Insider’s Guide to Volunteering at the Con

Editor’s Note: Today we have another great guest post, this time by Deanne Cooper. She runs the site Generation Kill Insider and is a big advocate for SDCC Volunteering.

I know that most people believe that Disney is the happiest place on Earth.  Personally, I believe that those people have never been to SDCC.  If they had, they would certainly know that SDCC trumps Disney by a landslide.  To make the adventure even sweeter, you can actually experience it FOR FREE.

Those lucky enough to volunteer during the Con, get in free for the days that they complete a volunteer assignment.   In exchange for three hours of work (and I use the term loosely) volunteers receive a full, free day at SDCC. That’s nothing to toss a lightsaber at.

My first year at SDCC, I purchased a badge. A few weeks later, my girlfriends and I were checking out the website, and saw the information about volunteering.  We thought it would be pretty cool to volunteer and get to see things from the other side of the curtain. So, even though we paid for badges, we volunteered and had a fun experience.  Yes, this might be the definition of nerdy.  Don’t judge me.

So here’s a little advice, if you ever want to volunteer, from someone who’s done it twice, and is planning to do it again. Ready? Ok. Let’s get started.

1. ARRIVE EARLY to pick up your volunteer assignment on the first day.

If you rely on your volunteer pass as admission to the wonderful world of SDCC, get there early. But trust me when I say that you WILL NOT be the only one getting in this way.  There are literally thousands of volunteers…and you can bet that they will be in line as soon as (if not before) the sun is rising over beautiful downtown San Diego. You should be there, too. The closer you are to the head of the line, the better your choices will be for your volunteer assignment.  Each assignment is 3 hours, and it can be a challenge to find a 3 hour block that doesn’t conflict with something you want to see or do… So, the earlier you arrive the more time slots that are available, the better your chances of enjoying everything you want to experience at CC and not miss something while volunteering.

2. For each consecutive day that you volunteer, get there as close to 1:00 pm as possible to pick up your assignment.

This follows the same principal as above.  You cannot pick up your volunteer assignment for the next day until 1pm.  You also have to complete your volunteer assignment for the current day in order to get your next assignment.  If you are volunteering from 11 until 2, that’s an hour of people getting to pick assignments before you.  Sometimes getting there later in the afternoon is completely unavoidable, but the closer you get there to 1pm, the better off you’ll be.

3. Don’t be afraid to volunteer by yourself.

If you are going with a group of friends, and you are all volunteering, that’s cool…and awesome, really. But just because you are all together doesn’t mean you have to all volunteer together.  Volunteer assignments happen in groups, so there will be others placed with you for a task.  Don’t be afraid to talk to the people around you.  One of the most awesome parts of CC is getting to meet people that are like you. Every year, while volunteering, I meet great, nerdy, geeky, awesometastic people. You thought there wasn’t a Joss Whedon fan out there as devoted and awestruck as you are? That you were the only one who has watched every episode of The Guild 30 times? Or, maybe you think you are the only one who could love Sam and Dean Winchester with every ounce of your soul? You’d be wrong. And odds are you’ll find someone to while away the time with that shares at least ONE of your obsessions.

4. Do not leave your belongings unattended. 

My first year, I was told to leave my belongings, along with other volunteers, under a table to be retrieved once our assignment was complete. When we returned, the tables had been moved to set up for the masquerade, and all our bags were gone.  I spent the next two days trying to find my bag, and my poster tube that had my signed Vampire Diaries poster that I had waited in line for FOUR HOURS to obtain.  My bag was finally found, but, not surprisingly, my poster tube had disappeared forever. Lesson learned. Do not, under ANY circumstances, leave your stuff. Give it to your friends to keep, or take it with you, but don’t leave it behind.

5. Don’t get upset if you get a less than stellar assignment.

This one is probably the most important rule of all.  Your first year, you’ll most likeyly be a line manager or greeter, or maybe working in the Sails Pavillion handing out bags and books to attendees.  Either way it goes, just enjoy it and make it fun!  A fun note to keep in mind though is the more years that you volunteer, the better your jobs get.  Each year you return as a volunteer, you move up in the ranks, until maybe one day, you’ll be working in the talent lounge, catering to one or more of your favorite celebrities. You just never know!

I hope I’ve answered any questions or concerns you might have with the volunteering process.  It’s a great experience, and I would encourage anybody who attends SDCC to try volunteering at least once. If you are scheduled to volunteer, then maybe I’ll see you around the Con!

About Zack Young

  • Looking to volunteer at #SDCC? Our guest post from a two-time volunteer at the con gives an expert view: http://t.co/mXais3PZ

  • epic_skyline

    Good article! I had a couple of questions, if you don’t mind. I was wondering if you could expand on the types of jobs available to the volunteers. What are the good, sought-after jobs (aside from the talent lounge, of course)? What are the bad jobs and why are they bad? Are they just boring, or is something like a line manager really difficult with attendees getting angry at the long lines? If you can’t pick up your assignment until 1pm, what about the people volunteering in the morning? What is the organization like? Do things run without a hitch, or is it a bit crazy?

    Thanks in advance! I find this really interesting.

  • D

    Maybe a dumb question, but when you get in line in the morning, is it just the same giant line in the front of the convention center? Or is there a seperate line for volunteers?

  • KookyPersona

    Volunteering is an awesome way to get acquainted with Comic Con. The regular 3 hour volunteer as described in the article is perfect for those who want to work a little and earn their free day at Comic Con. It is true that the volunteer line is looooonnngg when getting your assignment the first day so better to go early. I think the jobs that are handed out random.

    @epic_skyline, I think the worst volunteer job I had was in my first year. I was in a group called Volunteer Pool. The Volunteer Pool are extra volunteers. If any department needs an extra hand, they pull from the Volunteer Pool. I literally sat around for 3 hours under the Volunteer Pool. So make sure you have something to read, have a handy portable game system with you to keep you busy, or get to know your sitting neighbors.

    I did line control for Hall H once. The line was for Harry Potter, The Green Latern, and Resident Evil. We did not have any hitch or any angry attendees waiting in line, but have to be wary with line cutters. A lot of surprised looks when the line extended to the back of the Center towards the Marina.

  • KookyPersona

    @D, different lines. There is a volunteer line and attendee badge pick up line. There’s also the Starbucks line. XD

  • epic_skyline

    @KookyPersona – Thank you! I didn’t think about the line cutting, but you’re right, it does go on a lot. Do you have the authority to say, “Nope, you actually have to walk half a mile to the end of this line”? And do people listen? The Volunteer Pool sounds fun, as long as I have a bottle of water, my cell phone and a good book!

  • KookyPersona

    @epic_skyline, we actually did send a few line cutters to the back of the line. Managers and team leads are there to help you out. People do generally listen. XD Are you volunteering this year?

  • BamBam

    This is a great article! I have been a volunteer for the past eight years, and working the Con is the highlight of my year. It makes you kind of feel more connected with everything, that you help put on this whole show. Plus you kinda feel all official like

  • D

    @KookyPersona thanks! 🙂 Can’t wait!

  • Kathleen

    Thanks so much for this – I’ll be volunteering for the first time this year and wasn’t sure what to expect.

  • Dd Lov

    I have worked the Con in Dallas TX and been to SDCC as an attendee but this year I am a volunteer. I hate I will be late for the 1pm next day assignment hand out but love the fact that what will delay me is sitting with Mark Hamill from 11-1. I’m psyched for that!
    Good article! Hope to meet you there! =~D

  • jeanette

    Wonderful article D! So pround! ~One of the “girlfriends”

  • WOW – these are some great tips – Perfect for anyone who wants to volunteer at the con. I can’t wait to read more of your articles as we approach sdcc.

    I really need a detailed list of events outside the con – bars to go to, places to eat, things to do.

  • Ck out my post! RT @SD_Comic_Con Lookng to volunteer @ #SDCC? Our guest post fm a 2-time volunteer gives an expert view http://t.co/6FCLUba0

  • Deanne Cooper

    Hey guys! Glad to know the article has been helpful and informative for all of you! Thanks to KookyPersona for answering a lot of the extra questions you’ve had.

    As far as jobs, I don’t think there is a “bad” one, so to speak, just ones that aren’t as fun. But then again, you’re at the Con, so just make your own fun! I’ve worked in the Sails Pavillion, the on site office, as a line manager, in the portfolio review area…some of them were more boring than others, but in each instance, I met someone I never would have met otherwise.

    As far as stuff outside the Con, be sure to check the list on this site for all the offsite events…Zack and the guys have got it COVERED! If you need restaurant reco’s, etc, I’m sure that there are people reading that can offer their opinions. I personally have to shout out for the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery. We had an offsite event there last year, and those folks were top notch, and the food was great.

    If any of you have any other questions and want to shout at me directly, you can find me on Twitter… @deanne2323

  • CM-N

    I use to volunteer for the Con years ago. If you can start volunteering before the Con even starts, you could get into the con for free and enjoy the last two days without working, because you’ve already earned your free passes! I use to stuff the goody bags for 2 days before the Con started so I only had two work 2 more days during the con and got my free volunteer shirt too. It was simple and repetitive work, but it was fun talking to the other volunteers.

  • Rich

    Website says that Online Volunteer is over and no Onsite volunteering. Do you know of any contests for a con badge?

  • Kristin

    I’m a first year volunteer and this is my first time going to to SDCC! I have a question about days that you volunteer: are you allowed to roam around the Con before your shift or do you only have that access after your shift is complete?

  • Deanne Cooper

    Kristen, Once you pick up your assignment, you are free to roam around until that time. You must complete you assignment and turn in your ticket proving you did to get the following day’s assignment. If you do not show up for your task, and complete your assignment, you will not be allowed to volunteer anymore.

  • Dustin T

    Hey Deanne,

    This was a great article and I referenced it to get the most out of Comic Con 2012! Thanks so much for your help. I had an excellent time and got to volunteer by handing out bags & books, escorting VIPs for the Eisner Awards, standing watch by exits at 3 awesome panels, and helping out with the art show. Volunteering is the best!

    One note: The regulations may have changed for picking up your volunteer assignment for the next day. It’s now “1:30 or two hours AFTER your assignment ends, whichever is later”…so, from your example, if you volunteer from 11am-2pm, you must wait until 4pm to get your next assignment. That’s 3 hours of people getting in line ahead of you.

    So, in a nutshell, volunteering is awesome, but get there early the very first day!!! Otherwise it will snowball into less and less favorable assignments.

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  • Cori

    Hi! Thanks for the info- what’s the minimum age to volunteer? I’m guessing 18?

  • Master X

    16

  • Oshani

    Hi I loved the article. Thank you for all the great insight. I was wondering if the volunteer positions are only limited to local or can international people are allowed too?