is always important.

Visible Security is important - my apartment complex used to be a drug dealer's heaven. New management took over, installed a couple more lights and convinced the cops to drive through (not do anything, just drive by) more often and crime rates dropped dramatically. Also, I feel reasonably safe walking home from work.

3a (the How to Take a Compliment Graciously): I just had to snip that and send it to a musician friend of mine, whom I've *almost* gotten to stop saying awful things about his playing whenever anyone compliments him. Dude. Stop telling people they're stupid. Just say Thank You.

And as an upcoming GoH Liaison for the first time (at Worldcon) - thank you! Nice to see I wasn't off track anywhere so far. :)

If you're liaison for Rowena, in case you haven't met her before, she's awesome and you'll really like her. :)

Do not deal meth at the table, do not get arrested until after closing ceremonies. YOU THINK I’M JOKING, DON’T YOU?

Okay, now you have to share. At least link to a news story or a recap.

I'm staff at a filk con, and we do try to provide luggage fees as well as hotel and transport. Not up to a per diem yet, but we DO have a good con suite.

Oh, and when the con asks if you want a dealer's table, and you say no? Please don't complain at the con that they didn't give you a dealer's table. :\

Edited at 2012-07-25 08:48 pm (UTC)

... But the Dealers Room staff gets bonus points if they can magick up a table out of thin air anyway, in that circumstance.

[Jeff] One of the simpler things is "Help avoid process whenever possible." Your Artist GOH (or whomever) should be whisked into the Art Show to do their hanging, checked into the Dealer's Room without even noticing it, and checked out of BOTH again in the blink of an eye. Both of these things take a minimum of time and effort, but amount to MAJOR +++++ points on the behalf of folks who do "process" all the time with a grin-and-bear-it attitude. Bonus points if you can actually work out with the HOTEL to have them pre-checked-in, but I know that depends on the vagaries of something often outside of your control.

If possible, asking them if they want to attend any of the "massively crowded con events" ahead of time and then getting them guaranteed seating is another cost-free guaranteed stunner. Granted, they may not want to see the latest performance by whatever filk band you have on tap, but if they do they are probably all thinking "I'd go if I didn't have to wait in line for an hour".

Yes, what I've seen is where the Guest of Honor is handed a big manila envelope as soon as they're picked up at the airport. The envelope has their room keys, their badges, their badge ribbons, their per diem money, their schedule -- everything in one envelope.

If the room's on the master account, they shouldn't have to check in at all.

Ursula, thanks for this post, it's actually super helpful. I've started being assistant to the GOH liaison at a local con, and I will keep this in mind for the future! I had a great time doing so last year - basically running and getting people sandwiches was the most useful thing I did, but it was great to feel useful and help those super busy folks out. for low level staffers, any advice on things we can do to make your life easier?

One really helpful thing one con did---and I realize not everybody's got the manpower to pull it off---was to send a staffer to find me five minutes before every panel so that I'd know where exactly where it was and not be standing over a sheet of paper trying to work out ballroom names. (They also could boot people out of the room if their time was up, which is sometimes awkward for the panelist on the next panel if nobody goes "Oh, we're over time! Sorry, let's clear out!")