-Qualities for a Good Host
-Qualities for a Good Judge
-Qualities for a Good Competitor
-General Tips for Running an OCT
-General Tips for Competing in an OCT
Believe it or not, being a host isn't as great as you might think. Being a judge is no better. Often times people create an OCT without putting forethought into what they're committing to, which is why so many OCTs usually end up abandoned or never getting off the ground.
Qualities for a Good Host
+While anyone can make a group and start up an OCT, here are a number of things you should consider before doing so.
-Time: Being a host requires having lots, and lots of free time. You may think that the biggest aspect of time is spent on judging, but that's far from truth. Hosts are constantly answering questions, making sure things are submitted to correct folders, posting updates, organizing events, planning, and dealing with members. The audition phase is by far the most taxing part of their work, considering the steady flow of questions they get, having to constantly update, and having to review mass amounts of characters. Don't forget, OCTs generally last at least a year; that's a long time to be committed to something. Keep in mind that while you may have followed OCTs before, as a host you will be reading over every entry, by every competitor. Those numbers stack up quick.
-Patience: You may have all of your rules typed up perfectly and easy to find. But regardless, people will always ask you a question that you've already answered, or about something that's been clearly listed in the rules. You will answer this question a dozen times or more. And each time, you will be polite about it. You may have to work with someone on improving their character ref, and this may take several hours or days to accomplish. And then they may end up deciding they don't want to enter. And you will be polite about it. Patience is key.
-Professionalism: As mentioned above, you will deal with people who get on your nerves. It can be extremely difficult to deal with certain people, and chances are you'll even get a run in with a troll or someone out just to harass you. You need to know how to deal with these incidents, and to be professional about it. You may even slip up occasionally, but when you do you need to be able to regain composure. If you look unprofessional, your members will doubt you and you will scare people off. Remember, you are not representing yourself, you are representing your group.
Faith: Even when things are looking bad you have to have faith in the OCT and your members. Never blame your members for a failing OCT. If something doesn't turn out the way you want it to, you have to take responsibility. You cannot blame your members for being uncreative when chances are it was the hosts fault for not inspiring creativity or having too restrictive plots. You must have faith in your members; do not assume that they are: incompetent, lazy, incapable of fulfilling deadlines, unimaginative, and so on. They do not require you to hold their hands.
Decisive: There will be times when you have to say things that will hurt feelings or require a definitive answer. You may find that the judges you picked aren't reliable and will have to be let go, even if they're your friends. If you make a mistake, fix it, don't just ignore it because it already happened. If you see that the deadline for something is coming up but your members aren't done yet, don't announce an extension. Stick to your deadlines until the last minute, and then make your decision. Do not excuse laziness from your judges, your members, or yourself.
Flexible: Things will pop up that you weren't expecting and you will need to be able to deal with them accordingly. Even though you should expect your members to keep to deadlines, sometimes things will pop up in their lives they can't control (sudden illness, computer complications, family emergency, etc) Don't be afraid to grant some leniency when things happen that are out of one's control. Sometimes dates will need to be changed or rules adjusted if an issue occurs. As said above, if you make a mistake, be ready to fix it.
Devoted: Considering that OCTs generally last over a year (and you will hear this stressed again), you really need to have some devotion for what you do. If you are not devoted, it will show through and your members won't be motivated. A devoted host will be thinking up activities and contests for members and even spectators to keep them interested as well as reflecting on themselves. You should welcome and seek out feedback from your members and spectators.
Honesty: You are not perfect and no one is. When something goes wrong, it's okay to admit it. Be honest with your members if something happens and if they have a question about why their character isn't accepted or why they didn't make it to the next round, explain it to them as best as you can while being sincere. Because this a contest judged subjectively, it's impossible for the results to be perfect. If you're honest with your members about this, they will respond less negatively to bad news.
Friendly: If you aren't good with dealing with others, especially with people who need constant assistance and ask repeated questions, you probably shouldn't be a host. At all times, you must be friendly and sincere. When you are dealing with an auditioner who, in your mind, you'd rather not have join, put yourself in the mindset of: This person is essential for the OCT, because without them we will not have enough people. Never turn away someone outright, because you never know how many auditioners you may get, and with each person you accept that person might recruit more. If your members know that you are approachable they won't be afraid to ask you questions or talk to you about concerns.
Experience: While this isn't entirely required, it's always good to have experience. Try to become a judge in another OCT before hosting your own, and in the least you should compete in one before considering hosting. Other sources of experience may be moderating or administrating a forum.
Qualities for a Good Judge
+A judge should have more or less all of the same qualities a host has, along with:
-Able to Speak Up: Some judges become rather timid when it comes time to say what needs to be said. They should be able to deal with members in an appropriate manner, make suggestions, and be able to confront their host if trouble arises. Staying silent and meek will do no one good.
-Ability to follow directions: Although a judge does need to speak up if they see something wrong, they also have to be capable of following directions they disagree with. Depending on the individual setup of an OCT, most staff set ups are run in a system of hierarchy where the host's decision is final. Judges should respect their host and maintain a relationship of mutual understanding. Communication is key.
-Broad field of appreciation: Members will come from multiple backgrounds with a wide variety of characters, representing a broad spectrum of mediums and approaches. Judges need to be able to appreciate the various entries they will be judging, whether or not it's a personal favorite. You may not enjoy reading or may prefer a comic over literature, but if your OCT accepts both then you need to be able to handle both. Simply choosing one entry over the other just because it's easier to read or what you prefer is not fair to the members you are representing.
Qualities for a Competitor
+You've seen OCTs floating around and think they might be fun to join. However, they may just end up being a headache and a lot of disappointment if you're not the right person for it.
-Time and Time Management: As mentioned above, depending on how long you stay involved with an OCT, you're looking at over a year of commitment. It's a lot of hard work and can be quite time consuming, regardless of your medium. The average length per round in an OCT is 2 months, which may sound like a lot, leading many people to put it off till the last few weeks. Which, as anyone will tell you, is a horrible idea. You need to be able to manage your time wisely, and consider if you have enough time in general.
-Dedication: Not only do you need to dedicate time to completing your entry, but you also have to be dedicated to your character, your work, and others. Part of the fun of OCTs is the community and interacting with them. While it may be impossible to follow every entry from every competitor, you will want to follow some so you can get a sense for what others are doing as well as establish interweaving plots with one another.
-(in)Sanity: It's a miracle if you'll have any left over by OCT's end. Try and savor as much of it as you can, keep it bottled if you have to.
-Positive Attitude : You may not make it very far. Does this mean you weren't very good? No, for all you know you could have been paired up with a very talented competitor early on; it's all luck of the draw. Win or lose, try to keep positive. It'll be upsetting to lose, but keep in mind the nature of the competition: in the end only one person will win. Just have fun with it while it lasts and try to stay involved even if you get knocked out.
-Creativity: If you don't have it, you won't make it far. Those who do well in OCTs are ones who take risks and stray outside of what one normally expects to see. If you have fun with what you're doing, you're more likely to be creative. So don't be afraid to try something new, even if it takes a few risks or creative liberties.
General Tips for Running an OCT
+If you have weighed your decision and are determined to host or judge an OCT, there are some things you want to keep in mind. Remember that many OCTs will either become abandoned, not reach their target goal, or fall apart mid-way through.
-Avoid Forced Plots : One of the biggest destroyers of OCTs out there. So you think you have this great idea for an OCT and you've mapped out an elaborate plot. Problem is, OCTs are for the competitors. They are the ones who make the plot, you are there only to guide them and give them the first step. Pick a simple but unique idea and let your competitors run with it. Do not come up with an elaborate backstory, do not make a novel-sized 'history of', do not plan an ending. This may sound extreme, but it is your members' job to come up with these. If you see things are going a bit slowly and your members are too timid, give them the occasional push before a new round starts. And if all else fails, rule of thumb: come up with a theme, not a plot. In fact, you should avoid 'plot' all together; go with a theme and a set-up. But the 'plot' comes in when your members invent it.
-Avoid Restricted Plots: This applies to when a host tries to steer their members into a certain direction and by doing so limits their creativity. When members focus too much on sticking to your pre-set plots, it feels more like they're being lead along and they get frustrated. Remember, this is their story, not yours. They do not want to feel like they're being told what to write. While it is good to give them guidance every now and then, such as setting up 'lead-ins' for each round, do not give them scripts. Put faith in your competitors.
-Don't Focus on NPCs: As was said, OCTs are for the competitors, not the judges. Limit how many NPCs you have, avoid making representative characters for the staff, do not put heavy importance on NPCs, and keep your NPCs simple. NPC stands for 'non-player character', meaning the character isn't yours. The NPCs should belong to the OCT; in a way they are devices to help push the story along. It is incredibly discouraging when a member is looking into an OCT and they go to check out the info, only to see that there are 7 NPC characters, one for each judge, all of which have extensive background information, and all of which are apparently important.
-Keep It Simple: A continuation from the above. Do not give NPCs extensive information. Their information should be limited to the basics, and backstories should be brief. This applies also to your theme/idea for the OCT as a whole. Keep it brief but interesting. Your members will expand on it as they go.
-Choose Judges Wisely : Every OCT is different in how its run and what it will require. For most OCTs, the ideal number of judges is three, and this includes the host. You may have more or less depending on your individual needs, just be aware of how effective your staff is. A lot of hosts choose their friends as judges and then end up in an awkward position when they realize their friends are not best for the job. You should find judges who you can trust, that you know are reliable, enjoy analyzing entries, have the time to commit, and are capable of judging all entries fairly. There are different setups to consider, but all of your judges should have at least a basic understanding and appreciation for all mediums. Think about what types of mediums you will allow, and search for judges capable of handling it. Many OCTs deny literature under the argument that none of their judges feel comfortable reviewing literature vs comics. This could be easily remedied by finding a judge comfortable with literature; there are plenty of them out there.
-Be Open to the Unexpected : The most rewarding part to being a host or judge for an OCT is watching it unfold into something you did not expect, and having not been the one to control it. At this point, the OCT has developed a life and identity of its own. Your OCT may not turn out like what you thought it would be, in fact it shouldn't. It should become something different than what you thought it would be. So when you start to see your OCT straying from the path you thought it would take, be open to the possibilities and see where it takes you. Do not try to guide it back as then it will become forced.
-Keep It Interesting: One of the leading reasons why OCTs fail midway through is because people lose interest. It is the host's job to keep their members interested in the OCT through whatever means they can find. Keep the ideas flowing, communicate with members, host social nights and contests, and always have an open mind.
-Know Your Crowd: Overtime you will get to know your competitors and spectators better and will know how to interact with them. A lot of hosts and judges make the mistake of looking unprofessional by posting sarcastic messages that come off as insulting. Rule of thumb is to be professional whenever you are representing your OCT and to take up a casual or humorous tone only once you know how your crowd will react (generally in later rounds; never in the auditions). When posting general blog messages for all followers to see, be professional and encouraging, while with members you can be a little more lax. What you don't want to do is come off looking silly and incompetent.
-Never Insult Your Members or Spectators: This problem has become a little more common, wherein hosts and judges take their position a little too arrogantly and end up snubbing their members or watchers. If someone is causing your group problems, deal with them professionally and if need be (as there are always trolls) block them. Do not insult them, you will only give yourself and the OCT a bad name. Word travels fast and far and you never know how many followers you might lose by one rash conversation with one individual. If a member makes a mistake, politely correct and help them out. Do not single members out and do not post insulting messages.
-Keep People Informed: Don't keep your members in the dark. They will appreciate your updates, and they even enjoy when you post reminders about deadlines. Posting announcements about delays or reminding them that they have x amount of time remaining will keep them motivated. They can get agitated when they don't know what's going on or why something is taking so long; they may even lose interest. Respond to messages and questions as soon as possible and keep in touch with your community.
-Use Encouragement: It is hard work getting an entry done in two months and your members will need all of the support they can. Comment on their submissions as much as possible (be careful not to show bias; choose your words carefully). Reply to comments or questions and post reminders frequently.
-Be Aware of Bias: Simple things can show levels of bias to your members. For example, if you comment on one person's entry, but not their opponent, the opponent will become discouraged. Never add any work from the OCT into your favorites unless it is work that promotes the OCT as a whole (ex: group pictures). Do not give your friends special privileges or considerations and do not favor one medium over the other. Look beyond the appearance and focus on content; if you are judging two comics, do not pick one just because it has better art if the story is lacking and unoriginal.
-Let Them Know What You Want: Provide a simple rubric or list of criteria the members will be judged on. If you are running a tournament where the focus isn't on story, but instead on art quality, make sure they know ahead of time. I wouldn't suggest allotting points to each item (EX: 5 points for creativity) as this becomes very mechanical and can frighten off potential auditioners.
-Set Deadlines on Weekends: Your school-going competitors will appreciate this. Plan ahead and set your deadlines for Friday or Saturday nights, because there will always be people still finishing up on the final day who may work into the late hours of the night.
General Tips for Competing In an OCT
-Have Fun: First and foremost! As you will find out, OCTs really are about having fun and not about winning. In fact, most of the time you'll forget that if you win you'll receive a prize. Have fun with it while it lasts and if you're having fun you're more likely to be motivated about finishing your rounds.
-Take Risks: Ideally, your OCT is being hosted and judged by people who are looking for original ideas and creativity. Nothing wagered nothing gained; take risks with your ideas and don't be afraid to try different things.
-Be Involved: Get to know your fellow competitors and comment on one another's submissions; you'll make some interesting friends. One of the best aspects of OCTs is the community that sprouts from it, and if you miss out on it you won't be having nearly as much fun as you could. Stay up to date with announcements and comment on new submissions, you'll find that others will return the favor.
-Read Up On Your Opponent: You should know your opponent's character as best as you can when starting your round which means you will have to read their former matches as well as audition. If you have questions don't be afraid to ask, but at the same time don't be afraid to use your own interpretation. Your entry should not only portray your own character accurately, but also your opponent.
-Know the Rules and Rubrics: Be aware of what rules your OCT has in place as well as what your judges are looking for. Some OCTs have a stronger emphasis on art quality than they do on stories, and this is fine. As long as the judges state what they're looking for. If a rubric is not provided don't be afraid to ask, you shouldn't have to guess at what you're being 'graded' on. Remember to look for an OCT that suits what you're looking for and not to just 'settle' on one. If you're looking for an OCT heavy on story, be sure they're not grading you solely on art.
-Manage Your Time Wisely: This cannot be stressed enough. Two months may sound like a lot but if you do not pace yourself you will wear out every drop of sanity you have come deadline. Be aware of what you are capable of completing and know how to manage your time. If possible, try to plan to finish ahead of schedule so that if any sudden complications arise you will have margin for error.
-Speak Up: If something is bothering you, say so! The staff needs your feedback to know how they're doing and if you think something is unfair or something doesn't make sense, tell them. Ideally your staff will be reasonable and open to feedback. If they are unwilling to make changes which you think are pretty important, you may want to look elsewhere for an OCT.
-Choose an OCT Wisely: As mentioned, look around at different OCTS and don't 'settle' on one. Be sure that you are interested in the idea and that the OCT is open to what you had in mind as far as character and theme goes. Do not join an OCT if it looks like the staff are incompetent, if you feel uncomfortable with their behavior, if you think there are too many judges, or if it sounds too convoluted. OCTs are supposed to be fun and not a chore. Joining one is a commitment so make it an enjoyable one.