At one of the last panels of the day, Lance Fensterman and his executive staff sat down and received criticism, kudos, and suggestions from convention attendees. The panelists (biographies from ReedPop):
- Lance Fensterman is Group VP of Reed Pop which means he oversees the team and events on a day to day basis. He also works on business development expanding ReedPOP domestically and globally, but really, he just tries to keep himself employed so he can keep feeding his Lego obsession. He’s been known to accidentally punt from the opponent’s 10 in Super Tecmo Bowl, he prefers striped or argyle socks, and he’s tall enough that if you recline your seat on a flight in front of him, he’ll offer you hard cash not to. Speaking of flights, he flew 140,000 miles last year around the globe growing ReedPOP on all corners of the earth. He joined Reed in 2006 as a former indie bookseller.
- Kim Mueller is Programming Manager behind the New York Comic Con, New York Anime Festival, and C2E2. In other words, she actually does most of the work. Up to her neck in guest outreach, Artist Alley, Kids Day, and so, so much more, Kim’s creates Reed Pop’s ten ring circuses – and then keeps ‘em running on (or close to) schedule. Kim’s a Lost fan and knows way too much about the show, but her Lost knowledge and general pop culture fixation both take a back seat to her first love. Cats. Her cube’s decked out in cat photos, cat calendars, and cat doodles… At times, the team worries about her.
- Larry Settembrini is a Sales Director for ReedPOP working on New York Comic Con, Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, Star Wars Celebration and UFC Fan Expo events. One of the few surviving founders of the New York Comic Con (the others mysteriously vanished from the planet) Larry started back in 2005 as part of the LaunchPad group at Reed. Since then he’s worked on a variety of show launches, his favorite being NYCC. He’s happiest when he is well fed or riding his bicycles (ideally both). If the stress of working for ReedPOP isn’t enough, Larry is a competitive Adventure Racer in which he competes in events lasting 6 – 48 hours non-stop.
- Brian Stephenson is Reed Pop’s minister of propaganda and resident expert on snowboarding, skateboarding, ghost hunting, sasquatch spotting, storytelling and all things related to marketing. He is the guy that makes our shows look, sound, and feel cool. Brian is proud to say that he tries to avoid real work and the real world at all costs. He loves good food, good music, and long walks through the enchanted forest. He is happiest when he is sliding down a mountain, chasing shadows in Gettysburg, PA and hanging out with his family.
The following are a summary of topics raised by the audience, and the response.
- Special Access and Needs. For certain panels, there was some confusion over seats reserved for those with physical challenges. Some were made to wait in the regular line, with no guarantee of a seat. The solution offered was to have a separate line for the reserved seating, and once that was reached, advise latecomers that they would need to wait in the regular line, thus allowing the attendee to make an informed decision with less stress.
- A dearth of Doctor Who programming. This was a result of availability. Lance Fensterman suggested that fans voice their requests directly to the BBC. (Given the tremendous success of the Doctor Who Store on the show floor, I suspect we’ll see a bigger presence next year.)
- Room clearing of the IGN Theater. Again, hall camping was raised, where people getting in line three hours before a scheduled event were told that they were unlikely to be seated, as the room was not being cleared after each event. Lance Fensterman did note that this was done at the Star Wars Celebration, but to do it here would cut the programming in half due to the time needed to move everyone in and out. The panels were streamed live and via closed circuit television within the convention center, but some content was censored due to piracy concerns, which angered some as there was no advisory notice.
- There was no masquerade this year due to space limitations, and the time required to rehearse the show. Instead, daily costume contests were held on the event stage in Hall 1B.
- Lance agreed that there should be a first aid kit in the VIP suite.
- Why weren’t there more panels scheduled on Thursday evening, perhaps a film festival to fill the empty space? This was the first time ReedPop had scheduled programming on a preview night, so the offering was experimental.
- Where was the anime programming? The guests? Why wasn’t there a notice on the Facebook page? Partly, it was hard to schedule talent from Japan. What about local voice talent? (This was one of the few grumblings from the audience.)
- Why were ticket holders “locked out”? Capacity. Lance, from his vantage point in the fourth floor offices, directed staff to “stop and hold” entering attendees at the Yellow entrance for ten to fifteen minutes to allow the congestion to dissipate.
- Video gaming… could it be moved to one area? Lines and crowding would be a concern.
- Lance asked the crowd about the non-traditional exhibitors, such as Chevy and Craftsman. Most of the audience felt it should be geek related.
- Could the Anime Festival be a separate show? Some fans would attend both shows! Lance gave the cold reality: the anime/manga industry is troubled, and the show was not successful on its own.
- The sound in the IGN Theater was awful. The panel agreed, and will try to fix that by next year.
- The scheduling of autographing and panels was problematic, as an attendee would have to get an autograph, then rush to the panel. ReedPop does try to schedule the events hours apart, but some events cannot be scheduled for the evening hours, resulting in compression.
- Wi-fi… Here, ReedPop actually hired a consultant to study the Javits Center and offer solutions. There are two ways to fix the wi-fi: money, or a nuclear device. (The nuclear device was ruled out, as it would depress real estate values.) There are two frequencies at Javits: 2GHz (used by almost everyone, and thus congested) and 5GHz (used mostly by iPhones and iPads, and thus relatively available). The building is antiquated, but the hotspot and charging offered by DaVinci’s Demons were popular, and other exhibitors will probably offer similar services next year. (More criticism can be found here.)
- Once again, the traffic jams caused by cosplay photography was mentioned. ReedPop will consider hiring more staff keep aisle traffic moving. (It should be noted that many photos were being taken at the photo wall in Artists Alley, as well as in the public spaces during the show.)
- ReedPop handed out free autographing tickets on a first-come basis each morning. However, many people camped out overnight. Might ReedPop consider an online raffle? It will be considered.
- A member of the Mandalorian Mercs questioned the lack of non-profit booths, citing the short application deadline with a hefty fee. Reed mentioned that there was a limitation of space (although there were many empty booths), lack of communication, and policy. All would be rectified or improved by next year.
- One attendee understood that some celebrities charge for autographs or photos, but felt embarrassed when he was not informed of the fact until later. He recommended that such exhibitors post signage to inform the public.
- One mother expressed concern that her daughter, who had a valid badge purchased from a retailer, was kept from re-entering the building, because the badge had a different image than those purchased online. Reed would improve on that next year.
- Another attendee asked if Reed could survey attendees on what they would like to see next year. Lance Fensterman then informed the crowd that their annual compensation was gauged to attendee experiences via surveys.
- There was trouble when the VIP tickets went on sale later than the four-day passes. Attendees had to the buy the four-day passes to avoid a sell-out, but then call ReedPop to upgrade to the VIP package. Reed will try to solve this, but this requires some complicated programming, and is not an easy fix.
- Could Reed offer autograph tickets online? Possibly.
- They might also extend the show hours.
Overall, the crowd was polite, and the panelists were honest and open about the show and what it takes to make it run well. They do make mistakes, but strive to make each Comic Con the best yet.
What do you feel ReedPop did well, what was mediocre, and what was your overall experience this year at New York Comic Con?
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!