Sunday, October 17, 2010

Star Wars Celebration V Analysis Part 3

This was a very big convention, with a lot of fans in attendance. That means the security staff had a lot of headaches controlling crowds for special events. Yet the absolutely worst line that I was in the whole time there was the line just to get into the convention area each morning.

Staffers had set aside an entire hall of the Orange County Convention Center just to house that line. First this seems to me, as a convention organizer, a waste of resources. Why rent an entire room whose sole function is to run a line of people arriving at the facility, and only first thing in the morning. Okay, they were expecting, and I understand they got, a tremendously long line for fans wanting to attend the "Main Event". This was the interview of George Lucas by John Stewart. Since my wife and I could not stand in a line overnight to get into the live auditorium, we arrived at the usual opening time for the convention and were able to get into one of the several simulcast rooms. Yes it was a good interview, yes I would have loved to attend in person instead of watching on a theatre style screen, but as was pointed out to us in a panel the first day: would it have been worth the single hour's entertainment to lose the rest of that day to exhaustion from trying to stay in the overnight line. There was too much to do to lose a day like that.

So why did security have to run everyone arriving before 10:30 AM through a line every morning. Your first thought would be badge check. At Megacon (which was held in the same wing of the Orange County Convention Center) in March, they were using a wristband system to control who should be in the convention areas and so ran everyone through a narrow check point to view those wristbands. But Celebration V had a large, colorful badge that you were required to wear that had different Star Wars characters on them for the types of badges they were (Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 4-Day, etc.). This made them very easy to spot and interpret. I didn't notice security checking badges as the line filed in each morning and after the first arrivals had all entered the area, that room was not used again the rest of the day. After that I only noticed security checking badges when people entered the exhibits area. That is not to say they weren't checking them elsewhere, as the best security goes unnoticed.

Finally on this front was the closing of the back entrance to the convention center. The parking lots are behind the center and have an entrance with walkway (they have to go over the loading areas to get the front of the building and the exhibit halls). My wife and I used this entrance extensively at Megacon. She had limited mobility and the elevators and escalators helped her get to the walkway. We arrived the first day assuming that we would have no trouble using this method to get to the center's West Wing, where the convention was held, paid for parking, parked and found we were not allowed to enter this way. In fact we were routed around the entire center. Not a very handicapped friendly greeting for fans. Subsequent days there was a bus to shuttle people from the parking lot to the front, but even then the buses were not allowed to drop people off at the convention entrance. Fortunately, I was able to drop my wife off at the door, then park and take the shuttle myself, as I have not had to have one of my knees replaced. At the end of the day we were able to use the walkway and not have to walk again around the building. But it made for some tension to start off each day.

So what can we learn from this? Imagine yourself handicapped and limited in your mobility as you look at the facilities. Decide how you can overcome the limitations it imposes and don't add security procedures that aggravates those conditions for your attendees.

1 comment:

  1. I want to reiterate that the professional security people were DETERMINED that EVERYbody was going to go in that room - where there was no seating - and stand in line until the con officially opened at 11:00 - at which time the panels all started, and inevitably, the ones I wanted to go to first thing were on the opposite end of the building from that corral. To me, it said, "We got your money, so now we don't care about what you need or want." The volunteer staff was much more helpful, since many of them have or know somebody who has similar limitations. To me, it shows the level of involvement of the persons involved; if they were just there for the paycheck, they didn't care.