The type of con determines how complicated the programming may be. A relaxacon has little or none. A Worldcon usually has multiple concurrent tracks of panels and other events running from early morning to late at night. Small regionals and local conventions may have only one or two tracks.
At-con, the program is usually managed by Program Ops.
Program participant is the clunky term for someone appearing on the program of a convention. Mostly these are panellists, but they might be giving a solo talk or demo, a reading, a concert or something else.
Participants may be fans or pros — it doesn't matter — fans are often the best speakers with the most knowledge in the field, and some pros can only talk about themselves. Concoms choose based on ability, draw and willingness.
It is common but not at all universal for program participants at United States cons to get their membership fee reimbursed. Only a very few cons provide a gratis membership in advance — many refund after the con if the budget allows it, but some don't refund program participant memberships at all. It depends on the state of the con's finances and local custom. The practice of refunds does not occur in the UK.
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