The State of ConFusion – a Transparent Update from the Conchair.

Hello the Peoples and Folks of Rising ConFusion 2022!

ConFusion, can we talk? 

My name is Lithie Dubois, and I am the 2022 Conchair. I want to update our community and be as transparent as possible with you. This may be long, but if you are a community member, you will want to read this.

What I share today not only affects the 2022 event, but future ConFusion’s. The bottom of this lengthy message has a Truth and a Plea, sort of like a tl;dr.

First – are we still holding an in-person event? Absolutely. On January 20, 2022 – myself and my team will begin the task of packing in ConFusion gear to the SHeraton Detroit Novi, and setting up.  

The entire ConCom is deeply aware of the current state of this pandemic, and the Omicron Wave. We understand our community’s concerns, and even their disbelief in the fact  that we’re holding an in-person ConFusion. We share in the community’s concerns and fears, as well as their hopes.

Truth is, we have a contract with our hotel. That contract does have what is called an Impossibility Clause. The short explanation of that is as follows; Should the government, be it Federal, State or Local impose orders or regulations which would prohibit us, or the Sheraton from being able to have, or provide what is needed for the event – then we’d be released from the contract with no penalties.  Unfortunately, as of today (Jan 7th, 2022) no such regulations or orders are in place at any level. Thus the Impossibility Clause does not apply. 

When myself and our Hotel Liaison, Brian, began the arduous process of securing a contract for 2022 – I am not exaggerating when I say it took months and months. This was not because of issues in getting a contract. The Sheraton has been working with us as much as possible. However, just as we worked to get the best contract for ConFusion in the face of a pandemic possibly(at that time) still being present, the Sheraton also worked to ensure the contract was favorable for them. The negotiation was lengthy, and I am proud to say that the contract we finally signed was extremely favorable to us, and fair to the Sheraton.

If you don’t know, it is not uncommon in a contract for an event like ours, that the event agrees they will meet certain criteria. For small cons, it is not uncommon that the agreed upon event spaces (programming rooms) and any other items, are contingent upon the Event agreeing to fill a specific number of rooms in the hotel. In fact it is not uncommon for these contracts to state the event agrees to fill 90-95% of the hotel rooms, or the event will cover the cost of those rooms.  We negotiated 80%. That is incredible. We negotiated down the cost for using the programming spaces, to a bare minimum. The meeting/conference rooms we use are not free. But, we definitely got a lower, fair cost for the use of those spaces.

We also were able to negotiate a small Banquet Services agreement. Often a hotel will require you to use their banquet services for food/beverage as part of the contract. Our Banquet Service charges are not large at all.

I want to be clear, in now way has our Hotel been hard to work with, or difficult. They, like ConFusion, have to cover costs. 

The Impossibility Clause did not used to be a standard thing. Not ones based on situations like many found themselves in during 2020, as this pandemic started. If the government shuts down gatherings and events, can a hotel still charge the attrition rates and fees to a scheduled event that by law can not fulfill the contract? Can an event decide to sue because the Hotel could not by law fulfill the contract?  It was a mess. So the advent of an Impossibility clause was necessary. And yet, in a contract, if the agreed upon terms are not met, (The government does not regulate a shut down/lockdown) then neither party can enact the clause.

That is precisely where we find ourselves at, as ConFusion. The likelihood of a regulation shutting us down is so very small.

Could we cancel the event outright? Legally, yes. Financially – absolutely not. Make no mistake, ConFusion Community – this con and community does not have $80k, – $90k dollars to pay out the entire contract.

In fact, prior to the pandemic, ConFusion was a con that did not make any money on an event. Membership has shrunk every year, prior to any pandemic. Membership costs have barely, if at all risen to cover the increased costs for running a con. In 2020, which I was also Chair, we were able to cover our event costs for the 2020 ConFusion. We made no extra monies.

Many in the community may not realize,we don’t just have to pay for costs associated with the physical Con we hold, but there are annual costs, over $5000.00 to be precise, just to keep the legal doors open. Storage of possessions, legal fees for staying legal with the state, etc. Website and hosting fees, Banking fees, paypal fees, etc. There is an entire set of bills associated with AASFA and ConFusion that most never even think about. So when you purchase your membership, it not only pays for the physical event costs, but the annual costs. This is why there has been a no refund policy. 

ConFusion is not a con that spends a great deal of money on their physical event. We don’t have fancy banners. We don’t buy shirts for staff. We don’t hand out swag. Every dollar we take in, goes into the things our members need and require to be at, attend, present and enjoy the con. We keep costs as low as possible, so your membership cost is low. Our goal is to pay for that year’s events, plus make just enough to cover the annual costs. That’s it. ConFusion has never been in this to make money.

This is as real as I can be with you regarding the basic, simplified overview of what we face financially and what we take in.

We do know there is a pandemic, and the numbers of positive cases are insanely rising. We absolutely understand that some of our community can not or will not attend. We totally support you in that choice. We understand it. When we negotiated our contract, back then, it appeared the pandemic was going downwards…vaccines were becoming available and for a time, there was hope. So we contracted to hold Rising ConFusion 2022. 

So yes, dear, wonderful people of ConFusion – we are holding an in person event. 

As we began the planning process, the battle cry of “COVID-19 and Safety” was prevalent amongst the ConCom. We spent hours discussing every teeny tiny aspect of our event, and how to ensure better safety. How to mitigate risks. Then – Omicron Variant. 

When I tell you that what was once “We need to be aware and be careful” switched to “OKAY, shit got real. How do we do it now?” I am not joking or being dramatic. I could write a novel length edition of how the many, many conversations went as we kept planning. To that end, we have changes at this in-person event you need to be aware of. 

The first change is to membership. You must, mask up, AND  show your legal ID, plus your proof of COVID-19 Vaccination, OR Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test in order to be given membership at Rising ConFusion. For full details on the requirements visit our COVID-19 Policies.  If you arrive and do not have, or refuse to provide the required documentation, we will not allow you membership (a badge) or to be in our event spaces. Period.

We changed programming, or at least where it is and how it is being handled. Yes, Presenters will wear masks. We all will be. We are providing clear masks for presenters, for accessibility purposes.  We radically decided to shift most of the scheduled programming out of the smaller, 2nd floor conference rooms, down to the large 1st floor spaces.  Then we mapped out every chair placement so each chair is distanced away from the others. Presenter Tables are further back from the audience.  Panels that used to provide coffee and cookies in them have been switched to limited seating Meet & Greets. We’ve tried to schedule things to leave time for us as ConCom to go in and clean down presenter tables between panels.

We went digital with the schedule. Between the Digital sign boards outside of each programming space, displaying that room’s daily schedule, and our use of the (This will be on the website soon!) to display the full schedule, we cut down on the many many paper schedules that were often lying about, and being touched by many hands. (plus less printing charges, yay!)

We changed Consuite: Yes, there is still a consuite, no, it won’t be like past consuites. We are not serving meals. Everything we do serve is individually wrapped. We’re providing biodegradable, eco-friendly bags that you can use to come in and Grab-n-Go without dropping items on the ground, tables, etc.

We provided our community the opportunity to share, online via our form, their Proof of Vaccination in advance to help speed up their Registration Desk time. That form is HERE. It’s optional, but available until Jan 18, 2022.

Many details about every change will be in the program book you receive. I ask you to read through it, and more importantly to not assume things will be like they have been in the past. We’ve done our best to make changes to help mitigate risk, and I’m asking every member to please help us help one another, and read the program book when you receive it, so you are aware. Together we can do this.

As a person who has been involved for many many years running not only fan events, but corporate ones, I can say that I have never had to push my team so hard, so fast, and ask for so many pivots than I have had to do this year. There are countless members of my ConCom that have put in hours of work, while always knowing that they themselves can not attend Rising ConFusion. These individuals helped carry the weight and stress of trying our best to do this the safest way we can, while knowing they’d not even be present to reap the benefits. Then there are those members of the Concom who are able to attend, and have also put in countless hours and brain cells to their departments needs. They’re all STILL working at breakneck speeds.  They are each amazing. While the community may not have witnessed all they have faced, I have.  Truly our community is blessed because of these individuals. Truly.

Now, a truth and plea.

Truth: Rising ConFusion faces financial strains the likes of which previous ConFusion events have not faced. We’re NOT going to fill our room block requirement, despite that brilliant 80% we negotiated. We definitely understand why, but that won’t alleviate the massive financial strains it will place on this event – and very probably any future event. I don’t know if ConFusion will survive this. 

Plea: We don’t typically ask for donations. We’d rather our community purchase memberships, and we put the funds right back into the community. For 2 years there has been no community income. There have been expenses though, and for 2022’s ConFusion I started with a zero dollar budget. We could only spend what we actively brought in. Obviously membership numbers are way low, and that means income is low. Low Low.

How can you help? There are two ways you can help, even if you are not attending the in-person event:

1) You could purchase a membership – and then not attend. This option will not provide you anything other then the knowledge that you did your best to ensure ConFusion lives on, by supporting the con with your membership. To be clear, we will not be rolling over memberships. If you elect to pre-register a membership and then not attend, that membership will not roll over to 2023, and expires at the end of the 2022 con. 

2) You can directly donate to our cost via our Paypal Donation Link. I apologize that we have no nifty swag to send you for a donation. But truthfully, we’d not ask if we had money.  You will have our unending gratitude, and a pride in the knowledge that you helped our community – a community that you belong to.

On a final note: It is difficult to be so openly blunt with our community like this. Every community member wants and hopes for brighter, happier messaging. That being said, I am not good at lying. I needed to tell you that we’re in deep. That if we do not cover the financial needs for this 2022 event there may never be another ConFusion.

No Con ever belongs solely to that year’s Chair. It is a community’s con. I can say that for my part, I am working continually with our ConCom to ensure we do as much as we must, for safety, for contractual obligations and for financial needs, without doing anything overboard. Any monies donated won’t suddenly go to frivolous things. The 2022 event will use donated funds to pay for it’s expenses, then the rest go directly to the AASFA accounts to cover annual expenses, and then be saved for future events. 

So – we’re having an in-person con. You can still book a room and pre-register to attend, until Jan 10th. After that, we will sell at-the-door badges. (COVID-19 Policies apply)

After a recuperation period once our event ends, I’ll come back and share with you how things turned out.

For now – I hope it is okay that I’ve come to this community and put words to truths you may have been previously unaware of. Thank you for listening. Thank you for being a light that has guided myself and our ConCom to keep pushing forward through dark times.

And most of all, Stay Safe, Stay Strong, and Stay Healthy!

Lithie Dubois – she/her

Rising ConFusion 2022 Chair