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Creating safe conventions

Actionable steps for Convention Staff and Organizers

Looking out over a crowded exhibitor hall

As a convention organizer, creating a safe and welcoming community at your event is critical. Here are some suggestions for how your event can be as safe and welcoming as possible.

Codes of conduct and harassment policies

  • Make the code of conduct clear, readable, and easy to understand.
  • Ideally, attendees should have access to the code of conduct on your website, as well as physically at the convention center.
  • Include zero tolerance harassment policies- make it clear to attendees that such behavior will not be tolerated. This way, attendees can go into the con feeling assured and safe that the con will not accept such behavior.
  • Include guidelines for being respectful of other attendees i.e. respect choices of attire, respect boundaries (like photographs and hugging).
  • Establish that the convention is an inclusive space for people of all genders, races, ethnicities, cultures, abilities, sexualities.

Reporting harassment

  • Have a hotline, but do not stop there! Provide a variety of ways to report harassment- in person, over the phone, via email, or anonymously on your site.
  • Have staff immediately available to respond to potential harassment issues. Ideally staff are wearing a shirt, vest, or badge that makes them easy to identify from a distance.
  • Ensure all staff and volunteers are trained to respond and know when to escalate. This includes people working the event who are not directly working for your organization (ex: Security staff, Convention center staff).
  • Follow through on policies and the code of conduct- respond, and quickly, by following the steps outlined in your code of conduct. Put together an incident response plan before you have an incident to respond to.

Gender inclusivity

  • Have clearly marked all-gender bathrooms. If the venue does not already have them, add signs designating the bathrooms as gender neutral before the con begins and ensure gender neutral restrooms are clearly marked on physical and digital maps provided to attendees.
  • Make the language in con materials gender inclusive to create a welcoming and safe environment for people of all genders.
  • Provide ways for attendees to share their pronouns. You could have pronoun ribbons or stickers at registration or designate a blank spot of the badge for attendees to write their pronouns.

Accessibility

  • A comprehensive accessibility plan needs to include asking attendees in advance what accommodations they need and creating the budget, infrastructure, and polices to make it a reality.
  • Use a venue that is accessible to people of all abilities- for example, will there be stairs? If so, will there be elevators with full access to convention space? Think about the surrounding area, the hotel where people are staying, the surrounding area where people will get food.
  • Ensure programming is accessible. Include interpreters in your budget. Include a designated section of each mainstage, breakout space, and concert area for accessible seating.
  • Respect service animals — Train staff to look out for attendees mistreating service animals and consider posting signs reminding attendees not to touch service animals.
  • Include a quiet space for attendees to recharge. (Our friends at Take This run AFK rooms that take quiet rooms to the next level).

Programming

  • Make sure programming is sensitive and inclusive, reviewing it through that lens.
  • Consider who is featured in the convention. Will attendees and/or guests feel unsafe because of the inclusion of any of the featured guests?
  • Ensure volunteers at each session understand the code of conduct and have a plan to step in if the code of conduct is violated from the stage. Use attendee feedback to investigate speakers violating the code of conduct and ensure they are not invited back to speak.
  • If possible, explicitly address issues of safety and harassment in programming. Ensure presenters give appropriate content warnings at the beginning of their session.

After the con

  • Survey attendees to see if safety measures were effective!
  • Use feedback to plan for next time
  • Create staff committees dedicated to raising the bar for accessibility, attendee safety, and inclusion at your events.

Further Resources from Uplift

Uplift is dedicated to combating sexual abuse in fandom spaces through education and advocacy. We work to ensure that these flourishing communities are safe for the millions of people who connect through them. Learn more at conresources.org.

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Stories, campaigns, and initiatives by Uplift, a nonprofit dedicated to combatting sexual abuse, emotional manipulation, and other forms of violence in online communities. Submissions are welcome.

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