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I am involved with a local SF con, and I will be running the Info Desk, which has been defunct for a few years. (Volunteer Desk guy would try to handle questions while doing everything else he did, and Info Desk was just a place where programs and maps were stacked up for people to take them.)

Basically it means hours of sitting behind a small folding table, answering questions for attendees (helping them interpret the map or know where the named-rooms are (often on other floors than the obvious ones)), knowing if any celebrities have changed their schedule, forwarding people to other appropriate departments if needed.

Most of the time I'll be staffing it with my husband, and I have asked a few other friends to indicate that I'm their target department. There's also always a good number of just-a-few-hour volunteers that we can borrow to cover for us for short times.

I'm on an alumni-of-a-deceased-con group (we all used to staff it, but this group of cons was cancelled). A lot of them have worked at a LOT of other cons, and attend even more, so I posted asked for any "best practices" they've seen, anything for me to add to the standard expectations.

Alas, one guy's response was "hire my son - he's great at Info desk!" Nope, not so much. No pre-information gathering, no keeping up with changes. It was his 3rd year of this particular con at that particular hotel even, but he still was lost on "where are the restrooms", much less the more complicated questions about celebrity signings/photos. No providing a schedule of who (within our tiny crew) was available when.

So my response was "No offense, but I think I work better with others." I'm cringing.

On one hand, my former-instructor self wants to advise him on what DOES make an awesome Info Desk, and just inheriting a magic sense of it from his father (who has been chair and president of some nearby cons) doesn't do it. It's about research, and not being afraid to contact people until you know you have the right information to pass on to people. (example: photo-ops were pre-paid only -- no purchase available at the con, but he was saying "just get in line and you never know.") Sociability is part of it, sure, and a distinct hat? Great! But INFO is the part of the name that I focus on.

If I didn't want to see some of the other panels, and if I knew I don't burn out by the last day of the con, I'd ONLY have my husband and I staff the desk. It's not like there's any formal procedure like if this were A Job. (Yes, we talk about "staffing" and "hiring" but except for top-level stuff, it's more about declaring a role and not being refused.)

How can I best communicate to others volunteers that I don't think they fit for the job?

  • Hi April, and welcome to IPS! I've edited your question because it had some "should I" parts (opinion-based / off-topic on this stack). So, if I didn't properly rephrase, please forgive me and rollback, thanks. – OldPadawan Aug 27 at 16:06
  • You got it! my first-drafts of anything are too "me"-centric, so thanks for helping generalize. Feel free to edit out more if it's too particular to MY situation -- the biggest thing is it's Volunteer, lots of us have pre-established relationships/experience, but I chose to do Info Desk because it's a "clean slate". Thanks again! – April --Un-Slander Monica-- Aug 27 at 16:10
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In my experience it can be tricky to give someone an outright "no" in situations like these. Bruised egos can cause no end of trouble in a volunteer-run event in my experience.

I would look for a face-saving way to keep them away from a role you think they're unsuited for. Is there some other task you can redirect them towards that they are more suited to?

We're all set with the info desk staffing, but we could really use help with X.

This spares their ego from being told they're not wanted for a task they're volunteering for while letting them be (or at least feel) useful.

  • You're right -- for most people that IS often what I do -- I direct them to the department I left (security/ops)which can always use people. But in this particular case, the person isn't good at radio (task switching, focus, knowing who to recontact) NOR can he patrol checking badges, since he's in a chair. And the fact that he has done Info Desk before at other cons makes him think he is an expert at it. – April --Un-Slander Monica-- Aug 29 at 14:04
  • Are there flyers to be handed out or something like that? Assuming he his chair is motorized, that might actually be helpful because he could hang a whole bag off them off the chair, which might be harder for someone to walk around with. – Vinay Pai Aug 29 at 20:05
  • I think my "problem" isn't actually a good IPX one, since it's not very generalizable (I'm ok with redirecting MOST people to other areas, just various things make it a little more difficult with This Guy.) – April --Un-Slander Monica-- Aug 30 at 12:48
  • Oh fun, now the Dad is asking WHY I don't want to work with his kid. (In part, it's because I dislike that dad!) – April --Un-Slander Monica-- Aug 30 at 14:39

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