The first time I volunteered at a convention, I did it more or less on a whim. I was at Torcon 3, the second Worldcon I'd ever attended, pondering how remarkable it was that such a giant event was being run and staffed by unpaid volunteers. Seized by something that was partly a desire to contribute and partly sheer curiosity to see who these people were and how they worked, I found my way to Con Ops and said, "Hi. I can fetch and carry and touch type pretty well. Do you need a hand?"
I was welcomed instantly. I put my typing skills to work for a bit, typing some corrections to the program schedule. Then I spent some time going around to panel rooms giving the "5 minute warning" and "time's up" signals to panelists. It wasn't complicated work, but I went back to the rest of my convention with a sense of satisfaction at having done a tiny bit to help make the convention happen.
Ever since then, I try to make a point to volunteer every so often at a convention. Why volunteer? Partly, I do it because I think fan-run conventions are a special kind of event, very different from professionally run for-profit events, and volunteering is one way that I can help ensure that they continue. More selfishly, I do it because it's a great way to meet people and find out about what's going on at the convention. If I go to a convention where I don't know many people, spending a few hours volunteering is a great way to come out with a few new friends and the lowdown on where the most exciting parties are happening.
Of course, the culmination of my convention volunteering has been FOGcon. I joined the Concom for FOGcon 2, and have filled a variety of roles over the last few conventions: Consuite, Student Writing Contest Coordinator, and Publications, among others. At present, I am Vice-Chair of FOGcon 4, which mostly means doing whatever needs to be done that isn't being done by someone else.
In addition to my Concom duties, I've also taken a turn at doing just about every volunteer job at FOGcon. Volunteering at FOGcon doesn't have to take a lot of time - one task that we can always use volunteers for is going around to programming rooms during each program slot and counting the attendance at each panel. It only takes 5 minutes, but it's information that really helps us in planning future programming.
If you're interested in putting in a little more time volunteering, you can always take a shift at the Registration desk, welcoming people to the convention and helping them buy memberships and get their registration packets. Or you can volunteer in the consuite. Take a shift in the morning, and you'll be the instant best friend of every coffee drinker at the con -- as long as you don't let the coffee pot run dry! Or take a shift late at night. Some of the best conversations at FOGcon happen in the consuite after formal programming is done for the day. Volunteering in childcare gives you a chance to hang out with the future of fandom.
We usually have a few other tasks that need doing as well, so if none of the above appeals to you, but you'd still like to contribute, get in touch. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if you like to do things on the spur of the moment, find a Concom member at FOGcon and ask them if they need a hand!
Wendy Shaffer is Vice Chair of FOGcon 2014. She is also the database wizard whisperer.