Question #4 – Too many guests can upset exhibitors and artists (attendee money going to guests and not exhibitors). Not enough guests can upset attendees (not enough guests to persuade them to attend). In your opinion, is there a perfect balance between attendees, guests, and exhibitors/artists?
Mike Olivares – Tucson Comic-Con: Yes, but that balance is not an easy one to figure out. The landscape is changing every year and you always try to figure new ways to bring more people in, but also make sure the love is being shared all around with sales. Once again, not an easy thing to do. I have been doing this for 10 years and I’m always going back to the drawing board.
John Lester – Game On Expo: Yes, I believe there is a fine balance between finding the right amount of guests and programming, and catering towards the interest of the vendors too. Vendors are extremely important for us at Game On Expo. We understand that whether you are selling games/merch, or are a part of our Artist Alley area, it’s a strong vendor room that makes for a strong overall convention and experience. Last year we definitely took notes on things that we could improve on, and make it better for both the vendors and attendees. One common feedback we received was that a lot of our programming was away and too far from our vendor hall, which pulled away attendees. That’s one of the reasons we’ve decided to move to the Phoenix Convention Center to make everything more centrally located.
Matt Solberg – Phoenix Comicon: Of course there is a perfect balance, also understanding that there are attendees who do not care to meet celebrities or guests and attend the convention for other reasons. That balance though is delicate as it adjusts with every single show and celebrity or guest that is announced.
Michael Spadafore – Taiyou Con: Having guests charge for something like a photo op and autograph is something that is seen more at comic conventions than at even larger anime conventions. If the convention that someone is organizing offers paid guest interactions, I do believe there is a balance that can make everyone happy. Having that perfect balance of guests that reach a broad attendee base is something that is needed in order for a convention to grow.
Hal Astell – LepreCon43/Westercon 70: Well, different people want different balances, so there is no right answer here.
Some want the large PHXCC experience. That’s a list of guests and vendors so large that nobody can meet all of them. It’s about immersion into a geekdom wonderland and picking targets.
Some want the medium Mad Monster experience. That’s still focused around a variety of guests and vendors but it’s small enough that attendees can meet and chat with all of them. It’s about less size and more focus.
And some want the small LepreCon or TusCon experience. That’s a smaller but more tailored selection of guests and vendors, specifically targeted to the community that runs and attends these cons. It’s about personal connection, with guests literally wandering around the con chatting with attendees.
There’s value at all three of these levels, as long as it’s done right. My favorite Arizona con, Doc Con, is celebrating 20 years in 2017; everything’s in one room and I’m not sure it’s even reached 100 attendees yet, but it’s like going home to family you haven’t seen for a year.
Greg Fennell – Saboten Con: We try and manage our exhibitor space by talking with them yearly to see how they are doing and to see if they are making money. We take those discussions to decide if we grow/shrink the number of booths as well as increase/decrease the costs of the booths. We believe that once we sell a spot to a vendor they are in a business partnership with us and thus we want to make sure they are happy and want to buy for future events, thus making our vendor hall more successful and with good product.
As for guests, since my industry doesn’t charge for autographs/photos (except in very rare occasions) we really don’t’ have a negative impact to our attendee/vendor relationship, if anything more guests will bring in more attendees which in turn will get our vendors more sales.