A few years back I was accused of not knowing what a 'modern' SF convention was all about. And maybe that person was right; maybe I focused too much on the types of conventions I had grown comfortable with. So I made a decision to experience as many other types of SF conventions as I could afford to attend. To that end, I have been to a few Anime and Comic conventions over the last couple of years. Since it had been over twenty years since I attended a Media convention, I set my sights on the biggest one to happen this year: LucasFilms' Star Wars Celebration V. Thus I begin noting my thoughts on it: What they did differently, what they did well and what they got wrong.
Every few years, LucasFilms has a really big party for his fans; this year it was in Orlando, FL. As I own some time-shares in the Orlando area and needed to use them, I purchased a 4-day membership for my wife and myself, then headed down for a 2-week vacation. Before anyone asks; it is usually cooler over the summer in Orlando than in Omaha, so going down is a no-brainer (especially if you have annual passes to all the theme parks in the area). The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) has three massive wings. The west wing, where Celebration V was held, alone is an order of magnitude larger than our Qwest Center and they used all of it. Effectively? Let's save that for later.
Programming: A convention is not a convention without appropriate programming. And you might have thought it would be tough to find multi-tracks of programming at a convention devoted to a single story line, yet they did it. Once you split the Star Wars universe into smaller chunks, you have topics for people to talk about and discuss. Collectors had a Collectors' Stage for them, fan groups had a Celebration Fan Stage for them, the Star Wars Classroom & Lecture Hall offered seminars by major authors and artists, and, of course, the celebrities had a special venue for their talks. All of this leads to the observation that the programming department arranged to keep all their tracks separated and within a designated room. If you were interested in a single track, you could stay in that room all day. For example, the Fan Stage had Droid building, 501st indoctrination, Rebel recruitment, Mandalorian Merc training; one right after the other. This is a great idea for fans with limited mobility in a tremendously large convention facility like OCCC.
I liked the fact that they had a panel on How to Enjoy Your Convention Experience. It put a couple of program items in perspective and kept me from spending an overnight in a queue line, when I had other options to see that particular panel. It was also nice that a lot of the fan experience programming feed right into continuous showcases that those groups had elsewhere in the facility, and you could go to that showcase for more in-depth answers to any remaining questions you had.
The panels that I attended, and so are the only ones I can speak for, seemed well run, with time available for audience questions and feedback. And given the constraints of sticking to a single universe, they had a wide variety to panels to interest everyone.
What can OSFest take from this? OSFest 3 kept most of its costuming panels in the same room but not the other tracks. Would people like to see us try to keep our tracks within the single room or spread them around the hotel? Let me know how you want us to schedule your convention.