So, you’re going to be a Guardian. If you’re a returning Guardian, welcome back! If you’re a new Guardian, welcome to the family!
I’ve been a Guardian for 7 years now. It’s a ton of fun, very rewarding, and a LOT of work. And let me tell you, every year is its own beast. Whether you’re a veteran or a new recruit, it’s always a good idea to go over your preparations for RTX.
So, I thought I would bring back my Guardian Guide from last year to help anyone who might need ideas/refreshers on what they can do to prepare for RTX. This particular guide will focus on what can be done right now, and the months/weeks/days leading up to RTX.
In addition to this guide, other veteran Guardians will also likely be making guides. Each one will cover various things, from the basics to the specifics. Those are great resources for new, and returning, Guardians. So, make sure to check those out when you come across them.
1) What you should be doing now
Confirm that you are aware of all official sources of information. The RT site is the primary source for your information. The RT site should be the hub for all official communication. Not Facebook, not Twitter, and not Reddit. There may be instances sometimes when you get news updates from other sources, but they are not a substitute for the RT site.
Check the group often. Be aware of dates, times, schedules, and information as it becomes available. By the time RTX rolls around, you should already have memorized the start/end times for each con day, and the major events of the weekend.
I would also recommend participating in the forum threads in the group. Get to know your fellow Guardians in the fun threads. You should also follow the FAQ thread, since it’s a good source of information and answers.
2) When team assignments are announced
Research your role. Get to know the people you will be working with. There will likely be an official forum thread or group for your team, which your Team Lead will create and manage. Just like with the group, check it often. If your Team Lead introduces any new methods of communication, check those often as well. Soak up all knowledge from your Team Lead and fellow Guardians on your team. Be proactive. If you have a question, ask your Team Lead, or ask in the Guardian FAQ thread. Stay up to date on any meetings or information that your Team Leads put out.
Some time after team assignments are announced, you will be given a more specific post within your team (exact place/job you’ll be working). As RTX nears, you will receive additional information on your specific post. Stay up to date on any changes to your role, and research accordingly.
3) Starting two months before RTX
Research the physical area of where you’ll be working, as best you know. Find floorplans of the place you’ll be assigned to. Floorplans can be found on the websites for the convention center and each hotel. If you don’t know the specifics of your post yet, make an educated guess and adjust your research as information becomes available. Know the location of restrooms, exits, streets, and nearby restaurants/stores.
As soon as you know your place of lodging, map out your path to work. Go to google maps, put in addresses, and have an educated idea of the time it takes to get there (and take into account traffic and the time it takes you to get ready).
The whole idea is to minimize the amount of surprises in your work and travel area. I find that this approach makes me more comfortable moving around my assigned area, and operating as an authority to attendees. Study all this and know it by RTX. Spend a few minutes every week or two looking over this. You won’t be quizzed on this, but you’ll want to have a working knowledge. Not only for yourself, but for attendees and other Guardians.
4) When the schedule is announced
Memorize the schedule. Know the basic events, and know everything that will be taking place in your area. Think about the specific needs of each event/activity you will be working. Ask your Team Leads and co-workers for any information that might be helpful in those specific cases.
It is also a good idea to look at events in other locations that take place around the same time as your events. This comes in handy when anticipating sudden rushes and traffic of attendees. Your area might be empty or slow, but when a big panel lets out, those crowds have to go somewhere. Don’t be caught off guard.
5) In the weeks before RTX
Start eating a little better. Don’t shock your body with new foods or diets though. You don’t want to throw off your system. Just pick the healthier option among what you already regularly eat. Maybe avoid those god tier junk foods you love, and opt for the stuff you already like that might be better for you. You know your own body, so you know what it doesn’t like processing. If there are foods or meals that you love but you know make you worthless and lazy, maybe avoid those leading up to RTX. And this isn’t about dieting or losing weight. You’ll need the energy, so don’t come to Austin starving. It’s about being well fed, just not full of grease. If you can put your body in a healthier and more responsive state pre-RTX, it will make the weekend a little easier.
Make sure to get on a good sleep schedule too, if possible. One day of bad sleep can snowball over a week, and it’s easy to find yourself dragging by the weekend. You don’t want to be operating on a sleep deficit during RTX, so try to get on an RTX schedule before the con.
Hunger and sleepiness can strike hard, even right before RTX even starts. Many times I find myself getting a little less rest and nutrition leading up to RTX. It can due to work, travel, or pure excitement. In each of those instances, it can be easy to lose hours of sleep or to just grab a quick greasy meal. By the time the Thursday before RTX rolls around, it can be easy to find yourself tired and hungry at midday. Such is the nature of cons and travel. And you won’t always be able to eat super healthy at RTX. Time, money, and distance can conspire to force you to eat greasy and unhealthy foods. That’s just the reality for cons, for attendees and volunteers alike. And that’s okay. But that’s why it’s important to stock up on healthy habits before RTX. And remember, like I said, it’s not about dieting or losing weight. It’s about being well fed on healthy foods already in your rotation.
Here’s a cautionary tale for you. At RTX 2015, I made a rookie mistake and went about 23 hours without eating and a whole day with only 4 hours of sleep—and that was by Thursday afternoon before RTX. Any veteran Guardian will tell you that this one of the biggest things to NOT do. Seriously, the first rule of Guardianship is commonly “take care of your body”. I was so disappointed in myself, since it was a stupid thing to do, but it just goes to show you that even for repeat Guardians this hole can be easy to fall into. Bear in mind, this wasn’t due to the demands of the work, but my inability to manage my time.
It might not seem like something to be warned about, but it’s something that can sneak up on you when you’re so excited and dedicated about helping out. It’s just a natural component of volunteering. The best way to combat this, should you need to, is to make sure you’re in a good position beforehand by eating better and getting plenty of rest. Think of it as stocking up on energy and recovery ability. It gives you an extra boost, and provides you with a cushion of recuperation should you need it.
6) In the week before coming to RTX
Make a list of what you’re taking. Make a list of what you’ll be wearing on each day and night. Do all your laundry days ahead of time and, if possible, have your bag packed by the day BEFORE you leave for Austin. And that list of what you’ll be wearing? Pack that too. No joke, waking up and having an outfit already planned out is a godsend. The ability to wake up and seamlessly get ready during RTX gives you so much peace of mind. Also, if you plan to carry a bag during RTX, make sure to have that packed and planned out ahead of time too. If possible, tailor your bag according to what department you will be working in. Different departments have different needs. PA’s might need sharpies and hand sanitizer, Lines/Panels might need counters and pen/paper, and Tech might need a shitload of tech stuff. Ask your Team Lead and fellow Guardians for specifics on what your assignment will call for. Many supplies will be provided, but if you already have access to the appropriate materials, it helps to bring them yourself. Don’t forget to pack snacks and water either. DON’T FORGET TO PACK SNACKS AND WATER.
Don’t overpack your con bag though. We all want to be walking Swiss army knives, but be realistic.
Take stock of your body as well. Do your feet tend to hurt after being on them all day? Pack the comfy shoes or buy some inserts. Do you chafe after walking around a long time? Pack a baby powder for your place of lodging, and pack a tiny one for your con bag. Do industrial air conditioners dry out your eyes? Pack some eye drops. Don’t just plan for situations, plan for your body.
Also, by now, you will likely already know your schedule for that whole week. Once you do, plan out your meal options as best you can. Maybe do some research on the nearest restaurants, menus, and prices. Knowing where you’re getting your meals from and how much they’ll cost can save you an unbelievable amount of time and stress. When you’re in the thick of Guardian work, with the crowds and noise all around you, eliminating any unknowns can be great for your sanity. Not just for the days of the convention, but the Thursday or even Wednesday before (if you’re in town then).
7) In the days before leaving for RTX
Okay, this is where we get a little more…personal. It isn’t a big must have, but I find that it helps psychologically when you get FRESH TO DEATH.
I’m talking about haircuts, nail trims, and grooming (face OR body). I’m talking eyebrows, simple fix problem areas, moisturizing, exfoliating, and shaving. You're not going to prom or about to get married though, so don't show up not ready to get sweaty. You will be exerting yourself, and you won't be able to preen when you want. But basically anything you might do when you have a hot date coming up or if you’re going to a nice party, do that. Take your time, don’t rush. I highly recommend finding some time to decompress and relax by yourself, and utilizing that time to take care of your body.
Why, you ask? For yourself. Have you ever been chilling at home, and had to make an unexpected trip to the grocery store? You’re there, in your comfiest of comfy clothes just watching TV. All of a sudden, you remember you need olive oil for that kick ass dish you’re making later. So you go to the store not looking your best, and try to incognito your way through the checkout. The confidence level is noticeably lower than if you had taken an hour or two getting ready. I realize that we all have different levels of self-esteem, and some of you would probably feel and look fabulous wearing a trash bag. That’s fucking fantastic. But for some of us, there is a measurable amount of confidence and extrovertism that can be gained when we look our best. You carry yourself better, walk straighter, and make more eye contact. It’s all about making yourself feel better. When you look good, you feel good.
Do the same thing for your clothes. The priorities when it comes to Guardian clothes are typically comfort and presentability. You want to be comfortable working all day, and you want to look nice enough for the public to approach you. Feel free to make the best of that. Wear special pants/shorts, shoes, socks, or accessories. It can be nice and trendy, or it can be something that simply says “this is me”. The idea is to wear something that gives you confidence, whether it’s something nice or something that screams your own personal style. The same goes for clothes you can’t see. Don’t trade comfort for style, but if possible, wear some good socks or good underwear. Good underwear is a huge confidence booster. It’s a weapon you should have in your arsenal. Keep in mind, there is a minor dress code for Guardians (approachability, shirt mostly visible on front/back, emphasis on comfort). But if you can do what I recommend within the Guardian dress code, I would highly suggest it.
Here’s another personal example. Right before RTX 2012, I forgot to get a haircut. My hair was very overgrown. I didn’t pack any nice clothes, so my wardrobe (as a Guardian AND a civilian), was a little ratty. I could feel the lack of confidence I had that weekend. I met a lot of people I knew for the first time, and I wished my appearance was a little better. Like I said, for some of you that ain’t no thing. But for me, sometimes, it can have a negative effect. The people you meet, attendees and Guardians, will accept you even if you aren’t looking your best. But looking your best can do a lot for you, psychologically.
Keep in mind, you will also have to deal with helpless or angry attendees, industry professionals, and don’t forget, RT themselves. Looking professional and put together can do wonders for your performance. You’ll see many veteran Guardians emphasizing professionalism and hygiene. Those two things are vital to being a Guardian. What I’m recommending is just taking that next step in those two respects. My only warning is to not go overboard. After all, you will be working and quite possibly sweating. So, don’t be too preoccupied with appearances. But do yourself a favor and give yourself that boost of confidence. In the days before RTX, make it a point to focus on your body and find serenity in the process. Use it as a form of meditation, and arrive at RTX with confidence.
8) In the day or two before RTX
Pay attention during orientation. When you break off into teams, soak up your Team Lead’s advice. During team meetings, if possible, visualize and act out your role. I’m talking full on miming that shit. Don’t just learn what you’ll be doing, imagine it. Picture the crowds. Physically and vocally act out your role. This will be your only rehearsal. It might look weird, but actually acting out the process will help you.
Get to know your team. Memorize their names, and tell them yours. Maybe go to lunch or dinner together if people are available. If any of you are free during the evenings Friday through Sunday, maybe make dinner plans for the weekend. Things like this help your team become more cohesive, and close-knit. We all have our own neuroses and anxieties. Some more than others, and that’s okay. But we all need to help create an environment of comfort within our co-volunteers. You will be working alongside these people, you will grow fond of them, and sadly, you may never see them again. Take the time to know each other just a little, even if it’s over a soda during a break. It will help your work relationship, alleviate any potential awkwardness, and you will be happy you made the effort when you go back home.
9) The night before RTX
DON’T STAY UP ALL NIGHT. I know there are evening events, and I know they’re fun. I will be at them too. But you know how much sleep you usually require, and you know what your body can and can’t handle. Don’t cut it close.
Eat a decent dinner. It's okay to indulge, but don't go crazy. Make sure your Guardian clothes for the weekend are planned out. If you will be carrying a bag with you during RTX, make sure it is packed and ready before going to bed. Doing these things will ensure you get a good night’s sleep, that you wake up refreshed, and that you won’t be stressed in the morning. Also make sure that your toiletries and hygiene materials are ready to go in the morning. Have a space set aside for all your bathroom products, and try to have them in a place that’s easily accessible in the morning. Between deodorant, toothbrush/paste, soap/shampoo, and beauty products, you can easily lose 10-20 minutes fumbling around in the morning.
Also be aware of your morning routines, and how your body acts. Do you need extra waking up time? Get up earlier. Does your hair require a special touch? Set aside that time. Will you have morning bathroom business to take care of? Take that into account. If you're rooming with other people, work out a morning schedule. Don't rely on a bathroom time slot in the morning if it hasn't been confirmed.
Also, and this is more of a personal suggestion, take a hot bath before bed. Still take a shower in the morning, but take a hot bath before bed. I know not everyone’s lodging situation will allow this (a shower is fine too), but if possible, do it. Fill the tub up and take a quiet soak for a while. Relax. Breathe. Listen to the sloshing of the water. Use the good soap, and condition your hair. Take your time, and maybe put some lotion on after. Go to bed fresh and relaxed. You’re here because you want to be. You’re in your element. You're with your people. You’re calm and ready for tomorrow. You know where you need to be in the morning, and what time you need to be there. You got this. Settle down, set an alarm, and go to sleep.
10) Parting advice
That’s about all I got. If you want to know more about what to do during the actual convention, feel free to ask. I will do my best to help. There are also plenty of other experienced Guardians to ask as well. I’ll go ahead and leave you with some tips and tricks that might help you during RTX.
-Don’t be nervous. The people around you are there to support you. You’ll go through a lot of on-the-job training on the first day. You’ll learn a lot, and apply it to rest of the weekend. Don’t fret. Any stress you have is a passing condition.
-Don’t skip meals. Hand-held and portable foods are your friend, but do take advantage of times when you can sit down and enjoy a meal.
-Always have water on hand. ALWAYS HAVE WATER ON HAND. You don’t even need a space-age Olympian artisan water delivery system. Reuse an Ozarka bottle. You’re not the Queen.
-If you have the time and ability, try to take a hot bath at least once during the weekend. You will be surprised how much it will help.
-Be willing to relax. You’ll want to cram as much fun into the weekend as you can. That’s normal, and what we all want. But if you feel you might not be up to it, that’s okay. Chill nights with friends are just as good as wild nights with friends. Last year I even had a relaxing nice Italian dinner by myself. No joke, it felt good. Treat yo-self.
-You will be seeing behind the curtain of RT a bit, but you will be doing so in order to help them. Remember, you’re a Guardian first and a fan second.
-Food runs are life savers. Going on break to get something to eat? Have some extra time? Are you working closely with other Guardians? Consider offering to go on a food run for the group. Work out the money situation (through collection, smartphone apps, or trades), write down what they want, and grab it for them. This isn’t expected of you, but it’s an option that can save a lot of time and stress.
-Ask questions if you have them. Redundant instructions are okay. You don’t get points for memorizing things the first time you hear them. But you do get Guardian points for thorough understanding.
-Guardian Points don’t really exist, but just now I’ve decided to make them a thing. Use GP for short.
-If you want to get something from the RT store, try to work out ahead of time when you'll be going. Ask your Team Lead when the best time to go is, or else you risk missing your chance.
-Avoid having too many chefs in the kitchen. We all want to help. We all have ideas. There will be times when you’re in a discussion with other Guardians about what to do in a situation. People will have suggestions, and everyone will want to help. But once a decision has been made in a situation and a plan is implemented, give it a chance. Don’t complain that your idea was way better the whole time, and don’t gloat if your idea is the one that is chosen. Don’t let your eagerness to help become a battle over whose idea is best. Trust your team, and trust your Team Leads.
-Have fun. All these people around you are your people. They like what you like, and you have a lot in common with them. Probably more than you know. Feel how happy they are, and feel good about yourself.
-Write down the screen names, twitter handles, etc. of your fellow Guardians. Take pictures with them. Upload those pictures like crazy after RTX.
-If possible, STAY AFTER FOR THE GREAT GUARDIAN GATHERING IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE CON ON SUNDAY. People will dance. People will take pictures. People will cry, including you and RT staff. You won’t want to leave.
-Remember how you felt when you were there.