Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What Can We Learn From MegaCon?

I have attended conventions with what I had thought to be large crowds; 1500+ for Windycon or Archon these days and 3-4000 for the annual Worldcon but even I wasn’t ready for the estimate I got on the number of attendees for MegaCon this year: 75,000.

Where did they house all these people? I was told that a lot of them come for only a short while, day-passers that drop in and out quickly. They’ll drop in to see a particular panel or browse the exhibition hall. Even then, I would have to say the facility was crowded from the 10AM start until the Exhibition Hall shut down every night. I guess this explains why the Special Guests spend almost all their time at their tables in the Exhibition Hall. I don’t think any of them did more than one panel, and some weren’t involved in any panels.

So to allow people easy access during the day, the convention used wrist bands instead of name badges. For me, this is a shift in focus. Name badges at conventions are often ice-breakers, allowing attendees to quickly get a handle on what to call someone they never meet before and talk to them. Using anonymous wrist bands shifts the focus of the convention from fannish interactions to a more impersonal convention experience or one devoted to those you brought with you. While this is a good thing for the collector, there were lots of things to collect in the Exhibition Hall, from artwork and autographs to props and toys; I think a lot of the interpersonal aspects of a convention were missing. I noticed this mostly when I talked to a couple of the panelists after their panels and they welcomed me into their discussion, even though I lived 1200 miles away. One area convention organizer approached me hoping I had just moved into the area; he had noticed the Denvention 3 shirt I was wearing.

That is not to say that various fan groups had not bought into the MegaCon experience, several of them actually had:

  • The 501st Legion offered a Friday prop panel and officiated at the Universal Costume Contest, as well as a prop display exhibit.
  • The Wolf Pack Elite ran an exhibit and costuming panel.
  • Skiffytown did a live radio play as well as a costuming area in the Exhibition Hall. {Skiffytown also did a costuming panel – Trudy}
  • The R2-Builders had roving robots as well as a large prop exhibition area.
  • Alpha Ghost Team did daily Paranormal 411 panels along with their exhibition area.
  • Oklahoma and Tampa Bay Ghostbuster groups had displays both in a booth and around the convention area. {The Oklahoma Ghostbusters also did a panel – Trudy}
  • Anime Sushi organized the anime programming for the convention, including a separate cosplay event.
  • Willie’s Wenches gave nightly performances as well as host an exhibition area.
  • Doctrine Productions offered a panel.

MegaCon is Hall Costume nirvana! Whether you are a costumer or a photographer, you will have a long fun day, each day, enjoying the Hall Costumes. And they didn’t even have a Hall Costumes Contest. I will probably have to devote an entire block in the near future to showing off some of the costumes I photographed.

This area has two television/movie production studios and several film schools nearby. Therefore, it is no wonder that groups like Doctrine Productions get involved, especially since MegaCon has an Independent Film Festival as part of their lineup. This and their daily movie trailers events created a noise problem in a couple of the other panels I was attending. But it sounded like their attendees were having a lot of fun. They did not have the traditional video room like a lot of us think of, but they did have an anime video room.

I usually have to carry my PDA when I go shopping in a convention’s dealer’s room, but not at MegaCon. Except for comic or art books, I could find very few books for sale. There was also a lot of costumes and costuming accessories, collectibles, and DVDs. I do wonder if anyone polices the merchandise sold in these dealer’s rooms, I believe I saw at least a couple of DVD sellers with bootleg merchandise. I am not enough of an expert to judge the authenticity of the collectibles offered. I hope their high prices meant the goods were the real stuff.
So what can we learn from MegaCon? Number one; while big is good for managing your overhead expenses; it doesn’t mean that it will provide the best fan experience. Fan group buy-in allows the committee to turn over certain duties and give them a chance to focus on other things. Fans want to show off what they have accomplished, they need room and sometimes encouragement to do so.

Every convention committee does some things well and others not-so-well. We all need to help each other out to improve the fannish community no matter where we live. It is all a volunteer game; otherwise all conventions would be run by professional organizations. Remember it has been tried, even in Omaha and those of you who went to [ ] know how they turned out. Local, volunteer committees bring their heart and soul to the experience. We all need to keep supporting their activities but we also need to give them ideas we discover when we travel and experience what works elsewhere. Have you sent in your memberships for Willycon, ConStellation, OSFest, Nuke-con, and NebrasKon yet?

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