It's been about a week, so now seems like a good time for that pesky recap (I got new and exciting things to talk about after this!). Why bother writing the recaps, you say? Well, I like to keep a log of how the shows change over the years, and keep people who may be interested in vending at them informed about crowds, show management, and whatever else might be important.
This was my 4th or 5th time vending (I can't remember if I took a year off when I did panels in year 2…), which means I've been vending at this show every year. I've got some thoughts on that, but I'll talk about that later.
There were a few new changes to the show this year: long set up time available on Thursday night (this started last year, I think, but I didn't take advantage of it till now), Attendance Cap was still in place (this also started last year), and the most important one - the convention was considered a "closed campus".
What a "closed campus" means is that you can't get into the main convention area without a badge. This was put in place for several reasons, but I feel the main reason was that there were too many attendees not purchasing badges, and ended up living in the hallways essentially creating a giant fire hazard. I feel that because of the attendance cap, the only way they could truly keep track of how many people were in the building safely was to create the closed campus. I don't work there, so don't take my word as the absolute law, but these are all the logical reasons I could see making the convention closed like this.
And it was glorious. BUT enough about that, time for the Good, Not-So-Good, and Things I'd Suggest!
THINGS I LIKED
+Check-In and Set Up on Thursday. I didn't partake of this last year due to timing (and it closed pretty early last year if I remember correctly), but it was super nice of them to let us set up the night before. Made getting up on Friday a lot less of a hassle.
+NO SLEEP NUMBER BEDS. Oh my gosh, if you've been following my Shutocon Drama each year, you'll know that I hate the single sleep number beds, namely if you're trying to put two people in the SAME bed. Well, guess WHAT. THEY CHANGED THE BEDS! AT LAST! It was soft, and fluffy, and it wasn't like sleeping on Linoleum. You've got my reservation next year Radisson, we're back on good terms! Not that this has anything to do with the convention itself, I just thought I'd let you know the conclusion to my hotel bed drama.
+CLOSED CAMPUS. I can't stop raving about how wonderful it was. The staff had a bit of a learning curve the first day (there was an error on when the alley closed, and we had to tell em to shut the doors so we could go eat. Whoops.), but as the weekend progressed they really stepped up their game. They were checking people who were sitting in the hallway (I was waiting for a panel and got checked too, and it was awesome). But WHY was it wonderful? Well, the hallway outside the dealer hall was not as crowded as it was. Sure, we still had a record number of attendees (6200+ I think), but for the first time in forever walking to the bathroom was NOT an acrobatic feat. I could beeline for the restroom, and not have to jump over 5 dance parties, and breakout card games in the hall. It felt like a REAL con (well, moreso in that it felt like everybody who was there was there for the show, not to just hang out). Please please please keep it this way. I loved it.
+Hours! Ahhhhhhhh at last. SANE hours. We started around 10 or 11 am depending on the day, and was open til 7 Friday and Saturday, and 4 on Sunday. I wasn't completely wracked with pain. Okay, I'll lie slightly and say that I actually kind of tweaked my spine a bit and it make it hard to sit, but that was my fault as I had forgotten to bring a pillow to sit on. This has since been remedied. I was a little bummed that the hours went until the restaurants we wanted to go to were closed (Tom + Chee I'm looking at YOU), but I made due once we discovered the Firehouse subs.
+Awesome Neighbors. You guys were GREAT. For the first time I was SURROUNDED by nice artists, and we all chatted and it was amazing. I can't wait to see y'all at ACen!
THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE
-General Check In Confusion - Thankfully I happened to know exactly what table I was at, but the staff had to go to a meeting during the end of check in/set up on Thursday. Being in the front, people kept asking me where to go and what to do, so I asked if they knew their number, and said that the staff would be back soon. Switch to Friday morning, where they had moved check in to the swag booth in the back, and left a sign, to which I started directing people back there. It was manageable, and honestly not THAT bad, I'm just used to having it stay in one seeable spot for people. Thankfully it's still small (compared to stuff like ACen/Katsucon, that is), so changes like this aren't the end of the world.
-Open ended rows. I know I complain about corner booths a LOT. I understand this, but I learned of a new difficult thing to work with - and that's the open ended row. I was on the very front of one of the central rows, and that left my left side completely open to the public. This is also unfortunately the same side I place my copic marker bucket on when I'm at shows, so I finagled around it, but without any official things like backdrops or stanchions, I wasn't sure how to work with it? I know some other cons do it, like comic shows, and that's fine, it was just new to me? (and I don't trust anime kids to NOT touch the markers. Even if they're "behind" my booth. Which is kind of sad.)
-Really SKINNY rows. I love rows! I really do. But these ones were really tight in the backend department. Thankfully none of us had huge backdrops (or at least worked with what we could and changed our set up), but it still felt SUPER tight. I was glad we had space between all the tables.
-Badge Size/Color. Gonna sound a little weird on this one, but I think badges need to get changed a little. The Exhibitor badges and Attendee badges did have different pictures, but they were of similar design so they were hard to tell apart, and the only way you could really do that was to read the very very tiny "exhibitor badge" text on the name line. I got stopped a couple of times before hall opening (props to the door guards though! Doin' their jobs right!), so I felt bad that it confused them.
-Some Attendee behavior. Not gonna talk about this one too much, but there WERE notifications that attendees were trying to use their keycards (which also had the same custom artwork the badges did) as their con badges. C'mon people, buy a badge. I don't understand what's so hard about that. But that's a rant for another time. I also only had one bad customer incident, and that was most unfortunate. But I want to assure everybody that I'm doing much better now, and I thank you all for helping me out in a time of need!
~ Badge Size/Color. Increase those things! Make 'em a little bigger, and I strongly suggest having a brightly colored border around any special badges, like Exhibitors and Staff. A.) This will stop con kids from trying to use your beautiful keycards as badges (I really liked those keycards by the way, KEEP DOING THAT) and B.) Make it easier on the staff to know who they can let in on off hours to the exhibit halls and such.
~ Make sure to Update Website. When people were learning about the closed campus upon arrival they clearly got a tad angry. I know, it's not YOUR fault they didn't check all the various social media, but I will admit there wasn't anything huge on the website saying "You need a badge to get into the main show areas!" I just gently suggest keeping that front page updated with any new changes.
~ Find a new location for Maid Café. I'm certain the room you used was LOVELY, however it happened to be located in the chokepoint between the center and the hotel - and trying to navigate past the very long and full line was a practice in claustrophobia. I thankfully made it past, but I was glad I hadn't been carrying anything huge with me.
Would I go again? Most likely! Will I vend next year? I dunno! I think I've been there so many years, that my table's become more of a staple, and I think it's somewhat negatively affected my booth? I didn't do as well as I had in previous years, so I might take a year off and go as an attendee or do some panels! (maybe help out my other artist pals as a helper!) I will admit, I'm getting a little bit of table burnout, so taking a rest might be the smart thing to do. :) Maybe I'll bring a bunch of cosplay next time.