So you want to volunteer at San Diego Comic-Con? First of all, thank you! Volunteers are often said to be the backbone of Comic-Con. It takes a lot of time and effort to organize a convention, especially one as big as SDCC. Without volunteers, we wouldn’t know where the end of a line is, if a line is capped, or which gate to use. And let’s be honest: picking up books, bags and thongs would become the lord of the flies.
You must have what it takes to volunteer at Comic-Con, but what is it? Strength? Tenacity? The ability to sleep on concrete at night? An almost fanatical devotion to the Pope (not to mention those pretty red uniforms)? Not quite, but if you want to get the most out of your volunteer experience, here are some tips and tricks to help you.
Volunteer sign-up is a lot like attendee sign-up – Those who volunteered the previous year and were invited back (more on that later) get the first tips on volunteering. If you’ve never volunteered before, however, there are certain steps you need to take before you can work at the scam.
List of interests
First, you need to let CCI know you want to volunteer. Each year, the Volunteer Interest List is opened to give those who have not volunteered in the past the opportunity to express their interest. This does not automatically give you a volunteer spot; it is simply a matter of telling CCI that you are interested in volunteering. The list usually fills up pretty quickly, so the sooner you fill it up, the better. For San Diego Comic-Con 2022, this one is currently closed (but if you’ve already registered, see First-Time Volunteers below).
Just because you volunteered one year does not mean you will be allowed to volunteer every other year. There are senior volunteers, or in some cases, CCI staff members, who oversee each volunteer position and evaluate volunteers based on their work. If a volunteer does not do well, they are not invited back. On the other hand, if a volunteer does a particularly good job, they are invited to participate in more detail.
Returning the volunteer registration is quite simple. Volunteers will receive an email from CCI notifying them that returning volunteer registration is open.
Note: It’s always a good idea to check your email preferences to make sure you receive emails from CCI and they don’t end up in a junk/spam folder!
Once returning volunteer registration is open, it’s a lot like buying an SDCC participant badge. In the Member Login Portal, you’ll find a “Daily Volunteers” option that scrolls down to “Comic-Con 20XX Daily Volunteer Signup.” Follow the link to complete and submit a volunteer form.
CCI typically keeps returning volunteer registration open for several weeks, and there are more spots than volunteers, so there is no rush to fill out the form as soon as it opens. That being said, when it comes to SDCC, sooner is always better than later.
Keep in mind that you don’t yet choose when or where you volunteer; this will happen during SDCC.
Another side note: if you’re a San Diego resident or are settling in early, you have the option of volunteering earlier in the week to help you settle in. This gives volunteers first-hand experience with what it takes to put on SDCC.
First time volunteers
The process for new volunteers is pretty much the same as for returning volunteers with one notable difference: it’s much more competitive. When CCI opens volunteer registration for the interest list, they fill the remaining spots from returning volunteers. Usually this means the opposite of registering returning volunteers – Now there are more interested volunteers than open spots.
As with returning volunteer registration, CCI will send an email to those on the interest list to let them know when volunteer registration is open (again, it’s a good idea to check these settings mail!).
As of May 31, 2022, daily volunteer registration is open.
Much like returning volunteer registration, daily volunteer registration (those on the interest list) is much like purchasing an SDCC participant badge. In the Member Login Portal, you’ll find a “Daily Volunteers” option that scrolls down to “Comic-Con 20XX Daily Volunteer Signup.” Follow the link to complete and submit a volunteer form.
Unlike returning volunteer registration, volunteer spots fill up quickly, so the sooner you fill out the form, the better. In years past, registrations filled up in less than a minute. Others, it may take a few days. Either way, interest list volunteers don’t have the luxury of time that returning volunteers have enjoyed.
Just like returning volunteer registration, this does not get you a volunteer assignment. This will happen during SDCC. Much like returning volunteer sign-up, you will have the option to volunteer earlier in the week to help with the set-up.
OK, you’re on the list, ready to volunteer, but now what? Now you can make the volunteer experience whatever you want it to be.
A week or two before SDCC, CCI will email volunteer documents to fill out, sign and bring with you to check-in (do you check your email preferences?).
Now you need your homework. This is also where you will receive your volunteer badge. CCI is very generous in its volunteering policy in that volunteers can choose the day they want to volunteer, if applicable. There are no consequences if you do not register for an assignment, other than not participating in returning volunteer registration next year. You will still need to sign up for the interest list and wait for the daily volunteer sign-up if you want to try again.
To obtain your mission, you will register at the volunteer counters. They were located at the Marriott in 2019, but that may change. Assignments are assigned in four-hour increments and on a first-come, first-served basis. So, the earlier you arrive, the better the selection of assignments. Volunteer registration will open around 7:00 a.m. each day, so be sure to line up early (it’s Comic-Con; of course, there’s a line). Once the registration process is complete, you will have your badge and assignment.
Your volunteer badge is valid for whatever day you decide to volunteer, so you can take advantage of the con when you’re off duty.
When it is time to report for your volunteer shift, you will return to Volunteer Registration to meet with your volunteer group and lead volunteer/supervisor. To be on time. Remember that you are graded on your performance and you are late if you are late. I generally rely on the advice my boss gave me in the navy: If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. Do not be late.
You will get a quick overview of your tasks and have the opportunity to ask all your questions. Chances are you’re some sort of crowd control – line manager, door monitor, handing out books, bags and lanyards, etc. Control rooms are usually the first assignments to go, so if that’s your heart’s desire, you want to be in that check-in line early on. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the mission you wanted! You get what you put in, so make the most of it!
CCI provides storage space for your belongings, but as with all things SDCC, you use it at your own risk.
You’ll also receive a “Volunteer in Service” sticker to let everyone know you’re on the job. Your shift will last approximately four hours and you will basically do whatever the person in charge tells you to do during that time. You won’t be asked to do anything you’re not comfortable doing, and someone should be there to ask for help if you need it. Remember that the better you do, the more volunteer opportunities you will have. If your job is just to stand there with a sign that says “The line continues to the left,” be the best person you can be with a sign.
At the end of your shift, you will meet your group, return whatever they gave you that you are not supposed to keep (i.e.: vests, signage, etc.) and wait for the responsible person lets you know you are released. Once your shift is over, your badge is still valid for the rest of the day. Enjoy!
Next day check-in
You can volunteer for as many days as you want, so if you decide one day wasn’t enough, you can check in for the next day starting at 1:00 PM PT on the day you volunteer. For example, if you volunteered on Friday and would like to volunteer again on Saturday, you can check in at the volunteer office any time after 1:00 p.m. on Friday. If you did not volunteer on Friday, you will have to line up and register on Saturday morning.
Volunteering is a great opportunity to not only go to Comic-Con, but also get involved in the inner workings of the convention. There are many reasons we love to volunteer, including:
- The free badge: CCI requires approximately four hours of your time. In return, they give you an SDCC badge valid for the whole day. The only cost is your time.
- People: You will work with people like you who love SDCC and want to be part of it. You will meet great people.
- The t-shirt: Not only do we get a free badge, but we also get a free t-shirt for our efforts. Alright they’re not technically free, since we worked for them, but it’s still a lot.
SDCC could not continue every year without volunteers. So get ready to limit that line and hold that sign high, Volunteer! Needs of the SDCC YOU in order to go well.
By the way, what is this line for? ¯_(ツ)_/¯