Article by EllyStar    (05-04-12 11:09 AM)
No matter how great and successful, all anime conventions have room for improvement. Here are five things more anime conventions should be doing, but aren't.

Schedule time for panels to clear and set up
Many conventions schedules have panels running back to back, for example "Cosplaying 101" is from 2pm - 3pm, then "I Don't Understand Evangelion" is from 3pm - 4pm. This is the easiest way to show timing on a schedule, however if "Cosplaying 101" ends at 3pm like the schedule implies, there is no way "I Don't Understand Evangelion" can possibly start at 3pm. The "Cosplaying 101" panelists need to pack up, attendees need to gather their stuff and leave, and often attendees want to talk to the panelists afterwards. At the same time, attendees for "I Don't Understand Evangelion" will need to come in and find seats, and the panelists need to set up. The bigger the panel room, the more time this takes.

Programming staffers need to put a buffer time in between panels. It can be as short as 5 minutes for small panel rooms, or as much as 15 or 30 minutes for huge panel rooms. This also gives time for attendees to go to another part of the con to attend another panel. Also, if there are tech issues (for example, computer won't connect to projector), this gives staff a chance to get it fixed without cutting into the panel time.

If it's easiest for a con to make a schedule and not include the transition time, that's fine. If you have panels on the hour, it looks strange to have tiny spaces for just a five minute break. Just be sure to tell panelists they will need to finish before the actual end time, whatever time the con feels appropriate. They will need to adjust their presentation as needed. This should also be printed in the schedule so that attendees are aware of it as well.

Ticket the masquerade and other big draw events
Chances are the space you are holding your main events will have fewer seats than your number of attendees. Not all attendees will attend the masquerade or other big events, but it is very likely that you will have more butts than seats available. Also, people will line up early for these events. They don't necessarily want the best seats; they want to make sure they actually get a seat. Also in most function spaces, maintaining a queue with hundreds of people makes cat herding look easy.

An easy solution to this is to give out tickets or tokens ahead of time to those who want to attend. However, if you are going to use this method, make sure you put this information in as many places as possible. Even if you did it the year before, not everyone attends every year. Put it on your web site as an announcement before the con. Put it in your program guide and if you miss the printing deadline for this, put it on the printed schedules you give out. Put up a sign at registration so people can see it while they get their badges.

Have more adult oriented programming - but not that kind
Even though anime conventions seem to be dominated by teenagers, there is plenty of adult oriented programming at conventions. However these usually mean it will be something with hentai, lots of cursing, or both. These are definitely popular panels and a mainstay at conventions. And they should definitely be there.

However, there are other types of adult programming. Think more thought provoking, not just discussing which characters are most awesome or cutest. Perhaps some panels that the parents of attendees can attend where they can learn about what their children are watching. Look into inviting local Japanese or Asian history professors to talk about what Japan was really like during the time of Rurouni Kenshin or Inuyasha.

Provide your host hotel with more business by creating 21+ events with cash bar services. This can be just a lounge area or there can be music and dancing, comedy, or even something like speed dating. (However, beware that adding alcohol to just one event at your convention may significantly increase your event insurance fees.)

Defy the notion that adult programming is only sex and swearing. Give your older attendees something new and interesting to do, instead of bored because they don't want to go to panels aimed at fangirls.

Set up areas for photos and lounging
Nearly every convention has problems with crowding at some point. Function areas can have bottlenecks areas, a line can take up traffic space, people want to take pictures of cosplayers, and friends want to chat. For those last two, conventions can help out by provided space so it's not done in the middle of the hallways.

An area for photos can help with two things. First, it can be a place for cosplayers who want to have their picture taken to just stand around and pose and people who want to take pictures know to go there to find cosplayers. Also, in the weeks leading up to a con, attendees will plan times and places for cosplay groups from certain shows to gather. These are really fun ways to meet other fans and cosplayers with like interests, but they can also attract dozens of attendees. Although these gatherings are often done by attendees and not convention staff, make sure your attendees are aware if there are places they should be doing this or places they shouldn't be doing this.

It's not just cosplay groups who want to meet up, but old and new friends need places to chill, sit, and chat. Identify areas of the convention where this works, like a lobby, or where it doesn't, like a busy hallway. If the con is at a hotel, make sure off-limits areas, such as lounges where they serve food, are well marked. However, negotiate with the hotel to see if attendees can use the areas to hang out anyways so there aren't crowding issues. If there is a specific area in the convention that can create bottlenecks, like a narrow hallway, make sure there are signs that indicate that this is a no stopping, no picture taking area so that traffic doesn't get tied up.

Thank attendees via the web site
It's disappointing to go on a web site a few days after the con is over and the first thing on the page is a last minute announcement that was posted the night before the con started. It's even more disappointing when it's been weeks and there is still nothing new posted.

Attendees spend lots of time and money going to a con. They need to take time away from work or school, plan hotels and transportation, save money for food and the dealers room, and make their costumes. If they had a good time, they also want to attend next year. This is your chance thank your fans for coming, and to provide dates and location of next year's con so that attendees can plan to come back.

You're tired. Your staff is tired. You all just had one of the busiest weekends of your life, and there's still loose ends to tie up after the event is over. However, it looks unprofessional when two months after your con the most recent information still says "Schedule updates!"

Take 30 minutes at some point before the con and make something ahead of time. Simply thank your attendees for coming, thank your guests for coming, mention next year's dates and location, and provide a method for attendee feedback (feedback@ is a good email address to use for this purpose). Work with your webmaster to get this in place before the con so that it goes to the web site with a push of a button.

 
Username Comments
Nigoki 
Obsessed with robots
Nigoki
Reg: 02-25-09

05-05-12 06:24 AM - Post#10751    
    In response to EllyStar

Some others I thought of:

Room/Programming Tracking
There are many ways this can be done. If your convention has a specific theme each year, you might want to highlight panels and events that are related to it in the program guide. (Example: If you've got a sports theme, make it known that the Princess Nine screening and Eyeshield 21 panels are related to the theme with an asterisk next to their titles in the schedule and program guide)
Another form this can take is by tracking rooms. This largely depends on the number of programming rooms are available in the space the convention is held in, but if it can be done, it helps a lot. This tends to be better for multi-genre conventions, (such as every panel on anime being in the same place) but I've seen it work at more focused events too when there are a lot of events that draw the same types of fans. (Example: Having Bleach, Naruto and One Piece panels all in the same area saves people from having to keep searching for a new room. 

Offer strong counter masquerade programming
I think more conventions are getting better about this, but it's still a problem that persists. Masquerades are a big part of the convention, but they aren't everyone's bag. They also are a larger chunk of time. If you're an attendee who isn't interested in the masquerade, or even someone who couldn't get in because the room was at capacity, that chunk of time is going to be really boring if the Masq is the only decent event going on. 

Take care of your staff
Bill Marriott Sr. (yes, the guy who the huge hotel company is named after) had a saying. "If you take care of the employee, the employee will take care of the customer, and the customer will come back." It's as true for hotels as it is conventions. Most staffers a volunteers, offering their time and skills to make the event successful, so make them feel appreciated for the work they do. The ways you can take care of your staff will depend on your budget. You might be able to pay for everyone's hotel room, meals, and throw a wrap party, but you can nurture camaderie, be honest with them, and listen to ideas and feedback from everyone on staff. That being said, if you do make promises, keep them and do them right. I've heard horror stories from big name cons. One friend had to make an emergency run for lots of bread, peanut butter, and jelly because the "dinner" promised to him and his staffers turned out to be a 6 foot long Subway sub that had been left uncovered for hours. 

Document, acknowledge, and above all learn from your mistakes
If you think you did everything right, you're not looking hard enough. Few things can be more disheartening than seeing the same issue arise at a con year after year. It's often why people stop coming to certain conventions. This is why cons have feedback panels, but it can also come about in forums, e-mails, social media, and of course staff. (Remember what I said about listening to your staff?)

Get the community involved
When I'm at a con, especially one that I've traveled a significant distance to attend, one thing that's sure to put a smile on my face is seeing a "Welcome ______ attendees!" It can come in many forms, like a banner from the tourist bureau, the local pizza place advertising specials for attendees, or a nearby copy center looking forward to artists making more prints to sell.  I've seen cons get free goodies to give away to attendees and local restaurants offer deals to people wearing con badges (or discounts on deliveries to con hotels). Heck I even met a clerk at a shoe store near Anime Boston that couldn't wait for the con to return. 
Initially, it's a lot of leg work, contacting press outlets, calling and visiting nearby business, but when the community knows about your event and looks forward to it, everyone wins. Attendees like specials and freebies, stores and restaurants like doing more business. A community that seems welcoming to the attendee has a better chance of seeing that attendee return to the convention. 
-Doug Wilder
Resident Mecha fanboy of AnimeCons TV!


 
vrmlbasic 
Con Regular

Reg: 02-23-12

06-08-12 12:48 PM - Post#10926    
    In response to Nigoki

I definitely agree about the counter-masquerade programming. Too many con Saturday afternoons have felt wasted to me due to the dearth of counter masquerade programming.

I think the other suggestions are brilliant as well. It almost seems like cons read this list as several cons which I attended this year posted post-con thanks and follow-ups, whereas last year they let the previous year's schedule languish up there for almost a whole year.

For ticketed events, it does strike me as a logical idea, as it takes the guess work out of an event. No longer would one wait in line for hours for an event at cons just to be told that the event is at capacity. The tickets limiting the queue size for each event automatically sounds good, no more staff screw ups regarding the number at which to cap the line.

Clearly attendees would still have to camp the line for the ticket booth, but that sounds better than having to camp the lines for every now-ticketed event (provided that attendees can get all their tickets for each ticketed event at the same time, otherwise isn't it almost the same problem?) .

Somehow I'm having trouble visualizing all the ticket holders not lining up for hours before ticketed events, vying for the best seats (probably because I don't espouse the attendee philosophy that was mentioned in the article; when it comes to seats, it's either the best...or nothing).


 
Bryguy 
Con Regular

Loc: Edmonton, Canada
Reg: 01-05-07

08-21-12 12:27 AM - Post#11348    
    In response to vrmlbasic

I wish I had tickets at the event I just staffed for certain events.
There was one panel in particular where I started head counting because I knew it would not fit everyone. Sadly the volunteers who helped control the line didn't bother to keep an eye on those who cut in line after I passed.

Nothing like having to apologize to a couple young girls who's only reason for attending was to come to that one panel, being told they should be able to make it into the panel, then at the end having to turn them away because nobody saw exactly who cut in line after they entered the room.

I'll definitely be pushing to start ticketing certain events from now on.
Bryan Kennedy
- Animethon 20 Chairman


 
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