Pro’s And Con’s To Working At Con’s!

25 Apr

A few weeks ago I worked at two back to back conventions with the first being Emerald City ComiCon (comic convention) and the following weekend SakuraCon (anime convention). Aside from me going crazy from lack of sleep and popping aspirin left and right from being sore from running my butt off, it was the best 2 weeks yet this year!

Emerald City ComiCon and Sakura Con

During my crazy geek filled weekends I was asked by a lot of people, con goers and fellow volunteers, why I wanted to work at cons instead of attend them. Having answered that question more times then I wanted to I thought it would be a good idea for my blog to have a pros and cons to working cons post. This way I can maybe help some of you that are on the fence about volunteering for the next con in your area.

Now these pro’s and con’s and are not just from Emerald City ComiCon and SakuraCon but from all the cons/festivals that I have worked at over the years and you can check out my Cons and Festivals Page to see some of them.


Generally all conventions and festivals need volunteers so if you look hard enough for what happening in your town there is always something going on or going to be happening soon. This means that there is always something that you can be planning for and can attend. This is also a good way chance to get out in the community and try something new which is what drew me into working con/festivals in the first place!


Even though there are A LOT of events that look for volunteers some make it freakin impossible to find out HOW to volunteer. PAX is one of them. To volunteer for this event you either have to been there at the beginning, be asked to volunteer by someone that works for PAX or know someone that is a volunteer and can get you in. Some smaller con/festivals will not put volunteer forms out or post a link for who to contact so you have to go through the events info email and hope that someone gets back to you. I tried to volunteer last winter for a snowboard and ski expo and I am still waiting for someone to get back to me on it.


Most con/festivals are spread out over 2-3 days with only a few being 1 day events. This offers a wide range of shift that you can choose from that fit into your schedule and allow you to also see the  con/festivals before or after shift. There are even a few that run 24hrs like SakuraCon where I was able to work the graveyard shift. This ment that when I got off work at 0030 Friday night/Saturday morning I went straight to the con and worked until 0800. I had the rest of the morning and afternoon to work in another department AND see the con before my shift sat night at 2400.


Some events schedules or schedule demands (meaning hours required to work to be considered staff like SkauraCon is 16hrs) are ridiculous to deal with. Also the simple fact that if you don’t sign up months in advance for some events you are left with crap shifts. A good example is the Seattle International Beer Festival. This event is in July but you have to sign up in jan/feb to get a decent shift. The event runs from late morning to late at night Friday to Sunday. Depending on the shift or shifts that you work it dictates how many beer tokens you get to drink after your shift. Well the only way to get the tokens is to get them once your shift is over. This means EVERYONE signs up for the morning and afternoon shifts so that they can spend the night drinking. If you don’t sign up soon enough all that is left is the night shift. This means no drinking after your shift because the event is over. Granted you could come back the next day but when you live over an hour away who wants to do that. Worse though is when the only shift left is the last shift on the last day of the event. No option to come back the next day. Consolation though is that if you get stuck with the crap shifts you get a gift certificate to a restaurant.


A lot, but not all, con/festivals will offer you free admission into the event in exchange for hours worked!


There are the few that don’t offer free admission or admission at a discounted rate so you end up paying to work. Which will leave you kind of bitter if you spend all your time working instead of enjoying the con/festival that you ‘paid’ to be at.


A lot of con/festivals will provide you with food, water, food vouchers if you are going to be working all day.


You have to work all day, some of the food provided sucks (Costco sandwiches that have sat out all day, non veggie options etc.), some of the food vouchers are more of a hassle then they are worth, staff rooms that provide the food are under lock and key so you have to hunt down someone with key each time you want to go in or the staff room is so far away that its not worth it to go. Another con is that some wont provide squat to you. So you have to hope that there is food close by and its not going to break the bank or that you even have the time to go. I usually ALWAYS pack snacks and a lunch on the off chance that this happens.


All con/festivals that I have worked at give me an awesome staff or volunteer shirt. As dorky as it sounds like is a HUGE plus for me! Being the broke person that I am I hate spending $30+ dollars on a shirt for con/festivals that I have gone to and getting one for free that I know not everyone has (the ones marked as staff or volunteer usually are a special edition shirt) will draw me in to volunteer more than the swags bags sometime lol!


Some don’t have a shirt which is fine if its not in the budget. There are a few that should provide some sort of shirt though since it helps to emphasize who you are and what you are doing. Nothing better than being in charge of lets say  lines and telling people to get in line then having them mouth off to you until they realize that you work there. Would have been solved with a simple staff shirt… Some provide a shirt but its a one size fits all shirt which only fits about 2 people that are there. You work a later shift and all that’s left is xs or xxxxl.


Speaking of swag bags, the bigger the con/festivals the better the volunteer swag bags are. Not a general rule but it just so happens to be that way with the con/festivals that I have worked it.


Not really a con here. Either they have them or they don’t. Its nice when they do though cause it a great little ‘thank you for working your butt off with no pay’ gift.


Another proof of my dorkyness is the staff badges which I have taken to collecting. These last two con/festivals that I was at I had large staff badges that said my name (some volunteer levels you only are referred to as a number so having your name on a badge is big time lol), staff and had my department on it (media and publicity). These badges are like your backstage pass! You can go almost anywhere within reason and within your department’s realm without the bat of an eye from someone. Example, Emerald City Comicon I worked the green room under the media department. That meant I could be IN the green room with the media guest and only a VERY VERY small handful of volunteers were able to do that. Granted I was working 100% of the time but it was still cool to know that I was one of the select few lol. This also meant that I could take all the back halls to move around instead of pushing my way through people which cut down on time when I was trying to sprint to the hot water to make Wil Wheaton’s tea!


Some events don’t get that badges help and they don’t have any. Or my favorite is that it has no name, number or anything on it and it looks like the rest of the event badges. Even better yet is I worked at one were it was a ‘hello my name is’ sticker for the badge. Smh. This just leads to issues like the shirt thing that people don’t know you are working for the event and brush you off when you say something.


On the topic of backstage… When you are volunteering you get to see everything that is going on! This means no pushing and shoving to get to the front of the line because you are the front of the line. You can help with making things happen and in some cases help save things from going wrong. Knowing that you are a part of something like that and your presence is helping to create the event and make it better makes the lack of sleep worth it!


You see EVERYTHING that happens backstage lol! This means the good, the bad and the ugly. It will sometimes change your view on people and groups when you see what REALLY happens behind the curtain. I had a band that I really liked but my opinion changed on them when I saw how they treated their staff and the volunteers. Not to mention the demands that they had. Good lord! They threw a fit because they didn’t have the right bottled water. BOTTLED FREAKIN WATER!!! Smh.

Ok so we have covered a few of my pro’s and con’s to working cons. There is a lot more to then just these but I don’t really feel like writing a 10 page essay on the topic. :c) Overall though I love working at cons and festivals and will continue with it. Hell I even have 3 events spread out over the next 2 months!

My Time Spent Watching Anime

via my personal anime list on

One Response to “Pro’s And Con’s To Working At Con’s!”

  1. simpleek April 25, 2012 at 05:37 #

    I really enjoyed reading this. An insider’s view! I never volunteered for cons before, but I have volunteered for other stuff that were similar to the cons. I always enjoyed getting to keep the volunteer shirts and getting any free swag they were willing to give out.

    It’s great that you are one of those who enjoy volunteering for cons. Me, I don’t think I would want to. I prefer to attend rather than work for most of it. I’ve also been to the cons near me and I can see how much work it would be to be a volunteer for them. I admire those who can put up with the craziness of it all without getting a dime for it.

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