by Mike Scigliano
Over the last two months I’ve discussed a good deal of things you need to think about when putting together a comicon. From venues and dates to decorators and floor plans, we’ve covered much of the big stuff. So let’s take a look at some of the fine details that can easily be overlooked.
One very important detail is security. Security is something that you really want to nail down early. There are a few different aspects to consider when setting up your security plans. First, of course, is if you will be hiring a professional security firm. Many times the convention center or building you book your hall in will have an in-house security firm or one they contract with and recommend to Show Management. Simply put, if you are staging a multiple day comicon you’ll likely want to contract a professional security firm.
There are a few things you need to consider when formulating your security plan. First is the safety of your attendees. Do you have security guards stationed at all entrances to check for valid comicon badges? What about during load in — is there security on site to keep an eye on the loading dock and the main hall? Do you have special guests who might need added security? As you can see there are many questions you need to address when putting your security plan into action.
At LBCHC we contract a security firm. We also have one of the best comicon security advisors, Steve Hoveke, on staff as well. He personally attends to sensitive security matters with guests, attendees and exhibitors.
“Security for attendees is always of utmost importance at shows because of the amount of people in close proximity in a single enclosed space. You must be as prepared as you can be, because no matter how hard you try, you will never think of every situation, and you need to be prepared for that. It’s important for the con, security-wise, to be prepared so that the attendees can focus on having a good experience and not having to worry about safety issues, etc.” – Steve Hoveke, LBCHC Security Manager
This one may seem obvious but having volunteers helping out at your comicon is vital. You and your staff cannot be everywhere and this is where having well-trained volunteers helping out comes in handy. At LBCHC we deploy our volunteers in many ways. From greeting attendees and answering questions to managing lines and helping out at registration, there are a vast number of ways you can utilize a volunteer workforce.
The key to having a great volunteer corps lies in their training. At LBCHC each year we give our volunteers a training session before the show opens. We encourage each volunteer to ask as many questions as they need to. And if they cannot answer a question while deployed they are instructed to find a Show Management staff member who can. We’d rather have the volunteer truthfully tell the attendee or exhibitor “I am not sure about that. Let me find out for you.” then to make up an answer. The last thing we stress is making sure they are polite and respectful.
Overall volunteers can serve a vital purpose at your comicon. With training and experience some of the volunteers can almost be like having extra staff members. LBCHC supplies a volunteer t-shirt, admission to the comicon when they aren’t volunteering, as well as whatever goodies we can amass each year. We also treat them like the important part of the team they are. And because of that LBCHC has some amazing volunteers that have been with us since the first year of the show.
I have mentioned it several times since the start of the column, so by this point it should be apparent just how important it is. Whether it’s returning emails and phone calls in a timely manner or answering questions on site at your comicon, you and your Show Management staff need to exhibit the absolute best customer service. Treat people the way you want to be treated — with respect.
Websites cost money, but you don’t have to spend a lot and it doesn’t have to be the best looking site ever. It does need to have as much information as possible. Registration forms, maps, programming schedules, hours, contact info, guest lists, ticket sales info, etc.
An emailer is a very important and often forgotten tool. It’s the absolute most direct way to engage people who are interested in your comicon. At LBCHC we have a few emailer lists. One list is devoted to consumers. We use it to pass on information such as guest list additions, programming notes, news updates and more. It’s a proactive way to get information in front of the people who care the most. Not everyone will visit your site often enough to learn all the updates you’ve made. We also have a list dedicated to exhibitors. We pass on important info as it pertains to exhibitors. One other list is our press list. We send our releases out to this list. A good tip is to use an emailer service that employs unsubscribe services. The last thing you want is for your email, or worse your domain, to be flagged as spam.
Again, this one is pretty obvious. Will you print and manage tickets yourself? From the sales to the registration check in? It can be very intimidating to undertake such a big job. Over the years we’ve used both in-house and outside solutions. Our current method at LBCHC is an outside company that manages the sale of the tickets, the data, etc. They also supply us with technology to expedite the onsite check in process. We’ve had longer lines that we’d like to pick up an advanced ticket in the past. Using this system we have been able to cut that waiting time down significantly.
Will your show have any audio visual needs? At LBCHC we certainly have needs. We run a full slate of programming which will require mics, sound systems, screens, video playback, projections and more. Very often the convention center or building you are hosting your comicon at will have an in-house A/V service. Be sure to check and see if you are required, by contract to use them. If not, you can shop around and do your homework you can easily find a very reliable A/V company that fits your needs and most importantly your budget.
These are just some of the important details you need to consider when planning your comicon. As you can see, forgetting or neglecting any of these could come back to haunt you when your comicon dates roll around. Make a check list. Include any and ALL things you need to address. If you check it over weekly and continue to add items as you discover them you will be well on your way to minding the details of your comicon.
Comments and questions are encouraged either below in the comments section or via twitter.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.