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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!

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