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Doomed Convention: A Lesson in Prepping Volunteers

Long waits at registration, undelivered items to booths, safety and security lapses, and other mishaps were partly the result of one event's over-reliance on free help.

After one year as a meet-and-greet event with dozens of authors and several hundred attendees, the Readers Take Denver event morphed into a full-fledged convention across four days in April 2024. Unfortunately, the growing pains were so severe that the event has been widely panned on social media by attendees—and the 2025 event has already been canceled.

Held at the Gaylord Rockies Resort in the Denver suburb of Aurora, this year’s Readers Take Denver drew 3,000 attendees to meet hundreds of authors, editors, and agents; attend seminars and panel discussions; and mingle with each other. But the significantly expanded event became a morass of confusion and frustration for participants right from the outset, according to several media outlets.

An article on noted that the event’s organizers had promised that attendees would never wait in line at the show; timed entrances to the show floor would allow attendees to chat casually with authors and editors. However, the registration line became a three-hour wait as volunteers attempted to handle the volume, and many attendees did not get into the show for their full time slot.

In addition, volunteers were seen sorting stacks of boxes with books and merchandise to deliver to authors’ booths, but many authors never received enough of those items to sign for attendees. Attendees and authors alike also said that theft of books and merchandise was a problem.

Besides security lapses, a few safety issues popped up that attendees say were handled poorly by volunteer staffers. Two examples cited by the New York Post: a waiting area became so crowded that when the doors opened, one person was knocked to the ground and struck her head. Meanwhile, another attendee reported she was yelled at by a volunteer worker when she became hypoglycemic and fell to the floor during a session.

The Bookstr article noted that “for $300 a ticket, many attendees were surprised that it was unpaid volunteers doing so much of the work.”

Event organizer Lisa Renee Jones said afterwards that “if we had time to set up properly, had we had all the tables that we were supposed to have, things would have gone much smoother.”

“Should we have done electronic registration for this year? Yes,” she added. “But we were nervous because we didn’t have time to fully develop an app, and we wanted it to be perfect.”

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