Guest blog: Jennifer Lambe on picking guests of honor

Jennifer Lambe of Hal-Con.

Jennifer Lambe of Hal-Con.

Hal-Con, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Since it’s my first GoH gig, I’ve asked Hal-Con’s lead organizer, Jennifer Lambe, to talk about the process of picking GoHs.  Jennifer says she is “a community organizer by nature; working as a Fund Development Officer for a charity by day, and running a sci-fi convention by night. In between those two big jobs, she also runs her own event company, volunteers for Steve Jackson Games as a game demonstrator, and tries to have a life sometimes too.”

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The process of picking guests for a convention varies. Some organizers might use a well thought-out plan of timing author appearances with releases of the movie versions of their novels (oh, to have Tolkien nowadays!) that coincides with the convention dates. Some might scout novelists that live in close proximity to the host city, or perhaps are easily brought in by one direct flight. No doubt, booking the latest bestselling author is a sound rationale for choosing a guest.

While those are well-established, reasonable methods, I choose to find authors who are personable, and who also happen to have a varied library of accomplished works. Regardless of whether the author is a horror, science fiction, or fantasy writer, if they are going to appear at Hal-Con, they need to be a person who enjoys meeting fans.

I’ve been to loads of conventions, conferences, meet-ups and other things. I try to remember back to my worst experiences and work toward providing an environment that will not allow those same things to happen to others.

While getting caught up on my mandatory reading for Geek 101, I’ve been introduced to some phenomenal authors. Some of those authors are active on the circuit, so I use the internet to hunt down contact information and reach out to the author or their agent. Once contact is established, I try to chat up the author whenever possible, to get a sense of whether they are “all business” or really have fun at conventions. Ideally, it’s a mix of the two.

What makes a convention great, as a fan, is the experiences you have while you’re there. For some, that might mean meeting your favourite actor, or comic book artist, or having a great conversation with somebody you never met before. It’s the connections you make that can change a convention from being “okay” to “AMAZING!”

Hal-Con, the largest science fiction, fantasy, comic, and everything genre convention in the Canadian Maritimes is fan-run and focused on being part of the community at large. As we aren’t responsible to deliver a monstrous yearly surplus or providing our shareholders a return on their investment – we have the creative freedom to take a difference approach on how our convention is run. Hal-Con wants to find great guests (actors, comic artists, and authors) to bring to Halifax, Nova Scotia to “hang out” with the community that makes up the 5000+ geeks and nerds who attend annually. For the people attending, they’re invited into a “kitchen party” with all their closest friends for a weekend.

Finding guests who really groove on conventions is a key to success, in my opinion. So many of the negative convention experiences you find on the internet are directly tied to a guest being a jerk to somebody. It’s miserable to spend hard-earned money on something you expect to be great – only to be let down. I never want to have a(nother) experience like that – and as the lead organizer / talent director, I can do something about it.

Thanks to Jennifer for taking the time to write this, and if you’re in the Halifax area this fall, I hope to see you at Hal-Con! 

2 Comments on “Guest blog: Jennifer Lambe on picking guests of honor”

  1. Pingback: SF Tidbits for 2/23/12 - SF Signal – A Speculative Fiction Blog

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