From David Gerrold:
Here’s what I know about being a guest a convention.
It’s a privilege. It’s also part of the job.
If you’re one of the honored guests, it’s your job to make sure that everybody you come in contact with has a good time. It’s also your job to be a role model for excellence.
The 15 Con Guest Commandments
- Yes, you can have a beer. Have two. Stop before you turn into a drunken ass. You’re not there to get drunk.
- Say please. Say thank you. A lot. To everyone. Empathize with everyone. “What a great costume.” “What a beautiful baby.” “Can I pet your dog?” “That’s a great T-shirt.” Be playful in context. To a Klingon, you can say, “Here. Hold my tribble.” To a Jedi warrior, when his phone rings, hold up your own, “This is not the droid you’re looking for.”
- If personalizing an autograph, ask “how do you spell that?” or “Is your name badge accurate?” or “how do you want this personalized?” If they ask for a picture with you, always say yes. If you have a tip jar, make it voluntary — not a demand. Charging for autographs or pictures is tacky. It’s desperate. (My tip jar is for whatever charity I’m focusing on at the moment. Once or twice a year, I forward a check.)(And yes, I’m overdue to send a check to SFWA’s Emergency Medical Fund.)
- If you need to be somewhere else at the moment, say so. “I’m sorry, I have to be on a panel right now.” You are not obligated to stop.
- Smile. At everyone. Wave. If you have to pretend you remember someone, pretend — while sneaking a look at their name badge. You’ll probably have to continue pretending, but what the hell, you’ll make their day.
- Be careful about flirting. Not everyone wants to be flirted with. Sometimes it’s fun to ask, “Can I flirt with you?” because that keeps it on an innocuous level. But there are people who are no longer welcome in some places because they do not know how to keep their libido in their pants.
- Yes, a convention is a great place to get laid — but if you’re a center of attention, no it isn’t. You have no idea what kind of gossip gets started.
- Try to remember there are other people on the panel. Pass the microphone. Even if you have a great answer, turn to someone else and say, “Do you want to take this?” If the moderator is a control freak, going down a list of questions and not allowing the panel to sparkle, grit your teeth and bear it. Smile pretty and do your best.
- Respect the members of the opposite sex on the panel. They will have insights you don’t.
- Connect with your audience. Listen to them. Be gracious. If you must put down a heckler, do it with style. “The audience is here to hear me, not you. But if you really think what you have to say is that important, come on up front and take my place.” People are more afraid of a microphone than they are of death, nobody will ever take you up on that. (If someone in the audience gets abusive, you have the right to say, “I’m sorry, but I choose not to continue this.” Then get up and leave.)
- Do not air your dirty laundry in public. Nobody wants to hear you complain. Nobody wants to hear a character assassination. The exception to this rule is that if you can be as charming and entertaining as Harlan Ellison, then character assassination is an art form. (If you ask me about Star Trek, The Next Generation, I will do twenty minutes on Gene’s failing health and the Machiavellian behavior of his walking elbow-wrinkle of a lawyer. But, now having done that speech a few times, I’m more likely to say, “I don’t really feel like talking about that anymore. I’ve said everything I have to say on that subject.” Or I will say that as soon as I learn some will power.)
- If you must answer a question about someone else’s bad behavior — and there is no shortage of examples — the safest answer is to say, “I’d prefer not to comment.” You have that right. Or, you can say, “I was disappointed/saddened/shocked to hear it.” Or, “I don’t have enough facts to offer an informed opinion and I won’t make anything up because there’s already enough bullshit in the universe.”
- In fact, “I don’t have enough facts to offer an informed opinion and I won’t make anything up because there’s already enough bullshit in the universe” is a great answer for a lot of questions.
- Try and spend some quality time with the con committee and the volunteers. Treat them well — because they’re the ones who are making the con work. Let them know you appreciate their hard work. They are eager to please, but they do not deal well with arrogant guests.
- Have fun.
Reprinted from a Facebook post with author permission.
I made up the silly title, so feel free to blame me for that one.