On “Famous People”
ORD Camp is designed to bring together a bunch of passionate, kind, interesting people who are interested in learning, sharing, and having a good time while doing these things. It is, in a nutshell, a meeting of peers.
There are, however, some people who attend ORD Camp that many of us are familiar with, but that we don’t know. To varying degrees, one might refer to these folks as “famous people.”
Many of us are used to attending events where a certain group of people are the target of our attention–speakers, famous people, etc–but at ORD Camp, all attendees are here as peers. We’re all here at ORD Camp for the same reason: to participate at the same level.
So we just wanted to remind you of a few things to keep in mind when meeting anyone at camp, but especially when meeting someone that you are familiar with, but who does not know you:
- The person you meet is quite possibly not the person you imagine they are. They’re an individual, and just because they’re widely recognized doesn’t mean they’re the exact persona that you’re familiar with from what you’ve seen or heard about them.
- Being instantly recognizable or widely known can be a huge pain in the ass, so keep in mind that they’re here as a participant in the same way that you are. They are not here to work (and for some of them, meeting people/taking photos/signing autographs is part of their work!), so be respectful of their space.
- This certainly applies to everyone at camp, but it’s worth repeating that you should never objectify, touch someone, or take stealth photos of them without their consent.
Finally, if you’re nervous about approaching a Famous Person, relax—we know a fool-proof method that is usually welcome:
- Approach at an appropriate time (e.g. not when they’ve just taken a big bite of oatmeal at breakfast) in the same manner that you would approach anyone else at ORD Camp.
- Glance at their nametag, take note of the three phrases, remember one (e.g. Medieval book binding), make eye contact and say “Hi, my name is _______, it’s a pleasure to meet you, and Medieval book binding sounds fascinating, what got you interested in it?”
- Talk about your appreciation of them/their work later if there’s an opportunity. If you lead off with this, you immediately setup a barrier between them and yourself–they have status, you do not. Most people that they meet want to talk about their work/fandom, so by leading off with something else, you will be a welcome respite in the midst of a sea of people who have all been talking about the same thing. You’ll stand out this way. Now, if someone else brings it up, you are more than welcome to indulge, but you might not want to go there first.
- Later, after they have established you in their brains as another ORD Camper, you can step over to fan. Sign post that you are going to change roles, e.g. “May I take a moment to fan boy at you?”
- Be very specific–and brief–in your compliments. “I liked your book/show/thing” is too vague. “I think you’re one of the best 1st person writers out there. The way you use handle it made me understand what that voice could really do,” is specific.
- Have an exit strategy so that you can step back across into fellow ORD Camper. You can even be blatant: “Thanks for indulging me, I promise I won’t do that again,” and then talk about the next talk you’re going to.
- That’s it! Some people will be chatty, others less so—just like you and everyone else.
Again, the above things really do apply to everyone at ORD Camp, but we thought it was worth putting this document together as a reminder to all of us that there’s no “us” versus “them”… there’s just… “us.”
Thanks for reading–we’re looking forward to seeing you in January!
-The ORD Camp Organizers
PS If you’re haven’t heard of it before, we recommend reading about “Parasocial Interaction.”
PPS Fitz drew much of this from the following essays:
- Chelsea’s Becoming a presence in the software community
- Mary Robinette’s How to be a professional when you want to fangirl
- Mary Robinette’s Conventions and writing, or Schmoozing 101