Late in the day on the Sunday of Emerald City Comic Con, tucked in an out-of-the-way panel room, ReedPOP held their ECCC ’19 talkback panel. The session was conversational in tone, with panelists taking questions and suggestions from a group of less than two-dozen people in the small third-floor room of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center. ECCC staffers on the panel and in the room included, among others, event manager MK Goodwin, content coordinator Katie Ruark, sales lead Josh Gold, and brand marketing manager Emily Robillard.
There were a few frequent topics of conversation throughout the Q&A, with the security around the event being foremost in many people’s minds. The security presence at this year’s ECCC was higher than past years, with metal detectors and bag searches at all points of entry. Overall attitudes towards the security seemed to be positive, but not without room for improvement. Suggestions were made to add more tables in the security area for cosplayers, who might have to take off their bulky costumes or set down props in order to get through the metal detectors, and for designating certain entrances for people with special needs or small children. On the negative side, long lines as a result of the security caused one attendee, traveling from one building of the con to another, to miss panels she had planned to attend, even though she had try to plan for the increased security and wait-time. Another attendee said he was able to bring a pocket knife he had mistakenly brought with him into the show on Thursday, to the horror of the panelists. Goodwin said they had still been ironing some things out the first day of the show, and that the attendee should not have been allowed to enter with his pocket knife. Another attendee said he thought the security at the Hyatt Regency, where all of the celebrity signings and appearances took place, was less strict than at the convention center, though the panelists did say they had some measures in place at that venue that they couldn’t talk about.
On the subject of the different venues for the convention, reaction seemed to be begrudgingly understanding that, as the con expands, it will have to branch out into other locations. Asked about why the main convention stage was moved to the Hyatt Regency, two blocks away from the convention center, the panel explained that the move was based on feedback from previous attendee surveys. The reasoning was threefold: to alleviate crowding on the show floor, which the previous main stage emptied out onto after panels; to centralize the experience for fans who come to the show just for the celebrities; and to allow fans and celebrities to spend more time together by cutting out the need to move between multiple buildings. Another closer hotel, the Sheraton, was not available this year, so the Hyatt Regency it was.
Another attendee said they skipped the costume contest, which was held at the Hyatt, due to both the hassle of it being held in a different location and the main stage at the Hyatt being smaller than in previous years. The panelists acknowledged the size of the stage, and said they would love to get one of the larger local theaters (The Paramount and Benaroya Hall were mentioned) for the event but have been unable to do so due to those venues’ schedules. They indicated that they may be able to get one of those theaters for the gaming convention PAX, also put on by ReedPOP, which is later in the year during those venues’ off-seasons.
Probably the other biggest area of concern for both attendees and ReedPOP staffers was the poor cell reception in the convention center. The building is basically a dead zone, particularly around the main panel rooms in the Conference Center building. I personally noticed that reception on the main vendor floor, while poor for the first couple of days, was actually pretty decent on Saturday and Sunday. Still, it did cause issues for both attendees and staffers throughout the show. People trying to use the ECCC app to plan their experiences had difficulty doing so with the poor reception, and con staff had trouble staying in touch with each other throughout the show for the same reason. Panelists did say that this has been an ongoing struggle for them, and that they are looking into ways they can improve cell service and wifi throughout the buildings. Goodwin also mentioned that they’re looking into a new third-party app developer—ReedPOP had previously used My Show in past years before switching to their own platform. Their goal in finding a new app provider is to better integrate the desktop experience with the app, to improve their Section 508 compliance for users with disabilities (which one attendee pointed out was lacking on the current version of the app), and to create an app that works well in areas with poor internet connectivity. Goodwin joked that this may be a like trying to find a unicorn.
There were a few other comments and anecdotes that caught my attention. A couple in attendance from Ohio praised the food guide that con organizers had put together, and suggested bringing in food trucks, which panelists said was up to the venue to approve. Those same attendees said that they’d tried to bring some lost items to the Lost & Found, and were told to just put the items back where they found them, which baffled the panelists. There was praise for the increased signage both inside and outside the buildings, for the scavenger hunt and the cosplay area in Freeway Park, and for this year’s growth of both Artist Alley and the Homegrown section. An attendee joked that one way to accommodate continued growth for both of those areas would be to move Funko to another building, which drew laughs from the room.
The panel wrapped, and with it the overall convention, with an appreciative round of applause for the team who put on the show, and the invitation for panel attendees to pick up some ECCC swag on their way out.
Joe Grunenwald is a writer and editor living in the Pacific Northwest. He’s taller than a lot of people but not as tall as some people.