So You Wanna Be a Con Marshal…

With the con season about to start, calls for volunteer marshals have been put up by every major local con and some overseas cons on the side. Applications usually pour in in the hundreds — after all, who doesn’t want to be on the inside, behind the velvet rope, backstage at the gig, etc.?

So You Wanna Be a Con Marshal...

However, being a marshal is not all fun and games — so before you send in that application form, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Be prepared for pain.

Being a marshal means being on your feet for hours and screaming yourself hoarse. It also means practically little to no food or water plus minimal bathroom breaks. While many organizers try to make things a bit easier on their marshals but scheduling shift breaks and rotating staff rosters, sometimes things just don’t go according to plan, and it is up to the marshals to pull together to keep things moving while the head organizers put out the major fires.

Be prepared for trouble.

The crowds will suck. There is something about being in huge groups that brings out the worst in people — normally quiet and polite anime fans and cosplayers will become unruly and boorish on a crowded con floor. You will be jeered. You will be insulted. You will even be outright attacked for doing your job (remember to call security when this happens!). However, you have to learn to suck it up, smile politely, and diffuse a tense situation before it gets out of hand.

Be prepared to pay for your own expenses.

Although many cons give volunteer marshals a food and trasnport allowance (and maybe a little swag on the side), sometimes it’s not enough to cover everything. For example, lunch and midafternoon snacks may be paid for, but not those six or seven bottles of water you consumed running around the con floor all day. And if you drove to the con, gas and parking may not be covered either. Some (or all, if you’re lucky and the organizers are really good at their jobs) expenses may be reimbursed, but it’s safer to assume that out of pocket expenses will not be returned.

Be prepared to give up cosplay.

While some cons allow their marshals to cosplay during their shifts, it is not advisable to do so. Not only will it be uncomfortable to do your job as a marshal (whether it is contest registration or crowd control), but your attention will be divided between your assigned task and your costume (especially if you decided to don a rubber sheet costume or a fur suit). Also, it is inevitable that people will ask you to be in a photo with them, and that will detract further from the attention you should be putting into your job.

Be prepared for an experience.

All those things aside, volunteering for a con is a great experience and I recommend die-hard anime fans to give it a try. Not only do you get up close and personal with some of the event’s special guests and performers, you will also get to meet industry insiders — people who make things happen, and could also help make things happen for you. You will gain personal, first-hand insight on how to run a con — in case putting up your own on was on your bucket list. Last but not least, you make friends with fellow marshals, and friendships forged in the heat of battle will stand the test of time.

Volunteer marshals are the often-overlooked backbone of many cons; without them many cons would’ve been doomed from the start. And they don’t get a lot of credit for all the hard work they put it, so we at would like to thank all fellow marshals — past, present, and future, for all the hard work they’ve put in. Thanks for doing it for the love, and not the money — we salute you!

One Comment Add yours

  1. says:

    I just got to read this. Yes to all of this. I was able to experience being a Toycon marshal for that memorable weekend last year. Fun yet super tiring. 🙂


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