Fandom Fest: How Not to Run a Con

When we were down at the Louisville Arcade Expo this past spring, Claire and I saw a flier for Fandom Fest and knew we wanted to go. Four months later our bags were packed, our room was booked, and we headed south to Louisville. I was particularly excited because this would be my first big convention. However, the problems started almost as soon as we arrived.

We made our way over to the Kentucky International Convention Center, and things seemed odd from the beginning. We were given a bracelet (similar to what you get at a fair, or a derby bout) to wear for the entirety of the weekend instead of a badge (a small thing for sure, but the first sign this would not be a regular convention). We were not given a map, or any direction as to where to go, so we made our way to room 2D because we had heard several other guests make mention of it.

Room 2D was indeed where we wanted to be. It was the main vendor hall, and while we were there we asked about programs. They had apparently been printed incorrectly and were not available. We were informed we could access them online, but when I tried either the site or the cellular network was crawling under the traffic. When we got to our hotel room later that night, we found out we were being pointed to PDFs. There was no free WiFi in the convention center, so these were intended to be PDFs downloaded under a cellular network. Not a pleasant experience to say the least.

We scoped out the vendor hall for a bit, and then made our way over to the Galt House to see what of the convention was going on there. The Galt House itself had fantastic maps of the hotel you could use to find out how to get to events. We used this as our guide on Friday Night. However, as we used the maps to find various Fandom Fest rooms, we found the rooms to be empty. In one room where there was only a single vendor, we learned that most the Galt House vendors were stuck in the check-in line. This seems a bit ridiculous to me. Have a separate check in for your vendors, preferably away from attendees. Without vendors, you lose a big part of your convention.

Friday night wasn’t a complete bust. It was disorganized and hard to find things sure, but we did find an amazing show to see (look for a post about that this week), a good cheap buffet for dinner, and were able to get checked in quickly. On Saturday however, everything went to hell.

Lines at Fandom Fest.

Lines on Saturday morning. No idea where to stand.

We woke up Saturday and downloaded the program to my iPad. Immediately we were confused. We looked under the “events” page to see what was going on and while rooms and times were listed, we didn’t know which building. It’s great that the Masquerade Ball is in “Grand Ballroom A” but is that the convention center or the Galt House? No matter, we knew our first task was to buy Claire’s fiance a photo op with the Boondock Saints. This was where the disaster started. No one in a staff shirt knew where the line was. Or what each line was. Or sometimes even what you were asking. Our strategy ended up being Claire stands in line, go to the front to ask what the line is for and move as appropriate.

We finally got our photo op purchased but Claire’s finace was still in the mess that was the Fandom Fest ticket line. The lady working the photo op counter was the only one who seemed competent, when we told her our dilemma (we thought a couple hours would be plenty of time to do all of this) she made sure he was able to get his pass for the convention. Now it was time to get the photo.

We went to get in the photo line, and it turns out the online programs were incorrect. The photo we thought was at one, was actually at noon. We were trying to find the appropriate line at noon. Again, staff had no idea what was going on. In fact, we asked one gentleman where to stand and he said “here” I replied, “In front of all these people?” He said “Yes.” You read that correctly, staff told us to cut the line. At the end of the day we got the picture but it was an unnecessarily stressful process. I understand lines. I understand waits. I don’t understand the disorganization. And no staff its not the amount of people. You don’t hear these stories out of SDCC.

The other major thing we wanted to do on Saturday was to see the John Barrowman Q&A, originally scheduled for 4:00pm. Thankfully, I follow John Barrowman on Twitter because I learned from his personal twitter account that it had been pushed to 6:00pm. His Q&A made everything worth the hassle for us. But even Barrowman addressed the horrible disorganization. He told everyone who didn’t get photos they paid for to get their money back.

What was the weirdest thing however, is the social accounts of Fandom Fest were silent. No tweets. No Facebook posts. No nothing to tell people when things were rescheduled and moved. You  have the resource. Use it!

There were some good parts, and I’ll post those and my photos later. But overall, this con was a disaster. We will not be coming back. We aren’t the only ones who feel that way either.

Update: Photos from the con are now up on Flickr and Facebook.

18 Responses to “Fandom Fest: How Not to Run a Con”
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