A Year in #ConLife, Part 4

It’s program planning time! Sharon, your friendly neighborhood con chair, here saying hello. Fall signals the start of our highly capable programming team shifting into high gear. If you’re following us on social media (and if you’re not, go to Farpoint Convention on Facebook and/or @FarpointCon on Twitter) you have seen the announcement that the list of panels will be sent out soon for you to select programs you’d like to participate in. To add yourself to the distribution of the panel list, email us at Programs@FarpointCon.com

We solicit and receive panel ideas from guests and attendees, more than we (unfortunately) have room for. What do we do with your submissions? Once the submission period has ended, our programming team evaluates each idea and assigns them to one of our programming tracks. The assignment can be complicated because ideas will often cross tracks. For example, a talk on writing content for online outlets in the Authors track would also interest guests and attendees in our New Media track which covers online creativity. All programs we identify with potential to cross tracks are identified as such in our database and opened to guests and program participants who express interest in both tracks to encourage a diversity of speakers on the panel.

Another criterion we look for from your submissions is idea duplication. Each year, we receive great submissions from multiple people on a particular subject. Rather than accept one of the idea variations and reject all the others, our programming team will take all of the submissions on the topic and look for a way to combine them into a single program. The people submitting the original ideas will be notified of the combined topic and asked if they are still interested in participating. In most instances they are, allowing us to accept multiple submissions for the topic and again have a diversity of ideas and voices for the program.

We also look at past programs to see if a similar topic has been staged recently. This does not necessarily mean your idea will be rejected, however. If the topic is popular, repeating it in the following year can be a good thing but we also want to avoid duplicating the same ideas from one year to the next too often.

Once the program ideas are assigned to a track and evaluated, the programming team compiles a final list of the programs and panels we want to present at the convention. You will be notified by the team if your idea is accepted or not. Everyone who submitted program ideas will receive a copy of the final program list. Programs are listed as being “open” or “closed” and you will be asked to submit your choice of “open” program topics you wish to participate on as a speaker/panelist. A “closed” program is one staged by a specific guest(s) with the topic related to their area of expertise. An examples of a “closed” program is a in our Science track led by the scientists and engineers sharing their expertise in the field.

Our programming chairs will take everyone’s requests for panel speaking spots, assign speakers to panel(s) and place the programs on the convention schedule. We use a custom program planning database for this task. The database tracks assignments of rooms, times, topics, equipment and speakers and gives an error message when someone or something is double-booked at the same time or place. Assigning programs to specific room and time slots requires balancing the convention’s overall schedule requirements with each individual’s request for speaking slots. We also work hard to ensure that two different programs on the same topic are not occurring simultaneously on the schedule. For example, we would not want an Authors track talk on writing for the Star Trek universe opposite a Movies/TV track panel on Star Trek so that Trek fans have the opportunity to attend both programs.

The programming team will produce 2-4 draft schedules during the November to early January time frame and evaluate each version for mistakes and issues. The schedule version resulting from the programming team review is evaluated by the entire committee in mid-January. Committee feedback is incorporated and the final draft schedule is again reviewed by everyone. Once approved, the schedule goes to the printer, our website and social media for publication. The programming team will send each guest and program participant a personalized program schedule.

Farpoint Convention is proud that our program schedule is finalized and ready for publication each year at least 2 weeks prior to the convention, allowing you to better plan your convention experience. You may also notice that we have almost zero “on the fly” schedule changes during the convention. The rigorous schedule review process by our dedicated programming team and committee ensures that our schedule is firm and ready to go when we open our doors on Friday. We thank our loyal guests and attendees for submitting their wonderful ideas and being willing to participate in programs at the convention. We would not have our #EmbarrassmentOfRiches without YOU!

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