[With the comics convention/show scene exploding all around us, we thought it would be interesting to get a behind the scenes on how a show is put together. Over the next few weeks, The Long Beach Comic & Horror Con’s Show Manager Mike Scigliano will be explaining what goes into putting a con together, from floor plans to guest lists. Hopefully, it will give us all a little insight into the what is rapidly becoming most visible aspect of the comics world.]
By Mike Scigliano
Welcome to the 2012 convention season. Great shows like Amazing Arizona Comic Con, MegaCon, WonderCon and Emerald City Comic Con and C2E2 have already come and gone and we have a full calendar of fantastic shows still to come. Heroes Con, SDCC, Fan Expo, Baltimore Comic Con, New York Comic Con and Long Beach Comic & Horror Con. I’m the Show Manager for Long Beach Comic & Horror Con and we’re looking to close the season out with a bang.
Over the next few months I’ll be writing about how we put the show together from the ground up. I’ll have guests such as LBCHC’s show owners Martha Donato & Phil Lawrence. I’ll also have some guests to give the perspective of the creators in artist alley as well as the retailers and exhibitors on the show floor. By the time Long Beach Comic & Horror Con rolls around this November you will have a pretty solid insight into just what it takes to put on a successful event. So let’s get started…
First off I should introduce myself. My name is Mike Scigliano and I’ve been in the comic book industry for almost 15 years working in retail, publishing, non-profit, event management and more. I’ve been around, so to speak. Being Show Manager for LBCHC is the culmination of all the experience I’ve picked up over the years. The job itself includes sales, logistics, guest relations, floor management, a sprinkle of programming and just about anything else that comes up along the way. However, it’s a job you have to really love in order to truly do it right. It certainly won’t make you rich. You won’t be famous. And if you do your job right very few people will even know you exist. Like I said, you have to love the job. And I love the job.
The first question we get about LBCHC is typically ‘What are we doing running a comic con in Long Beach, CA?’ Well, to be perfectly honest, we love it there. Long Beach has one of the most modern and spacious convention halls in the country. The surrounding area is fantastic. It features great restaurants, night life and an overall atmosphere that you can only find near the coast in SoCal. The fans are, in a word, AMAZING. Each year we are treated to some of the most passionate fans you will ever meet. So when you ask me why I am part of a team that runs a show 2,807 miles from my home my I’ll reply with a simple ‘Why wouldn’t I be?’
The LBCHC team begins it’s major lead up to the big show each year with a one day event held each spring, Long Beach Comic Expo. We consider it, logistically, the kick off for everything we do publicly for LBCHC. Our first guest list is announced, first exhibitors, any major early programming and so on. Our PR schedule begins at LBCE, too. The expo itself was conceived as a thank you to the fans, creators and exhibitors who support the fall show. From the $15 ticket price to the relatively low cost of the exhibitor space, the event is designed so that everyone can have a great day. Fans have fun and exhibitors turn a profit. When all is said and done, the Long Beach Comic Expo builds both community and industry awareness for LBCHC in the fall. With so many new shows popping up in SoCal awareness is something we need to build all year long.
This year’s one day show, May 12th, is presenting us with it’s own set of challenges. About a month ago we sold out of exhibitor and artist alley space. We’re excited, happy and proud to have sold out exhibitor space for the show just under two months before the doors open but it does pose a problem for us. A good problem but a problem nonetheless. Martha, Phil and I have had countless calls, emails and texts working on solving the problem. We were able to adjust the floor to maximize the amount exhibitor space we could safely fit into the square footage we have available. In the end we were able to add a bit more exhibitor space and put a dent into our waiting list. It’s not as much as I’d like but it is what it is.
With much of the LBCE 2012 pre-show wrapped, details and last minute bits aside, we’re shifting our focus onto the big fall show. Next week I’ll start to explore what it takes to get such a massive undertaking off the ground with only THREE full time staffers. It’s not easy and we have our share of highs and lows but we get it done. Hopefully, whether you are a fan or an industry professional, you will have gained some new insight into what it takes to put on an event like Long Beach Comic & Horror Con by the time we turn the page to November.
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.