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What is Registration?

You may ask yourself, what is Registration? You may ask yourself, how do I get there? You may ask yourself, how do I work this? Today is your lucky day, as we have some answers for you!

Many people see the Registration desk at the convention, but few think about what we do in the months leading up to it. This list is incomplete but it is a sample:

  • Process all the comps our staff and volunteers earned the previous year (hundreds of entries)
  • Flag all potential programming and event participants in the system (hundreds of entries)
  • Comp all event and programming participants who will be on enough panels/events
  • Respond to email and answer questions from other divisions and attendees

So even though you may not see us hard at work before the con, we are not idle, we are just quietly processing data.

Now that you know what it is we do before convention, what do we do during it?  How can you get through visiting us the fastest so you can go on to enjoy the rest of the convention?

  • Have your ID out and ready to show us (bonus speed points for having your badge #).
  • Have everyone in your party present, as we can not give out any badges except to the owner (yes, even your kids).  
  • Register, update your info, and pay online. You can even do that while you wait (via PayPal)!
  • If you are a staff member come and get your badge on Thursday night.  It allows us to train our volunteers and allows you to get your badge before you have to start working.

Don’t forget to pick up your publications (Souvenir Book, Pocket Program, Restaurant Guide, and more) on the way out.

Now that you have gotten your badge – enjoy the con.  But wait!  What if… what if you lose your badge?

Lost badges happen, but worry not.  Come to Registration and tell us.  Bring your photo ID.  
If someone found your badge and turned it in, we will reunite you with it.  If it has not been turned in, as per our policy, we will re-print the badge for $5.  This fee is refundable upon return of the original badge. The second time you ask for a lost badge replacement you will be required to purchase a replacement membership at full price. 

And once the convention is over?

Well, if you volunteered, turn in your timesheet to Team Arisia HQ, so we can start the cycle all over again and process your comp for next year!  

If you did not volunteer, never fear!  Come see us on Sunday afternoon or Monday and buy your year-ahead membership!  It is the cheapest a membership will be all year. Also available online until midnight Monday.

People often ask why we have some of these policies.  Some of these are set by the corporation, such as our prices, or how the attendee cap is calculated.  The cap calculation means we can only sell single-day memberships on the day they will be used.  

Likewise, we are often asked why we ask for an ID.  The reason for that is twofold: the more important part is that we simply do not know all 4500 of you.  We would love to but we do not.  And we need to know that the John Snow who is picking up a badge is indeed the John Snow who paid for it.  The second and less important (but still handy) reason is that when we have your id in hand, we can see how you spell your name without needing to hear it in the hubbub of the space.  

One of the most commonly asked questions is about picking up badges.  Why, folks ask, do I have to be there?  Why can’t my buddy get my badge for me? I trust him.  The answer is actually similar to the one about IDs.  We do not know all 4500 of you, nor that you trust your buddy.  We can’t judge that your buddy will hand you that badge rather than hand it to someone who has been banned from the convention. We have no way to know that indeed that is your spouse/brother/grandma/buddy.  All we know is that they are John Snow because they have an ID, so we can hand them their badge and not another.

Over the years, Arisia has grown from a small group of friends who all knew each other to thousands of fans who share common interests but cannot possibly all know one another.  Our registration and badging policies have adjusted to reflect this. Even though we know that you personally would never do such a thing, we have policies and procedures in place that apply to everyone and our cashier staff have clear guidelines to follow so they can process everyone as quickly as possible.

Inside the Hotel

This time we’re talking to Arisia’s Hotel Division to get some insights into how they work.  Hotel reservations open to guests in mid-September, so this division is kicking it into high gear.

My name is Emily Coombs, and I am serving as Hotel Division Head for Arisia 2018.

How did you get into working for Arisia, and why work for Hotel specifically?

Almost 15 years ago, starting to work for Arisia was a surprise, even to me! A number of staff members knew me through my other outreach and volunteer efforts, and I got a call during the convention asking for some emergency help. I actually ended up staying for the whole weekend because of the amazing community I found.

I really love the intersection of different communities working together, and the hotel and convention folk are a great example of people finding unexpected common ground. Professional relationships are so important, and we are lucky to have such a collaborative partner as the Westin for this event. I have a personal soft spot for Hotel. It’s where I started doing pre-con work many years ago, and I love being able to take my professional skills and use them to help create a really fun, safe, and inclusive environment.

What do hotel people need to do to get ready for reservations to open? What’s the hardest part?

Getting reservations open is part business skills, part organizational, and part technical. We work closely with the hotel to put together the room blocks and to get the links to go live when they should. Arisia’s separation of quiet and active rooms is really important to many of our attendees, and it is something we introduced to the Westin based on how we use the space. Everything needs to be right because ultimately these digital reservations need to map to the physical resources that the hotel has.

Once reservations open do you have to do anything big or is it just handling problems as they come in?

(Laughs) Assuming we have set it up correctly and the technical side goes well, a lot of what we will do right after reservations open is to answer questions and start taking special requests. A lot of the challenge has to do with sheer volume all at once.

After the initial rush the hardest part is just how many moving pieces and special requests we make to the hotel. Every time we move someone off the waitlist, fill special requests, or make room changes, an Arisia staffer is working with a hotel employee to change those reservations manually. We organize the information and requests to ensure that people do not slip through the cracks. It’s really important for people to use the special request form rather than just putting a note in their reservation.

Beyond that, we will be assigning suites for those who have applied for them, reaching out to party hosts of all sorts, and supporting the internal requests to the hotel, so that we can have things show up the way we would like them as much as possible.

What was the biggest motivation for putting the deposit policy in place?

Allowing more attendees to have rooms in the main hotel! We had noticed for years that we would have a lot of cancellations every year right at the 24-hour cancellation point, but it was so late that we were not able to get people from the waiting list into those rooms.

How did the policy change things last year?

By having the deposit a month ahead of the convention, we still saw the cancellations at the last moment to avoid the fee, but because that happened earlier we were able to get a lot more people off the waitlist and into the main hotel, with enough time to change their alternate plans.

What do Hotel people do at the convention? Why do I see them sometimes wearing business clothing?

We have two major types of Arisia Hotel staff at convention: Hotel Liaisons and Innkeepers. Innkeepers sit at the table across from Westin Check-in and troubleshoot any concerns with guest rooms. Hotel Liaisons are the ones who are sometimes wearing business clothes, and they collect all the run-time non-guestroom hotel requests and represent Arisia to the hotel. This is really important because there is a lot going on at any given moment during the convention, and it allows us to work with the hotel with the whole convention in mind.

Thanks Emily and good luck! Some key thoughts:

  • Hotel reservation openings will be announced in our Progress Reports, by email, and through our social media. Sign up and follow @arisia for the latest.
  • Use the special request form for any specific needs; don’t depend on notes you write with your reservation.
  • If you have any problems with your room once you have checked in, see the Arisia Innkeepers at their desk.
  • If you have issues with the hotel while at con, a Hotel Liaison will help you. Find one in Ops.

Jumping into the Deep End

My introduction to Arisia began in May of this year. That’s when someone suggested that I might be a good fit for the Events Staff. The Division Head for Events contacted me. We met, and I really liked her and what she had to say. So I joined up.

The Arisia staff is divided into 15 divisions. My division, Events, is responsible for the Wandering Minstrels, various activities (including “sharp, pointy objects” and a number of theatrical performances) and the Masquerade. I expect to be spending time over the next few months e-mailing and phoning acts, seeing who wants to return after a great time last year, and finding new groups to participate. I’m an “Assistant Division Head”, which means that I don’t have to know anything … yet .. and that I’m not ultimately responsible because, of course, I don’t know anything yet!

In June all the Div. Heads and Assistant Div. Heads got together with the Arisia Con Chair to go over everything that we have to do this year. I carpooled with four others, and we spent the 45-minute drive discussing food. Once we arrived, of course, we were fed! Lunch, and enough multicolored goldfish to fill a good-sized pond.We discussed knotty problems that included how to feed the Staff so that we can all work long hours and not spend time waiting in line. We discussed changes to the room assignments for events, forums, authors and so forth. We discussed the special issue of Tech Staff, who tend to need to work right through normal meal times. We discussed the fact that we are starting to burst at the seams, but there’s no larger hotel in the area. And then we started solving all these problems. Most of the problems will be solved through discussions at another time, but everyone is aware of the major issues now. I was impressed by how very opinionated most people were, and how they managed to be respectful of each other and listen regardless.

And then we moved on to the Master Schedule. A remarkable amount has to be completed by early September, including contracts with businesses and lining up a rough draft of performers, authors and artists. The schedule only gets busier, with final deadlines, people sending copy to the printer, the gathering of tech equipment, and finalizing arrangements with the Guests of Honor.

During the week from 12/25 – 1/1, I’m told that we all sit back and breathe. And that’s a good thing, because there will be no more time for breathing until Arisia is over. The Thursday before Arisia we start “put-in”. All the lights and mics arrive, get hooked up, and then we have our Staff Dinner.  On Friday we know what to do: we are scheduled to move people around, to shepherd speakers and Guests of Honor, to be on-call for problems, to do what it takes to make this Arisia the best ever. On Monday we breathe again. Arisia ends, so those who’ve signed up to strike take everything down, return what was borrowed or leased, put away what we keep, and go over this year’s Con to figure out what worked, what didn’t, and decompress. I am told that the debrief happens sometime in early February, when we all get together for food and commenting about what happened in January. I’m not sure what happens then, but by May most of the Staff will be back, sometimes in the same position, sometimes in new ones. New Staff will be brought on board. And then all us volunteers get to do it again.

Beth Kevles

Arisia ‘18 Events ADH

Art show changes

You’ve probably heard that Arisia’s Art Show had some big changes this year.  The biggest were changing our artist application process from first come first served to a lottery, and replacing our eBay-style mixed auction and Quicksale with fixed prices only.

Anecdotally, fixed prices were popular with artists and attendees.  But Arisia is a data-driven show, so we don’t have to rely on anecdotes here.

Before the show, we planned to collect three measures of how fixed prices worked for us.  First, we planned to measure overall dollar sales in the show.  Second, we planned to measure same-artist per-panel sales.  Finally, as a bellwether, we picked one artist with a mix of open and limited edition prints and originals, a consistent pricing scheme, steady sales, and a devoted fan base.  We planned to make her experience as similar as we could.  We gave her the same amount of space, in the same spot in the show, and hung her work as similarly as we could to the previous year.  She obliged by sending work in similar quantities, sizes, and themes, and by setting her prices equal to the previous year’s Quicksale prices for work of the same size.  At our request she sent multiple copies of her limited edition prints instead of single copies as she had done in the past, the ability to sell more limited edition prints being one of the major benefits of fixed prices.

Our bellwether artist did as we expected, selling three originals for a total of $650, compared to four for $565 the previous year.  She sold multiples of some of her limited edition prints instead of single copies in the auction, in all selling 13 copies for $400 compared to 10 for $297 the previous year.  We were expecting her open edition print sales to be similar, since their pricing didn’t change, or possibly slightly down if a few people had been buying those because her limited edition prints had mostly sold out, in which case those buyers would step up and buy limited edition prints instead.  This is precisely what happened, as she sold 91 open edition prints totaling $765 compared to 94 for $811 the previous year.  In all this artist’s sales were up by about 8.5 percent.

Returning artists sold $17,565 worth of art from 76 units of space or $231.12 per unit, up from $221.06 per unit the previous year, or 4.5 percent.

But overall sales in the show were down about 2%, to $30,753.  Why was that?

Briefly, because increasing overall sales is only one of the goals of the show.  It’s reasonable to measure the success of fixed prices through sales, as that was the reason for making that change.  But the show has other goals, some of which, like artist development and overall artistic interest, are more important than overall sales.  For an in depth discussion of many of the possible goals for an Art Show see Bruce Miller’s excellent writeup at
Three of our goals in particular were important enough to us that we let them affect overall sales.  All three were related to our application process.
First, in an effort to have more artists represented in the show, we limited the space assigned to each artist.  Those returning artists had higher sales per panel, but they had less space, and thus lower sales overall.

Second, in an effort to have a more novel show, we gave a lottery bonus to first time artists.  We probably would have had a good number of first time artists without this bonus; with it we had many more than we’ve had before.  That made for a very interesting show for the attendees, but it often takes new artists a year or two to learn what sells well at a particular convention, and for attendees of that convention to build up to a big ticket purchase.  So, having more first time artists than usual hurt our overall sales this year.  It might have been good for overall sales in the long run, but that’s not why we did it.

Finally, in 2016 (the year we’re comparing to) we gave waiting list preference to 3D artists because we had a 3D guest of honor and we wanted the show to reflect her work.  We compromised a bit on aisle width (2.5x the ADA minimum instead of 3x) to make this happen.  This year we had a 2D guest of honor so we removed that bias (and also that compromise).  Compared to last year, we wanted a show with more panels and fewer tables, and also with wider aisles and better accessibility.  Our tables are 6′ wide and our panels are only 4′ wide.  Other conventions consider a table to be equivalent to 1.5 of our panels.  Counting tables this way, this year’s show was physically smaller than last year’s.  In other words, we let the amount of space in the show shrink a bit in order to have a show which was easier to get around, and into which the Guest of Honor’s work would fit more naturally. In hindsight, it’s clear that making all these changes in the same year made it harder to measure the impact of each.  We’ll be running some numbers on how the show might have turned out with first come first served, and also with different bonuses in the lottery.  But those numbers will be pretty speculative.  And sales numbers aren’t everything.  So, we’d also like to hear from artists and attendees about their experience of the Arisia Art Show.  Please send any feedback you might have to

Nicholas “phi” Shectman and Megan Lewis
Arisia 2017 Art Show Directors

Improvements In Registration Process

What better way to test-run the new and improved registration process than with a LARP?

As part of our effort to learn from the registration situation that understandably frustrated many of our attendees last year, we have made several improvements to the process. Some of the changes we made include modifications to the Code of Conduct acceptance procedure, and plans for splitting the registration line according to the various needs of our attendees, as well as increasing registration stations.

This year, the Code of Conduct acceptance process was embedded into the online registration process. This has removed the need for kiosks, printing forms at con, and bringing a printed form from home, as well as allowing attendees to indicate acceptance of the Code of Conduct prior to arrival at Arisia and within the comfort of their own homes.

Furthermore, we have formulated a plan to split registration lines to include separate lines for attendees with access issues, and for Arisia contributors (staff, program participants, and so on) who need to get where they’re going in a hurry in order to create a wonderful convention for everyone to enjoy. We’re also working with other divisions to ensure that this latter line is used only in the rare cases where folks arrive late for their events, usually for reasons beyond their control.

In order to test out these changes, at the November 13th Con Com, we invited all in attendance to grab a character card and help us stress test our system. We asked everyone to keep track of the time it took them to make their way through the line and the registration process, until they were badged and ready to go. The character cards included a range of situations and complications that typically arise during the reg process at Arisia – for every “complicated” situation, there were four “standard” registrations.

Division Heads LARPing as a family with small (and impatient) children

Based on our analysis of both total time in line and physical line length during the LARP, we will be increasing the number of both registration desk staff and registration managers. We are also excited to be assisted by Sharon Sbarsky and her line management experts to help us make sure the line moves as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Our registration division is still looking for more volunteers to help us accomplish this task! If you are interested in volunteering, please check out the Registration Staff job description at our Help Wanted webpage,