Category Archives: Uncategorized

How Innkeeper Prepares For The Con

Hi! My name is Holly Nelson. In early October 2017, I saw the opening for an innkeeper, and I jumped at it! I met with my Division Head, Emily, got onboarded, and started organizing all the data. I started meeting people online and getting the work done.

Four weeks after I’d started my position, we found out that three floors of the hotel would be unavailable. I was horrified! I was sure that my very first “big” role at Arisia was going to go down in flames as I became the Innkeeper who had to kick people out of the hotel.

We spent a week discussing what to do and how to handle it. We scheduled a phone meeting to finalize the timeline, announcements, and FAQs. The meeting included me, the conchair, and a few assistant con chairs. This type of situation with the hotel was a first! What stuck out to me the most that night, was everyone’s positive energy and optimism.

Over the following two weeks, I was amazed as I received at least a couple transfer volunteers every single day. Our communications team pulled out all the stops and got the word out in as many channels as possible. Some members were able to spend part of the weekend at the Aloft, and Sunday night at the Westin. Others told me that the shuttle and the savings were great reasons to switch. Still others liked the feeling that they were helping someone for whom a move would have been exceptionally difficult. The hotel division and the communications division were instrumental in their support and assistance.

Exactly two weeks after our telephone meeting, I received the final volunteer we needed. I was sitting at dinner with our con chair and a few others, and we toasted our volunteers! Before the announcement, I was so worried about upsetting people, and being the bearer of bad news. It was like this enormous weight magically lifted.

It was so rewarding to work with our members and staff to solve this enormous problem. I am continually amazed at how well the staff works together and how passionate everyone is about Arisia. While being Innkeeper during the biggest room shortage in Arisia history may not have been the ideal way to join the staff, it worked for me. I witnessed the staff work through what could have been a disaster, and we had a great Arisia!

One positive outcome that occurred: suites weren’t sold out, so guest rooms used for function space (like the Quiet Room) were moved into suite parlors! Each room that was moved into a parlor opened up an extra sleeping room, and allowed a little more space for those functions.

It takes many dedicated people to make Arisia happen, and I encourage anyone to volunteer. Whatever your talents or interests, we will find a way for you to help. The staff is supportive and welcoming to newcomers. I had a rewarding experience and I can’t wait to help again for Arisia 2019! Please join us!

Why Do You Volunteer?

“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.”Marjorie Moore

Hi, my name is Mike Sprague. I’ve been volunteering for Arisia for several years, have been on senior staff for a few, and have even been Convention Chair recently. This year, I work as the Assistant Division Head of Staff Services – the part of Arisia that organizes and coordinates volunteers (among other things).

I am sometimes asked why I volunteer for Arisia. As is often the case in convention running, it all began with a friend asking for help. A friend I’d made the prior year at con said if I volunteered for a few hours doing load-in and load-out of various heavy things for logistics, I could get my membership comped and I could get in for free. Also, they would feed us pizza.

“The fools!” I thought to myself at the time. “I would have done it just for the pizza!”

I was much younger then, and had a much lower standard for recompense in exchange for lending my assistance. Now I insist on bread sticks too.

After working on the loading dock with Logistics for a few years, and helping out with random tasks in Operations, I moved into Programming when, once again, a friend asked for help. It seems they needed a few people to brainstorm ideas for panels and do some data entry putting our ideas into a scheduling program some Arisia people came up with called Zambia. One day, another friend of mine invited me to their place to hang out and have dinner.

My friend was the Division Head of Programming for Arisia at the time and asked me to be their Assistant Division Head of Programming. I never saw it coming honestly.

“Whoah,” I said. “I just like doing my little job and then having fun at the con. That’s like actual responsibility. Nah, I’m good.”

“Okay, how about this,” my friend countered. “I have another candidate for the position I’d like to ask. If for some reason they have to bail on the position due to various circumstances will you be my emergency backup for the position? Let me be clear, this is only in the unlikely event that an emergency Assistant Division Head is needed.”

“In that case,” I said. “Sure, I’ll be your backup in case of emergency.”

After a few months, one unlikely circumstance, and an emergency deployment later, I became the Assistant Division Head of Programming. From learning how to advocate for what you want both inside and outside of meetings, to managing the sometimes competing needs of those that work for you while maintaining a sense of fairness and equity, to learning that sometimes there is no perfect solution just a bunch of least-bad ones to choose from  — I learned a lot that year.

I met with my friend after that convention. We discussed my future plans and we agreed that I would have one more year as an Assistant Division Head and then take over as head of Programming the year after that. My friend would stick around as advisor that year to help out and offer guidance. I enjoyed the job a lot and enjoyed working at that senior level. The position gave me the ability to peek behind the curtain a bit more to see how the vast machine that is Arisia works from year to year.

Now, the Assistant Division Head for a given division has many duties. They handle some correspondence, they keep the tasks lists and help remind people of deadlines, and they speak on behalf of the Division when the Division Head is not available. One of the other expected duties of an Assistant Division Head is to take over the division in the unlikely event that the Division Head has to step down for whatever reason. Soon after the convention ended, my friend and mentor stepped down as Programming Division Head and I stepped into the lead role.

You know, it’s funny how often unlikely occurrences come up in my life.

And yet, not a single hit on Powerball for me. Ah well.

To say that year was challenging for me is a vast understatement. I owe thanks to many people for their support. In the end, it was one of the most well-regarded years for Arisia Programming. Soon after that, I submitted my name for consideration for the position of Convention Chair, the person who guides and oversees Arisia each year. To my pleasant surprise I was chosen.

Volunteering as Chair was an interesting experience, to say the least. If you’re a hands-on type of person like me it can be difficult to delegate but it’s necessary. One of the primary tasks of a Con Chair is to select the staff you think will do the best job and then, here’s the important bit, trust them to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Along the way, talk to them, support them, guide them, and encourage them as best you can. I’m pleased to say, from what I’ve been told, that year was enjoyed by many, staff included. One of my goals that year was for all those volunteering to have as good a time at the convention as those who were just attending. For the most part I think I succeeded.

Which brings me to Staff Services. After my year as Con Chair I was looking for areas of the convention that needed support, but I was also interested in making the experience of volunteering a better one for those who choose to help make this thing we call Arisia possible each year.

The Staff Services division had been created for just this purpose. Our mission  is to provide support, advice, mediation, and guidance for those that work on the convention. We create job descriptions for areas and get them posted online. We host Arisia socials throughout the year so volunteers can get to know each outside of con and to bring in new people. We manage our volunteers and do our best to find places in Arisia that fit their skill sets. We make ourselves available and offer advice and guidance to volunteers with various concerns. We do our best to advocate on behalf of our volunteers to see that they are treated fairly and equitably.

All well and good you might say, but why do you do all this work? There are lots of reasons people work on a convention like Arisia. Things like:

  • The chance to feel like you’re contributing to something larger than yourself.
  • The opportunity to work on a big geeky thing with other geeks.
  • To be a part of the Arisia community by giving back to it.
  • The skills you learn that can be used outside Arisia.
  • The chance to make a new friend, or several.

Those of us who work on Arisia do so because we enjoy it and want to see it continue. Without our attendees, without our volunteers, without you there is no Arisia. Whether you can help out all weekend, one day, or even one hour please join us in continuing to make Arisia one of the best conventions in the region. You can find us at the convention at Team Arisia HQ. Stop by and say hi.

A Few Words about Corporate Arisia

My name is Jaelen Hartwin. I’ve been volunteering for Arisia since at least Arisia 2004 in a variety of roles. This year I’m the Youth Services Assistant Division Head and a member-at-large of the Corporate Executive Board. After being a volunteer for a while, I was asked to be an Assistant Division Head for the first time in the summer of 2013, for A’14. “You don’t have to join corp to be an assistant div head,” I was told, “but it’s certainly encouraged.”

I was, to put it mildly, not very excited about this prospect. I was vaguely aware that there was some corporate body that was involved in making Arisia go, but I understood it to be full of stuffy rules lawyers who had boring conversations about the convention budget. To be honest with you, there is some amount of dry budget and policy discussion that goes on, as is inevitable for any event the size of Arisia. But it turns out there’s a lot more to the corporation than just that, and I’d like to take this chance to tell you about some of the rest of it.

Arisia is an IRS-certified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that makes grants, runs contests for student writers and artists, maintains a scholarship fund, among other things. Oh, it also holds a convention every year. A little thing you might have heard of, also called “Arisia”.

Since 2013, I’ve personally served on a variety of corporate committees, including:

  • the Student Contest committee, charged with running Arisia’s annual student art and writing contests;
  • the Long-Range Planning committee, which is currently in the process of surveying our attendees to find out how they want Arisia to change (or stay the same) in the next 5-10 years;
  • Corporate Inventory Control, in charge of maintaining the warehouse full of stuff Arisia uses every year;
  • the Logo committee, charged with deciding whether we want a new & updated corporate logo; and if so, soliciting proposals for said logo.

There are other committees that I haven’t personally served on, but that do really interesting things. Some of the more fascinating ones include:

  • While we may be pretty happy with the Westin, the Hotel Search committee is always on the lookout for overflow hotels, or even alternative main hotels in case of emergency.
  • The Grants committee is in charge of soliciting and receiving grant applications, and recommending which ones to approve. I’ve seen Arisia give grants to a library in California to expand their sci-fi section; to a new digital magazine featuring interactive genre fiction; to another convention, to help bring back some past Guests of Honor who had also been Arisia GoHs; and a bunch of other really cool places.
  • The Relaxacon committee runs a whole separate convention every summer, for Arisia staff and volunteers to hang out and play games.

There are also a bunch of interesting decisions every corporate member gets a say in. Stuff like the formation and continuation of the SMOFcon scholarship, where Arisia provides financial assistance to help people attend the convention for people who want to run conventions. Or the annual elections of the Executive Board, which is the group of people that selects the Arisia con chair and responds to incident reports. I’m in the middle of my second term on the Executive Board right now, in fact, and by the time this gets published, we may have already named the con chair for Arisia 2020.

There’s a lot of stuff the corporation does outside of running the convention every year, and membership is open to all. If you’re interested in joining, you can read more about it at

How to Survive Arisia with Kids

Congratulations! You’re going to Arisia and you’re bringing your kids! Now what do you do?!

First, don’t panic. I’m Nicole Robinson and I’m the 2018 Division Head for Youth Services.  I’ll let you in on my tips and tricks to keeping kids happy and everyone having fun at Arisia.

My family has always attended Arisia for the whole weekend.  As a family we’ve been going nine years and my husband has been going for longer.  We live about an hour away from Boston, so we stay at the hotel.  It’s like a mini-vacation for us, and we save and plan for it all year. I’m going to go through day by day, but you can get some helpful ideas even if you go for only one day.


  • Register as early as you can for the best prices.
  • Book your hotel room as soon as they open up – rooms go fast. Get the size room you want.  Don’t worry about the floor at first; you can always request a particular floor or room type through Arisia.  If you can’t get a room at the Westin, don’t worry, the Aloft (overflow) is a short walk away and has nice rooms too.
  • Register kids for Turtle Track (ages 2-6) and Fast Track (6-12).
  • Think about volunteering!  Volunteers have a better experience because of their involvement and get great perks, such as t-shirts and free memberships.  You can volunteer pre-con or at con.  Arisia has jobs for tween and teen volunteers too.


  • Arrive early to get a parking space in the garage. If you can’t park there or want a cheaper option, check the parking info on the Arisia web site, or Boston parking guides for nearby lots.
  • Check into the hotel and drop off your luggage.
  • Go to Arisia registration and pick up your badges.  Everyone with a badge has to go to registration.  It’s good to bring snacks in case of a wait!
  • For Turtles, go to Operations and get the room number – this room isn’t advertised to non-parents.
  • For older kids, go to Fast Track, register and pick up your ribbons.
  • Teens: go look at and suggest panels for the Teen Unconference or hang out in Teen Lounge
  • Eat dinner!
  • Have fun: find a panel, play in Fast Track, meet other Turtles and their parents, swim in the pool, play a game, sing, dance, and stay up as late as you think is reasonable, or turn in early if you know your kids need their full night’s sleep.

Food at Arisia is key for my family because hungry people tend to be cranky, and I want everyone to have a good time.  There are food options to fit every budget, and rooms usually have fridges.  We like to bring snacks for line waits on Friday and then eat at M.J. O’Connors.  The waiting time for M.J.’s is shorter on Friday night than on Saturday night, the menu always has something for everyone, and it’s a nice treat for me too.

Food at the con suite is great for breakfast and lunch, depending on what you and your kids eat.   They tend to have a good variety of cereal and breads, snacks, soda, hot water, and coffee.  Proteins, veggies, and fruit also appear there.  We count on Con Suite for breakfast, check there for lunch, and plan something else for dinner.

Saturday and Sunday

  • Register and get your badge if you just arrived.
  • Watch cartoons on Arisia TV if you have a hotel room.
  • Roughly plan your day and tell people where you will be.
  • Drop off kids at Turtle Track and Fast Track (Make sure they have your contact info).
  • Teens go to the Teen Unconference, hang out in Teen Lounge, or volunteer.
  • Arrange to pick up your kids for meals.
  • Have fun!

More on food, because hungry people can turn into Cthulhu… Saturday and Sunday have more food options in the form of Food Trucks. They rock for lunch and even the kids like them. The best thing we found to do is send one parent outside to take a picture of the menu and get in line. The other parent then texts back the order and stays warm inside with the kids. Dinner if you’re staying usually gets chosen from the list of places that deliver (get the list from the Westin Concierge) or we split some pizzas with friends.

“Mom, I’m bored!” is a phrase I hear often from my tweens. They tend to forget that they have my permission to enjoy the con with a buddy, because they have a green ribbon. I remind them about the dealers, art show, game room, video game room, anime, and so on. This year they can have fun at the Indie*Expo.  I still encourage them to check out the panels and authors, because they often find things they like there, too.


  • Check out of the hotel and put luggage in your car.
  • Put coats in coat check (confirm that they are open until you want to leave).
  • Go have more fun until the very end and then volunteer to help clean up!

Yay, you made it!  You survived a weekend at Arisia with your kids.  Hopefully you had some time for yourself and had fun too!

What is Member Services?

Member Services is Arisia’s “miscellaneous” division. We provide many of the support services for convention attendees. Some of our areas have been around for years, and others are brand new, jobs that we have made, in part to make sure everything runs smoothly as we grow. The list changes a bit every year. Last year we added two brand new areas: line management and wayfinding.

I want everyone who comes to the convention to have a great time, and to be able to participate however suits them best. Our growth has been exhilarating for some members and overwhelming for others. As we expand in size, and reach out to more diverse communities, we have added services for new attendees and people who have been coming for years, commuters and families, introverts and extroverts, and, of course, people with a variety of disabilities.

The work closest to me, that I have built on the hard work of people who came before me, is providing resources for people with disabilities who attend Arisia. I have really enjoyed working on this part of the con for a number of years, and really touched and honored by the number of  community members who were generous with their time, and talked with me about how they experience the convention, and how we might improve things, usually with suggestions that make the convention better for everyone, not just a few members. It was hard for me to step away from Access, and learn to look at a larger picture of Arisia, but I am very happy that new people have stepped up to take on that work. We have a great Access team, who work with all parts of the convention to reduce barriers and include more people at every level. We have a Quiet Room where people can rest in a low-light environment to take a break from the noise and chaos of the convention. Recently we started making available pronoun ribbons so that people of every gender can share information about themselves in a clear and simple way.

Last year we added two departments to help people get around the convention. We have a line management team to help control lines and ensure that people who cannot stand in lines can wait seated, or in a less-crowded space. We also have a person in charge of wayfinding, working to get better signs and maps to help people make their way around our space in the hotel. If you have suggestions for good places to put signs, please send them to . We’d love to hear from you!

Our two oldest departments are the Information Desk in the lobby, near the elevators, and the Coat Check on each side of the hotel. The information desk is there to answer questions, offer directions, and help you orient yourself in the space. They also have large print program guides and desk copies of our Pocket Program and Restaurant Guide in Braille. Coat Check has expanded so there is now a place to leave coats and small bags – nothing larger than a standard “daypack” backpack. On the Marina side (to the left as you enter the lobby) there is a coat check near the Marina ballrooms, to the right of Laugh Boston. The other Coat Check (also called Goat Check, you should ask them why) is in the right side of the hotel, one level down from the lobby, just across from Registration.

We also run the photo booth, where members can have their pictures taken, and get them from our Flickr page ( We even have some costume hats and fun signs! We also maintain a costume repair station on the concourse, to help people make costume (or clothing) repairs. The repair station staff has a broad range of expertise, and sewing machines, tools, and supplies to assist you in your hour of need.

Member Services is dedicated to helping make Arisia a great experience for everyone who comes in our doors. If you like to help people, we’d love to have you on our team, and if you have suggestions, we’d love to hear them!

Tanya Washburn

Member Services Division Head

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,