Ahead: Penny Arcade Expo 2011

It’s that time of year again. Penny Arcade Expo time. As usual, my company will out at the con in force¬†from 26 – 28 August. I’m in charge of a major chunk of PAX event logistics for ArenaNet, so the past several months have been busy, particularly the last few weeks.

This year I implemented a new staff management and logistics system, somewhat based upon my experiences working as a Conference Associate at the Game Developers Conference and as a staff member of Otakon. This system distributes responsibility and information to more people so that my colleagues are not completely reliant on my presence at the booth at every moment of the convention. This should theoretically give me more time to do community and social media activities and spend less time on convention logistics. In the past, I’ve spent so much time with taking care of every logistical detail on the show floor (and often off the show floor) that I hardly had any time to spend time talking with my community or doing social media work, which was a real bummer for me because those are really important aspects of face-to-face events for me and for my role as a community manager (plus I enjoy those things). As the scale and scope of our activities at PAX grew over the past few years, the amount of logistical details that I have to track and which I must take decisions have also grown. Last year, the number of activities we had going on had clearly grown to the point where it was impacting my community management work at-con, so this year I set up a system of responsibility and escalation and appointed about a dozen people that I manage to report any on-the-ground issues up to me.

The way set the staffing system up is to have “Captains” that are responsible for a section, for example two Captains responsible for the main booth and another Captain responsible for any computer stations at partner booths. Given that over 100 members of my company have signed up to work PAX, and I am responsible for all staff and event logistics for ArenaNet, having another layer of management was important to keep things running smoothly on the show floor. Any issues that front line booth staff have will get escalated up to Captains, and if Captains can’t take care of it, it gets escalated up to me so I can make decisions about the issue or call in someone higher on the food chain to make a decision. This system is similar to the Floater system in the GDC Conference Associates Programme, where by front line staff escalate issues to Floaters, who can then escalate up to Super Floaters, and on up the command chain. The system for my staff is somewhat simpler because there aren’t nearly as many staff working PAX as there are Conference Associates working GDC.

This year will be particularly exciting for me because I’ll get to see whether this system I set up works in practice. Obviously I’ll be looking at it critically to see where things can improve next year.