Wednesday, June 28, 2006

GA, NameBadges, and Change

It was by all accounts a great GA, but it was marred for some people because of that great demon, change. The change was that this year one needed to pay for a name badge to get in to all GA events except the Service of the Living tradition and the Sunday Service. In previous years, you could go to the exhibit hall and the Ware lecture without paying a registration fee. And because of past accusations of inconsistency in applying the nametag rules, in an apparently racist manner (white youth allowed to come to youth events without nametags but youth of color turned away...a painful story) the ushers were instructed to be absolutists on this matter. So some people who had left their name tags in their rooms were turned away from events.

Stories, furies, and disappointments were therefore a part of the GA experience of many. I turned my minister's badge over on my chest and rushed the ushers to get into the exhibit hall, I must confess, and I got away with it. In gratitude I spent a lot of money on books. But not everyone was so brazen or so lucky.

I'm with the planning committee on this one; we're too big to not require name badges, and consistency of enforcement is a good thing. I have just three little thoughts about polishing up next year's implementation. They are probably good general rules for making changes in general.

First, Publicize, publicize, publicize!

Change being hard and humans, even UU humans being dense, more publicity of the "We Really Mean This" aspect of name badge change needs to be a part of the registration experience, including the minister's registration experience. We ministers have been long accustomed to going to Ministry days and tucking ourselves in to the exhibit hall (to spend money) and going to a few early events without registering. If that's no longer going to be possible, that's fine (it may not be fine with the exhibitors, but that's another problem.) And we will all catch on eventually, but it will help with compliance if ministers (and everyone else) are told about this when they decide on registration. Not once, but three times. AND IN BOLD

Second, Take Human Failings Into Account

Because even UU's do silly things like leave their nametags in their rooms, there needs to be a publicized way for persons to slink into an office, confess their sin, and get a pass into the next event. Human nature being what it is, that's the only way to keep tender hearted ushers from unpleasant encounters and to keep at bay the human propensity to try to get favors through one's connections (a propensity that does not need to be confused with racism, as we seem to insist on doing.) If I forget my name badge and get to the Ware lecture without it, I'm sent to a corner to appeal to the head usher, who has a registration list to compare with the picture ID I will present, and will then escort me in. (And you can bet that tomorrow I remember my name badge.)

Third, You Can't Have Change without Changes.

I could rush the ushers at the doors of the exhibit hall not only because I worked to confuse them, but because they were trying to do the impossible; watch people's entry and exit in an uncontrolled space. If you are serious about checking name badges, you need to have entry-only and exit-only doors, you need roped-off lanes so that every person has to pass muster singly, and you need a sign that says, "Please show us your GA Badge!" All this can be done with efficiency and good humor; just go to Disneyland or your nearest airport for lessons. But as one with a soft spot for volunteers, I would also add that very difficult events such as, perhaps, youth evening parties which have a history of being crashed by outsiders probably need paid security.


Chalicechick said...

I'd suggest issuing a wallet-sized card with every name badge, instructing people to put it in their wallet.

You forget your badge, pull out the card.

You forget both, back to the hotel.

former event planner

Jess said...

I agree with almost everything you've said, except that I think it is a crying shame that you have to be registered to go into the exhibit hall. I wonder how the vendors felt about that and if their sales numbers were affected.

I also wonder about a tiered registration, where one can pay for just the "Big" events - the Ware, Opening and Closing, and the exhibit hall if they want to continue to screen that. We had a newly fellowshipped minister friend and his very pregnant wife dramatically thrown out of the Ware lecture this year for not having badges, when last year anyone could go. There are many ministers' spouses, especially, who come to GA to support their partners but don't want to do workshops - it seems there could be a mini-registration for such a contingency.

Christine Robinson said...

Those are both good ideas. If you didn't think of them in time to put them in your evaluation, there's an on line version at the GA website.

LaReinaCobre said...

When I was at GA in Long Beach, I had to show my badge every single time I attempted to enter the exhibition hall, and it was always around my neck! The door folks would make me flip it around or hold it out to them. So I am really confused that you are saying this is the first GA that name tags have needed to be shown before entering the exhibit hall.

The only thing I can think is that possibly in GA, there were some rooms down the hall from the exhibit hall?

boyinthebands said...

I've not been to a GA since Boston and also recall having to show ID at the Exhibit Hall in the past. But they're usually staffed by convention-center related security, and not GA staff.

Yes, everyone entering the Exhibit Hall should be registered, even if a free EH-only badge. Yes, your info may (I think should, if we're talking about making GA pay) be sold and you will be counted for numbers, making GA a better attraction for exhibitors, who we should recognize pay for a big portion of GA.

Anyone who goes to conventions knows about badges, and those who don't can be taught. Attending without paying isn't fair to those who do, and in time I suspect it will be a universally respected practice.

But since I'm unlikely to go to another GA, y'all will have to tell me about it.

Christine Robinson said...

Interesting different experiences we all have. When did the change to a closed GA happen, I wonder? I'm sure I've never been asked to show my nametag. This is the first year I've not registered for GA, and I always wear my nametag and have an official look about me. But the notion that name tags were being demanded of some and not all makes me queesy. (What I remember of Boston is that we were not allowed to bring backpacks or even large purses to the Sunday morning service, and the security guys who eyed the crowd like hawks from their elevated perches. But that's a different story.)

Turtle Mountain said...

This is one of the few advantages to being an obsessive cumpolsive. You notice I always wear my name tag at church, and take it home with me lest someone steal it to commence major identity theft,

Anonymous said...

The idea of a rope-and-stanchions entrance-exit line division is a good one.

Also the idea of including something in Ministry Days information about the need for GA registration. There was a lot of stress on name tags in the general pre-mailing and in the Program, but not in anything particularly targeted to ministers. A good learning for next year.

Ditto the idea of one person with a master list of registrants sitting in a room or corner somewhere able to issue a one-event pass upon presentation of ID. We can't do the double badge- plus-identity-card because someone could then give away one of the two to an unregistered party. (It would be nice to think that UU's wouldn't do this, but alas, experience tells us that some do try to get a free ride every year.)

I hope folks will send in various suggestions on the GA evaluation forms, or to the GA office.

Beth McGregor
GA Planning Committee

Christine Robinson said...

Thanks for commenting, Beth, and for all the work of the Planning Committee.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.