Friday, March 17, 2017

Guide to Cosplayer Gatherings and Fan Meetups

I recently volunteered to organize a schedule for cosplay gatherings and fan meetings for a new convention coming up this summer, and after I wrote up the form and the spreadsheet, I decided to make a guide for people who are unfamiliar with gatherings and meetups as well as those who want to host one. The terminology used here is my own and may be different depending on the convention; this blog post is based on my own experience participating in and running gatherings, and contains some general information on how such events might work.

What's the difference between a Cosplay Gathering and a Fan Meetup?

A cosplay gathering is a get-together of cosplayers from a particular series or theme. A fan meetup is a general meeting of people who are interested in a series or theme, regardless of whether or not they cosplay. The theme can be as general or as specific as you want. Here are some examples:

  • Dragonball Z Cosplay Gathering
  • Fans of Fighting Games
  • Harley Quinn Cosplayers
  • Lolita Fashion Enthusiasts
  • Pokemon Go Players
  • Cosplayers of Anime Idols

I'm not a cosplayer, can I still attend a Cosplay Gathering to watch and take pictures?

Yes! You can take pictures or watch the cosplayers, but please be sure to not distract them, as their character may be called by the organizer for group photos. If you are looking to take photos of a particular cosplayer, it's best to wait until the organizer has wrapped up and/or the cosplayer is ready to break away for solo shots. If you happen to come across a group of cosplayers during a convention, make sure you find out whether it is a gathering or a private shoot. Cosplayers and their photographers may find it distracting and rude when a passerby stops to snap a picture during a private shoot. At a meetup, always ask first before taking photos. Some meetup attendees may feel self-conscious or may not want their picture taken for privacy reasons.

What is the role of the gathering/meetup organizer?

As organizer of a cosplay gathering, you are responsible for scheduling the event and deciding the location. You should also show up to the location early to welcome spectators; let attendees know in advance what you'll be wearing (or provide a photo) so they know who to look for and talk to. During the event you're in charge of calling out characters for group pictures (ex. "All Harley Quinns for a group photo!") and keeping track of how much time they have before they break for another group to come in. Taking photos typically lasts no longer than a minute or two--when it's time to wrap up, count down, "5! 4! 3! 2! 1!..." and be ready to call the next group.

For fan meetups, the activities are up to you--you can have a fun game planned, take selfies, or just let everyone chat. Don't feel alarmed or upset if people may not want to do what you have planned--the most important thing is that everyone attending is having a good time. But if you really want something to happen, make your plans known in advance so that people know what to expect.

If you are hosting a gathering or meetup for the first time, consider themes where 20 or less people are to be expected, or have someone be a co-organizer with you, as large groups can be overwhelming to manage. You should also be good at being a leader and projecting your voice so that the group knows that you are in charge. And most importantly, be polite! Don't be too controlling or bossy with directions and after the gathering/meetup has wrapped up, be sure to thank everyone for attending!

I've seen "unofficial" and "official" gatherings. What's the difference?

"Official" gatherings are usually those that are published in the convention schedule or sponsored by a company, while "unofficial" gatherings are not. Official gatherings take place in spaces designated by the convention and may or may not be managed by a staff member. If a staff member has been appointed for an official gathering space, all members (including the organizer) should listen to them for any directions. When submitting a gathering idea to a convention, always read their instructions carefully!

"Unofficial" gatherings are those organized privately and take place in locations other than convention-appointed spots. You usually won't see unofficial gatherings published in the convention's program guide, but may find them posted in the forums or on Facebook. While unofficial gatherings may not get the same attention, it does have its advantages, such as a longer amount of time in a location not claimed by other organizers, potentially smaller groups, and no having to contact staff if you need to relocate, change time, or cancel. It's highly discouraged that unofficial gatherings take place in official spots unless there is an opening in the schedule and permission is granted by staff. All gatherings taking place on convention grounds, official or unofficial, are subject to the same weapon policies, dress code, and other official con regulations.

How do I find people to attend my gathering/meetup?

Creating a Facebook event page and sharing across social media is a great way to get people to attend your gathering! You can track how many people plan to attend and how many people are interested, and it's also a good way to get new information out to everyone at once. Don't worry if the number of people who RSVP is low--sometimes people don't want to fully commit to attending but will still attend when the time comes, or may not want to imply that they are attending as a cosplayer but may want to take pictures.

What do I do if I have extra time left during the gathering/meetup?

Sometimes photography at cosplay gatherings wraps up early when all members have been photographed. If you're an organizer, ask your group if anyone has any other photo requests, such as for popular couples, certain poses, or retakes in case some cosplayers have arrived late and missed their turn the first time. (If you're an attendee, let the organizer know if you have a request.) Organizers can also wrap up activities early and allow people to mingle freely, but make sure everyone clears out before the next group comes in!

This guide will be updated to address other common concerns as I think of them. If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment below!

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