The Toastmaster Returns From Penguicon

I haven't done a proper convention report in years, and I see no point in breaking that streak now. Still, I'm back from Penguicon and there is something I'd like to relate.

Howard Tayler, Penguicon 9.0 Toastmaster, Photo by John ScalziThis year I did something completely new and different, both for me and for the event -- I was the Toastmaster. Instead of hanging out at my booth and doing panels, I dressed to the nines and took responsibility for emceeing a few events. Opening Ceremonies, The Roast, the M.C. Frontalot Concert, the Masquerade, and the Child's Play Charity Auction all saw me dressed in a tuxedo. For the closing ceremonies my tux was already packed, because I was bound very shortly for the airport.

The result? I was highly visible to a small subset of the folks at the show (including John Scalzi, who took the photo to the right), and I offloaded a huge burden from a group of people in ConCom for whom public speaking is something to be avoided. I poured quite a bit of energy into my performances in order to ensure that these events were tightly-paced and upbeat (not that Mr. Frontalot needed any help in that regard) and through it all I had a fantastic time.

The other result is that a lot of people who expected to see me at my booth couldn't find me. I spent a little time there, but not nearly as much as I have in years past.  This in turn meant that I didn't sell as much stuff as usual (around 55% of last year), which means the show wasn't a big moneymaker for me. This, however, is exactly what I signed up for.

The job of "Toastmaster" is less a "Guest of Honor" gig, and more of a last-minute promotion to ConCom. It's a service to the attendees and the event. It's something that I felt Penguicon could benefit from, and which I could learn from.

I like learning things.

If I didn't learn anything else, I learned that I probably have about one Toastmaster gig in me per year, no more. I might be able to emcee a masquerade or two beyond that, but whew! I'm exhausted. Also, I miss sitting at my booth sketching in books and capturing the sweet, sweet custom of my many wealthy, intelligent, taste-making patrons. That's exhausting too, but in a different way. A way in which at the end of the day I can collapse in a heap onto a pile of  crinkly-soft, greenish-grey, oh-so-filthy lucre.

But I have no regrets. If I were in this for the money, I'd be in something else instead.