Greetings! Welcome to the CON Hosting world!
Our Setup (see facebook HMS Artemis Bridge Simulator) has been at quite a few conventions, and this is what we have been doing since day one:
1) Have a schedule of sessions ready prior to the convention. We've found that one hour blocks with a 45 minute game provides ample time to learn the game, and have enough turnover for the next group.
2)Figure out a decent difficulty setting for a learning crew. We try to keep the difficulty around 4 to 6, this really depends on the average age of the members working. Too easy and they either bore easily, or finish the mission too quickly, too hard and they get frustrated and want to quit or never play the game again.
3) Placement of crewman. We recommend that people who have never played before get their feet wet at either science or Comms. We always provide an assistant or two of our own expereinced players in the room to assist with questions, or to hover around people who are stuggling and give them pointers. This seems to work really well even with a brand new person at engineering or weapons.
4) Quick rundown. It helps to have either an expert player give a quick rundown, or have a scripted introduction to the game prior to the start. This should only take about 5 minutes at the max, to include about 30seconds at each station for a crash course on what the console does. You would be surprised at how many people retain information on-the-fly, for those that don't, see #3
5)Be encouraging. Don't just sit off to the side, roam the bridge, tell people (to include the captain) that they are doing pretty well. Keep a smile and be ready to answer any questions, even if they're a repeat, it will be appreciated in the end.
6)Captain's chair. If at all possible, NEVER place a brand new person in the Captains seat. Although the least amount of work, it helps to have someone who has played some or all the stations at least once sit in that chair. Captains need to know what to ask for and form whom, and for a brand new person that knowledge just won't be there. If there is a fresh player in that seat, play the executive officer and hang over their shoulder and offer suggestions, plans, strategys, and even repeat the order in a more assertive tone if necessary. If you are going to do the latter, let the Captain know prior to the game that things can get loud, and may need either them or you to repeat it louder.
7) Have fun! Things break, people aren't perfect, just remember that everyone is there to try something new out, or just have fun. Keep that smile on your face and provide answers to any questions about the game asked. Remember that "I don't know, let's find out" is an acceptable answer.
Let me know what you think! This is the approach we have had for our conventions, and our simulator is a HIT, it's always full.