Note: This article was written by Goldy, and is being posted here on her behalf.
I’ve been meaning to write a post about my experience staffing my local anime convention, but every year before never seemed right until this year.
I will give the disclaimer than I am volunteer staff and also a self taught manager of guest relations for 6 years (started out as a mere guest liaison, but that’s when I did the job by myself, the con was smaller, and I didn’t have massive lines of fans trying to trample me to hug their favorite voice actor). At present, I have a staff of 3-5 people, but always need more. Good help is hard to find because guest (and fan) wrangling is no easy task.
I won’t be naming names because even though I’ve never had to sign any contract to maintain secrecy or anything, I think it’s stupid to share information that a person was kind enough to share with you in trust. And really, I think it’s brave to trust someone you barely know with your well being for a weekend. You are trusting a person to keep you safe from people who are too excited at hearing your voice to think straight and won’t stop to say, “Hey, maybe I shouldn’t try to rush at this voice actor I like after their panel and try to hug them and shove random gifts at them when they are probably really tired and need food. After all, there are times and places for autographs and chats” and instead come rushing at you like you’re made of gold or something.
Because let me tell you, there is nothing more terrifying than that lack of security. Even if you are a repeat guest, you are in a strange place, with strange people, with only your beautiful voice keeping you alive, but it’s also the cause of your stress at times because people love it too much.
Not to say that voice actors (VAs) dislike hugs or gifts or talking to their fans. In fact, a majority of them appreciate their fans more than most famous people out there and looooove to talk with them and sign stuff for them. But it’s always nice for fans to keep their heads when they’re around someone famous and be considerate of the fact that they are human too.
Granted, many VAs are also too nice most of the time. That’s why I have to be the mean person or, on my good days, a diplomat who has to explain to a crying girl why I can’t just call up their favorite VA to get a hug and an autograph because she missed all the sessions earlier. On rare occasions, at the request of the guests, I’ll sometimes do these things, but if you start giving someone an inch, 70 more people will grab that mile from you.
So that’s my job, roughly. To protect, serve, take a bullet for, and cause diversions (I once told a dumb joke to let a guest sneakily escape through the back at the end of their panel. I’m pretty sure those fans are after my head now) for the many VA guests we have the honor of bringing to our humble convention. It’s truly a learning process for me, which can be fairly frustrating for various reasons, but does improve slowly but surely every year.
The convention growing at a fast rate each year is my biggest challenge. We get big guests more often, but we still don’t act like a big con. Massive autograph lines are a new thing to us. Having guests charge for autographs are even more of a foreign idea. I remember when a guest looked at me weird when I said we didn’t have a green room (we do now, but aren’t used to it, yet). Admittedly, I have gotten better at dodging and weaving through over-excited fans with my guest(s) in tow, trying to get to an elevator or stairs (sometimes I hate the 12th floor). It still breaks my heart to cap autograph lines and turn people away, but I have to do it unless someone really wants a 5 hour autograph line.
I get lucky usually, though. Or blessed. Most of the guests we have are easy going, fun, and are able to dodge situations easily if they get too caught up with swarming fans. I would like to give credit to our con-goers as well, who, for the most part, aren’t too insane with obsession over their favorite VA.
I have had my share of high maintenance guests, though, especially ones that get mad at me for not doing this or that the way it “should” be. Reflecting back to one of my first points, I can understand the frustration, since me and my staff are the only protection they have at times and we’re not exactly experts in our fields (reminder, self taught and volunteer). We have to have good heads on our shoulders in order to keep them safe and keep their best interests in mind.
On that line of thought, I’ve learned over the years nothing good comes from me being a fangirl/boy over one or more of my guests. I learned that the hard way, but it was a very important lesson. I will still be excited to hear my favorite voices from anime and my heart will warm when I can get a picture or a signature, but keeping my head is top priority. Because if I don’t, all hope is lost.
The most important lesson my job as a guest relations manager has taught me is that even famous people are human. They have insecurities, worries, and all sorts of things that will upset them that you never see as a fan in an autograph line. Being famous is hard, I’m sure you’ve heard. But it’s hard to see those effects from a fan’s perspective. For example, The Beatles’ fans had a hard time seeing the effects of their extreme love of the band as police had to hold them back to keep them from tackling and ripping the clothes (or even hair!) off the band members just to have a piece of them.
That’s an extreme example, but having to sign all day, take pictures, talk, and probably hug or shake hands with 100+ people every day is tiring and the last thing they want to do is be asked again after all that for more autographs, pictures, etc. on your way to dinner or your hotel room to sleep. Is that the cost of being famous? No, it shouldn’t be. VAs don’t have to come to cons to meet their fans, but they want to because it makes them happy to see their fans happy.
But really, you don’t need to see the behind the scenes thing to still respect voice actors at a convention as fellow humans who are making the world a little brighter with their voices.
So, volunteer staff, be kind to your VA guests, even if they are jerks. Because most of the time, they are stressed out and tired and you happen to be the only one they can be jerks too (they can’t be mean to their fans, ever). But do your best for them and they will do their best for you.
And fans of voice actors, both English and Japanese, it’s awesome to be excited over their voices and express your appreciation and love of their work, but remember to do so respectfully and kindly. Keep your wits about you and always smile; because that’s the best way to express your happiness far more than anything else.