I talk to a lot of staffers from a lot of other cons in my home region of Wisconsin. I've been working cons for half of my life, so sometimes people say things to me they might not otherwise. Usually it's just to vent, sometimes to compare ideas, and even rarely to ask advice. Well, in the last few days I was told something that had me mildly alarmed... A couple of people stated that our conventions were in competition with each other.
I won't say what con they were from, as I don't believe their opinion reflects the whole of their own organization, but their attitude scared me so much that I felt the need to write something on the subject.
Our conventions, for the record, are not in competition with each other. Okay, if we were within a few weeks of each other (or on the same weekend) or in the same town there might be a case for this, but we're not. There are anywhere from 75-250 miles between all of these cons, and with one exception, no cons are closer than two months to each other on the calendar.
Most importantly though, in truth, we are NOT competing for attendees. We are well enough spaced in the region both on the calendar and geographically where the attendees who can't afford to do multiple cons already can't come, and the ones who can afford to do multiple cons can. There is a small percentage that falls between these groups, and it's true, we are in a sense fighting for their attention -- but honestly, all you have to do to get them is to put on the best event you can.
In the end though, what we can't afford is for cons to start looking at each other as opponents. There is no us and them, there should only be... well... us. The point of everything we're doing here, at it's core, is to build a community. An undivided, united community of geekery. Cooperation should be encouraged, not competition, for this community to truly become strong.
Too many con scenes have died out because people got territorial and petty, viewing other groups as their enemies and not their friends. We need to collectively share and help each other (without losing our individual identities -- I'm not suggesting the cons merge or anything ridiculous like that). Our conventions are separate entities, but our attendees and our culture are one.
What we're working towards, at it's core, are not singular weekend events. We're working towards building a community that's larger. Con scenes survive because there's a unified community between events. If one con falls, the community can survive if it's built between many.
I've got a lot more to say on the subject, but I won't bore you with my pontifications any longer today. Let's just remember it's important to not be petty, to act in the spirit of communication and cooperation, and to remember - we're not competing, we're merely building separate pillars to support the same community. As long as we keep that in mind, everyone wins.
This SO needed to be said. And...I especially like the part where you say that all we really have to do is put on the best event we can. This is something I tell staffers on BOTH the conventions I staff whenever they start getting uppity about something another con is doing. The first thing I say is "We don't have to worry about what THEY are doing, we have to worry about what WE are doing. If we go out there and put on the best event we can put on, it won't matter what anyone else does, because we're doing the absolute best we can."
I've said it time and time again but it still astounds me how much of a con-scene exists in this area. The fact that you can't hardly go three months without having at least one con within afternoon excursion distance is pretty damn special.
I think the fact that most of the cons in Wisconsin (possibly all, but I don't know enough to say) are fan operated and non-corporate really helps to avoid the competition aspect. It also helps that many staffers at the various regional cons are current or former staffers from other regional cons. Heck, at Geek.kon there was a con staffer panel run and largely attended by staff from a variety of Wisconsin cons. That such a panel exists at all is testament to the community.