There is no better way to learn or celebrate ones interest than a weekend at a convention. Be it industry or fan, a convention is the best place to meet new friends or learn something new.
As someone who has covered a verity of conventions, I have attended events that were well planned and those that were a total dumpster fire. This is a look at some of the mistakes conventions make while acknowledge those that do a great job at hosting an unforgettable weekend.
Please note that out of respect for the organizers and staff, I will not be calling out events that have issues.
5. Bad Media Policy
Let’s start with something us media professionals are all too familiar with. Every convention will have a certain criteria regarding granting media credentials, since no one wants to waste a media pass on a blogger with only 15 readers. However some conventions will have a bad policy when working with the media.
The most common problem is when they have a disorganized media liaison, often the result of the convention giving the role to a volunteer with no experience. This means press inquires go unanswered or media credentials are often approved at the last minute. However the two worst media policies a convention could have is an elitist policy or being very anti-media.
An elitists media policy is when media credentials is restricted to only major outlets. So what is the difference from having a high criteria? Having an elitist policy basically restrict small independent media outlets from covering the event from a unique perspective. Given that independent publications have a very strict budget, they may skip going to an event since they can’t really spend the money on a standard pass.
Anti-media is less of a policy and more about the con organizers reputation with the media. This is when a con organizer either has a toxic relationship with media outlets or they have an unhealthy grudge against certain reporters. This is usually due to how unsatisfied they are with the media coverage they received of past events or they were offended by a trivial comment made in the article. When a con organization has a toxic relationship with the media, it dissuades other outlets from wanting to cover the event.
4. Volunteer Developed Apps
During the years I’ve covered conventions, only four events had a perfect app. They were the Game Developers Conference, Silicon Valley Comic Con, Crunchyroll Expo and Oculus Connect 4. Do you know what all three of these events have in common? The answer is they had money to pay a professional to make a proper app.
GDC is an industry convention with a lot of sponsors (hence they have the resources), Silicon Valley Comic Con is organized by Steve Wozniak (who even had the volunteers be paid employees for the weekend), Crunchyroll Expo was hosted by a major corporation while Oculus Connect 4 had some good ole fashion Facebook talent and money. The point is, these events had big money backing them and were able to pay a professional to make a good app.
Then you have conventions that have volunteers develop the app, with the end result being something totally useless. A volunteer will usually lack the experience or will not put that much effort into developing the app. The end result is usually an app the doesn’t work and fans will be quick to abandon it. Conventions should make it easy for everyone and just pass out a simple guide book.
3. Unsuitable Venue
When it comes to having a great convention, the location matters. The San Jose Convention Center and the Santa Clara Convention Center are the most ideal locations in the South Bay. Meanwhile the Moscone Center is perfect for hosting an event in San Francisco while the Oakland Convention Center is the ideal location for an event in the East Bay.
On the other hand, not every event can be hosted at a convention center and they have to find alternative venues. Campbell Con has called the Campbell Community Center its home for several years while Kraken Con has hosted two events on the USS Hornet and AODCon utilized the Marriott Santa Clara.
Organizers should really pick the right venue based on how many people are expected to attend. When a small venue is selected for a major event, everything will get cluttered and LineCon will happen. Hence it’s better for events that attract over 10,000 fans really need to be hosted at a convention center while events that attracts less then 7,000 fans should be hosted at a smaller venue.
2. Poorly Trained Staff
Hydra Comic Con made its debut in June 2017 and was successful in avoiding many of the issues that new fan conventions have. This was due to the event being hosted by Sea Monster Entertainment, the same organization that hosts Kraken Con. Steve Wozniak took a different approach when organizing Silicon Valley Comic Con by partnering with several minor Cons in the Bay Area and absorbed them into one major event. Meanwhile, Crunchyroll took no chances and seek help from a third party woth the result being a successful first Crunchyroll Expo.
These first time fan conventions worked with people who had experience organizing such events to have a successful first event. While not completely flawless, these events had volunteers or staff members who were either properly trained or had experience in working such events.
On the other hand, events with a poorly trained staff tend to present a whole host of problems. The registration line will quickly grow to become LineCon when the staff dose not know how to operate point of sale system. Other times the events social media accounts are silent during the event, thus updates are falling on deaf ears.
1. Total Disorganization
Being organized and having planned out everything is the key to having a successful convention. The convention floor is setup to give everyone easy access to the merchants while the panel rooms are across the hall. Media outlets and panelists are informed weeks in advance if they have been approved. Yet a lack of organization is guaranteed to make the event unpleasant.
For those of us in the media, the most obvious red flag is when we are informed at the last minute if our credentials have been approved. Ideally we prefer being told a few months in advance but many fan conventions deliver the news four weeks before the event. This gives us time to book a hotel room (if needed), plan out our coverage and setup appointments to interview guests. All that is impossible or difficult when being approved a week before the event.
Guests could quickly spot red flags when there is no signs or clear direction of where to go for certain events. On the convention floor, disorganization can be defined when the artists and merchant vendors are mixed together. Other times booths are so cluttered that the walkways become an instant chockpoints.
Also it goes without saying but a disorganized convention is the perfect breeding ground for LineCon.
Have you spotted these problems and what are your red flags for a poorly organized con? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.