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Walk Softly and Carry a Big Schtick .

March 15th, 2018
10:38 am

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Little red book of conrunning #10: Badges and Registration Ideas

A post on the art and craft of fannish volunteer-run conventions. These are my opinions and my experiences. As always, YMMV. All of these posts are available here: http://www.boston-baden.com/smofs/conrunning/

Registration is a solved problem. There are multiple solutions to the problem. Comic-Con International in San Diego can register people as fast as they come off the top of a giant escalator. If you've got a "LineCon" situation where people spend a significant amount of time just to get their badge -- say, more than twenty minutes -- then you've got a problem and you should get help fixing it. This post isn't going to tell you what to do, but I will point out a number of different things people do with their Reg systems.

One common practice that can really help is to open up badge pick-up before any other scheduled events, such as on "Day Zero" during set-up for Dealers/Artists/Exhibits etc. Sometimes Worldcon will open pre-reg badge pickup a day or two before that. Even if there's a long line, there's nothing else going on that you'd be missing. I've also seen simple "MIMO" badges (or badge-sized stickers) for use during Move-In/Move-Out, where if you're setting up you can get tagged with that. (In the anime convention world, they might call it Load-Out/Load-In and use the acronym LOLI. I'm just waiting for a Disneyana convention to use LILO.) The person handing those out has a checklist of exhibitors, possibly a membership list too, and (this is key) is a long-time participant who knows most of the "usual suspects" by face and can issue the MIMO tags quickly.

Let's talk about what Loscon and Animé Los Angeles do with Reg. (And numerous other cons, for example it's often used by Worldcon. But I'm most familiar with these two.) Key to the system is having the badges pre-laminated (or produced on plastic). Issuing the badge means printing out a clear name label that goes on top. Unique badge numbers are automatically printed on the badge, along with your city if provided. And there's an option to have two lines for your name, which can be handy if you want to put your organization or affiliation or web-page or Twitter handle printed under your name.

The system gives attendees the chance to update their mailing address, and to decide at the last minute what "badge name" they want. This also means that it's automatically transgender-friendly -- it doesn't matter if the government thinks you're Walter and you're really Wendy, we can fix it when you pick up your badge. We generally don't prepare the pre-reg badges ahead of time, so any station is capable of issuing pre-reg badges.

It's deliberately set up to run on cheap laptops that aren't networked together. Each station has its own printer for the clear labels. Every computer has a copy of the database and they keep in sync via "sneakernet." Therefore, there's no danger of a network failure taking down Reg, as happened once to FanimeCon. (Which is held in Silicon Valley. Insert ironic comment here.) As Wi-Fi enabled laptops drop in price, this may change, but expect the principle of "if any computer breaks it doesn't kill Reg" to remain.

On the other hand, a networked registration system (provided you have a reliable network and good Internet connection) does make some interesting things possible. Tom Croom's WasabiCon in Florida puts up signs in their at-con registration line, saying "Pre-reg with this QR code, save five bucks, and go to the Pre-reg badge pick up line right now" and it is very successful in shortening their queues. (Tom Croom reports he saw them do something similar to Anime Expo and copied their idea, so credit to AX for some innovation.)

There are a lot of things you can do to differentiate "Staff" badges from the rest. Color-coding them, either the overall color scheme or a solid stripe at the bottom. Vertical-format "ID card" style badges, with either special art as FanimeCon does or with a mugshot photo as Gallifrey One likes to do.

At Anime Banzai in 2016 (their 12th convention), everybody got a lanyard with the convention logo on it, and Staff get a different color from everyone else. This means you can identify staff people from across the room. (Note to my friends in the sci-fi world, badge clips are rare in anime fandom -- almost all anime conventions just issue lanyards.) Also, Anime Banzai prints their staff badges with the person's name on the first line and their primary department on the second line. Brilliant.

At Animé Los Angeles they've started changing up their plastic badges, where everyone gets a preprinted colorful badge that's wide enough to hang badge ribbons from, but the Staff badges as of year 14 (this year, 2018) are three times as tall. Again, you can spot staff from across the room. They also have event hall "Backstage passes" which are conventionally sized, and which allows participants something smaller to wear when their regular badges have a hundred ribbons attached. (No, I'm not exaggerating.)

I've also seen some badge decisions that I offer as a horrible warning. FandomVerse Expo issued card-stock badges in their first year (2015), on lanyards. And people started accumulating badge ribbons, weighing it down, with the result that a lot of them ripped. Yet they still thought it was a good idea to do in their last year (2016).

Your name badge is your introduction to the rest of the members. (It's also useful as an access credential, and a souvenir. But your name is the most important thing on it.) If a convention doesn't put names on badges -- or if only some of the members get badges with names on them -- then that's an event that doesn't care about community. And if they print them, can you read them?

Bak-Anime in 2010, their first year, had vertical-format badges with the same design on both sides: the convention name (just that, no year), some art, and and all-black background. It's my opinion that not putting names on badges is bad enough, but deliberately designing the badge with no "white space" is just mean. And as someone who keeps a number of convention badges on display so I can look at them all from time to time, leaving off the year seems like an odd choice. Or maybe they use the same design every year? (I didn't go back, so I don't know.)

Anime Vegas in their fourth year (2007) had business card-sized badges on heavy cardstock that used 1/2"-by-2" name labels. (The 80-per-sheet return address labels, if you're familiar with the Avery product line.) They learned from that, and had slightly better badges next time, but they didn't include the year in the design until the year after that.

Something I've just started seeing in the last few years: Introducing yourself with your pronouns. For example, mine are he/him. Some conventions make badge ribbons available. What they did for Girl Gamer Gathering (2016) is put a 3/4"-diameter circle on the badge, and make matching circle stickers available at Registration. She/her, he/him, they/them, and blank stickers if you wanted to write in your own. It helped to normalize it -- everybody had one, it was just what you did.

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