That having been said, people across the fannish landscape are more than a little croggled by the attendance we racked up this year, none more than Yr. Humble Author. Then again, I was only expecting 600 in 2004 and was wrong again in 2005 when I estimated 2000. So going into this year all I knew was that we weren't going to sign up any more than 2500 people, and I was wrong again. Not by much, though; the warm body count was less than that so we didn't have people exploding out of the windows or anything like that.
So where do we go from here? Well, I think we need to look back to our beginnings to get some perspective.
Staff turnover began even before the first year of the convention. We lost our dealers' room person for reasons I still don't understand, and of course the departure of our first chairman is a story all of our department heads know by now. Sometimes I think we were damned lucky to have the seventeen people we did have, most of them organizing departments practically single-handedly and running them with the help of a platoon's worth of volunteers, many of whom wound up on staff for the 2005 convention.
The staff grew faster than the attendance in 2005; we had a little over 40 staff members for our second year, and the number of volunteers tripled. That convention ran fairly well in spite of truly awful communication between different parts of staff, and again we lost some staff over the succeeding months, mostly due to burnout or real life getting in the way of the convention. We replaced them with volunteers, motored on, and grew the staff to nearly 70 for this year's convention. Overall, we were better organized and better at talking to each other, although there were a few gaffes, screwups, errors, faux pas...mistakes were made, as the saying goes.
Now, with the exception of a handful of people like tjstriker and myself, most of us had little experience running conventions, and what little we did have was mostly with SF conventions, which tend to skew older in age and predominantly male besides - a very different crowd than anime conventions. Sure, some of us had worked at Anime Iowa as volunteers, but by and large we were n00bs at this convention thing so we asked for advice from everyone who was willing to stand still for a couple of minutes, read up on whatever we could get from AI and CONvergence, and did a lot of improvised ad-hockery.
Well, here we are. I don't think stuckintraffik has to worry about losing an entire department, which happened last year, and we have a solid framework of people who are looking forward to next year, thinking about the tweaks they need to make on systems that already run pretty well, if not to the total satisfaction of all concerned. This isn't to say that there won't be changes, but they'll be more along the lines of making departments work better rather than tearing down and rebuilding them from the ground up.
cajones asked me Saturday night at the Uptown Diner about the dynamics of Detour, and I'm not really sure the answer I gave him was what he was looking for. I honestly don't have a good grip on the people who make up our membership, because I only see them in snapshots as I move through the hallways. I couldn't tell you if most of them are there for the cosplay, the videos, the games or just to be at a mother-huge party that has all those things and more. That would require me to look into their heads or for them to tell me through feedback and forums what's in their heads, and either way I'd still be getting an incomplete picture. Still, we have the forums and we have the feedback forms and we have the room counts revolutionaryjo took, so at least we'll have a better idea who these people are, or at least what they want from us. It's a start.
One of the things that does concern me is the general lack of interest in what I call "the greasy organizational stuff." In contrast to MISFITS, ATC is practically invisible behind the flashy curtain of AD, and we don't seem to have a lot of Totos interested in pulling back the curtain and finding out just who this Oz character is. Part of that may be due to the fact that the officers and directors of ATC are also AD staff, and to the casual observer there just may not seem to be a whole lot of difference. Lord knows, after the last two and a half years of trying to keep the Board from micromanaging, I'm not altogether sure that the Board knows either. One does what one can. Anyhow, given our somewhat Mexican style of leadership where the chairman of AD is Sole Rightful Autocrat during his term, there isn't really anywhere for the social dynamics of the organization to work out except on the Board, and the Board only has five seats on it, seven if you count the Treasurer and President.
Which, considering that we have a voting population of 32 this year, is probably fairly reasonable, but I'm not sure that it really accommodates the various subcultures in ATC. My sense of things is that we basically have three groups of people on staff: the founding group, the folks from MAS (mostly in cosplay and programming) and people who really aren't part of either group. Now, it's not like we have some kind of energetic political struggle going on or anything - quite the contrary, judging from the lack of response to the call for nominations- but one does get a sense that if MAS were running this convention things would be done differently, since their priorities aren't those of the founders. Note that I'm not saying those priorities are wrong, they're just different. (I'm not from here, you know.)
So it'll be interesting to see how this year's Board elections go. I'd like to see someone from MAS take a more active role on the ATC side of the house, because they haven't really had one.
It'll also be interesting to see if the consensus on staff that we don't want to become another ACen holds up after we secure bigger, more spacious quarters for 2008. I'd like to think it will, but the history of other fan-run conventions is not promising. We are, after all, professionals, but only once or twice a month at staff meetings. ~_^
*Yes, I even missed the Staff & Guests Mixer on Thursday night after dragging in all the food with acdragonmaster. Somebody had to be in Ops.