NYCC’15: “NYCC Team Q&A” Listens to the Fans’ Criticisms, Concerns, and Comments

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(Sorry for the poor quality… cellphone, end of the day, everyone was a bit tired…)

A con tradition, ReedPOP schedules a final panel at New York Comic Con where the main staff gathers to listen to concerns from attendees. This year, the panel consisted of Lance Fensterman (Senior Global Vice President), Mike Armstrong (Event Director), MK Goodwin (Content Manager), Jackie  Williams (Marketing Director), and Kristina Rogers (Event Manager). (Shown, right to left, above.)

What were the main themes this year? Ticketing and scalping, wristbands and panel maintenance, miscommunication.

While perusing my Facebook feed this weekend, I didn’t see anything go viral. I’ll have my recollections later this week. There was one incident Sunday morning in the autographing area, which is being investigated further. I wasn’t there, so I can’t report further.

Ticketing

Scalping remains a cat-and-mouse game. ReedPOP had signs posted outside informing the public of New York state law.

Mike Armstrong noted that they cancelled thousands of tickets, and Lance mentioned that RP staff does cull through the registration data searching for duplicates in a variety of fields.

Scalping/bulk sales was also the reason why the final sale at Midtown Comics Downtown was announced only a few days before the Sunday sale, to thwart resellers. Thousands of tickets were offered, and what didn’t sell that Sunday were sold at Midtown’s stores on Monday.

Because of this, it is difficult for fan groups (or groups of fans) to organize attendance at the show.

There were suggestions for an official ReedPOP reselling site, where people could offer their unused passes in a legal environment. This has been considered, but it would be expensive for RP to implement.

This year, ReedPOP did not “tier” the sale of passes. In years past, sales were staggered, usually monthly, so that first VIP tickets were sold, then multi-day, then single day. This year, RP tried selling everything at once. There was some malicious online activity experienced by RP that day.

VIP tickets in the past were sold mostly to previous VIP attendees. This year, it was more open, to give new attendees a chance.

Programming and Crowd Control

AMC organized a large Walking Dead premiere at Madison Square Garden. There were complaints about announcing the release of the tickets. with some fans shut out. There were multiple sweepstakes and promotions offered, and 15,000+ attendees managed to attend.

The queue hall was less well managed than last year. Mike Armstrong noted that this year, it was run by staff members and security, not by the volunteer crew members. Less manpower meant less control. Some lines did not allow attendees to leave, due to large amounts of traffic entering the hall in the morning. One audience member had “gauntlets” of multiple wristbands!

[My experience: I checked the notice board in the middle of the day to see what Main Stage panels were available. I quickly got a wristband for the 7 PM panel, returned to the show floor, and came back at 6 PM to stand in line. It was orderly, the crowd was polite, I got a decent seat, and the DJ and emcees did a great job of keeping the crowd occupied until the panel began.]

Could wristbands be offered for other panels? No, as there is not space for people to line up for multiple panels. [Each panel room  had an adjacent room or space for people to queue before each panel.]

Could attendees reserve [panels in advance, online? Not really, as the Con and content providers want a full house. RP did allow people into panels as other people left. [This was my experience at the DC Super Hero Girls panel.]

The room did laud RP staff for the excellent programming and scheduling. Each room did have an event manager (although a few covered two at the same time) and crew members.

Attendees criticized that exhibitors were in line at booths before attendees. [The same thing happened at San Diego…exhibitors get in line early to buy exclusives.]

As with every show, traffic jams occurred in the aisles due to cosplay photos and general chitchat. This was a particular problem for people in wheelchairs and crutches. Lance reiterated that they do try to remind people to “be nice” to each other. Mike noted that many attendees were ejected from the show, including volunteers.

There was criticism over the “Blue Entrance” for VIPs, press, pros. The times allowed for entrance in the morning were not properly maintained. Those attendees could have used the normal “Green Entrance”, and RP will work to better communicate that in the future.

The Hammerstein Ballroom was used as an adjunct programming space for larger panels. There were two criticisms: line management for the Masashi Kishimoto signing where conflicting information was given, and the general food and drink policy.

One attendee complained that the event for Mr. Robot had many empty “reserved” seats. Lance explained that those seats are reserved by the IP holder (USA Network) for studio execs, staff, etc.

Miscellaneous and Sundry

The general consensus of the crowd was that “the app sucks”. [I don’t use it, ReedPOP doesn’t like Gingerbread.] One member criticized the numerous messages pushed to his phone. However, a request was made that bathrooms and drinking fountains be added to the map.

One attendee asked if the New York Anime Festival might return. Lance noted that with the need for the show to expand outside the Javits Center (as seen with the Hammerstein Ballroom events), that future shows might anchor certain fandoms or programming tracks at a local hotel.

One member of the press noted the lack of water in the press room. Lance mentioned that they had a similar problem in the Con offices. The same attendee also cited the lack of PR notices from exhibitors, but that is the responsibility of the companies attending.

I was not the only one nervous about Hurricane Joaquin, which was originally forecast to sweep over the New York metropolitan area. One attendee asked about RP’s contingency planning. Lance stated that they would do what was in the best interest of everyone’s safety. Reed Exhibitions, the global parent company of ReedPOP, has experience with inclement weather, having once hosted a show in Philadelphia during a blizzard. [It should be noted that the City did cancel both the Halloween Parade and the New York City Marathon in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. I was snowed in at Chicago last February, during the American Library Association conference. The buses were running, the streets were plowed, so the conference continued while the airport was closed.]

…and, when one commenter noted that he had attended all ten New York Comic Cons, the panel asked for a show of hands how many others had done the same. I was one of ten, in that room!


Got any comments, complaints, critiques, concerns? You’re always welcome to contact ReedPOP, or you can tell us below. What was your experience?

 

13 COMMENTS

  1. Maybe they should consider Stub Hub or other such service as an official reseller of their tickets. Allows them to have a lower cost solution and still allow fans to get the tickets legally. The two MI Big Ten college sports teams use it as the official second hand seller of their tickets.

  2. >>>There was criticism over the “Blue Entrance” for VIPs, press, pros. The times allowed for entrance in the morning were not properly maintained. Those attendees could have used the normal “Green Entrance”, and RP will work to better communicate that in the future.

    There was a VIP entrance?

  3. 1. The app really does suck. I punched in a bunch of stuff on my NYCC account on my desktop and it wouldn’t sync with the app. Waste of time.

    2. They really do need to fix registration. Malicious activity or not, they clearly underestimated how many people would try to register. Not everyone can get in, I think people understand that. But there’s no need to make it a cruel and torturous process , like making people think they had a pass, only for an error message or a timeout to cause you to lose it (I lost a VIP pass that way). Doing all the passes at once just caused chaos.

    3. They need to get rid of those booths in the hallway to Artist Alley. Yes, making people go outside on Saturday and Sunday eased the problem, but it’s dependent on good weather. Good luck telling someone who spent thousands are artwork they have to walk outside in the rain to get back to the main hall. Yes, you lose money by getting rid of those booths. You also lose money if the fire marshal shuts you down, which nearly happened on Friday.

    4. I thought the main hall panels were well handled. You can’t sit in there all day and catch everything, but you can catch one or two things you love. So that’s cool.

    5. This was my third NYCC. The crowds were unreal. I’m not sure what they can do about it, short of expanding the Center. People were shell-shocked on Thursday by the size of the crowds. I had someone asking to buy my pass as I was leaving on Sunday at 3 pm. The floor closed at 5.

    6. I heard the #7 train referred as the Nerd Train. It amused me.

    7. The concession stand were busy and Starbuck was ridiculous, but you could at least eat there, unlike 2012 (last time I went), when it was Starbucks and some sandwich place on site that was it.

    8. I love NYCC, but I can’t help but wonder if it was my last one. Just the size of the crowds…it’s exhausting and overwhelming. Plus, the registration system this year was just cruel. I only do a con every 3 years or so because of where I live. Maybe I’ll pick one a little more sensible like Baltimore next time. We’ll see…

  4. As an exhibitor, I think Reed deserves excessive praise for their panel room support. I’ve never had a two-person AV team AND a two-person line management team at any other show. It might have been just a perk with the larger rooms, I don’t know, but those guys took care of us so well I was expecting them to have dinner ready for me when I got home.

    The main floor traffic was a total disaster. We just need to set aside a couple designated cosplay/photo taking areas and mark off a separate browsing lane in front of the booths so traffic can still move past while people stop to browse/chat/shop. You will lose a few thousand bucks in booth rental if you designate picture taking spots but it will completely change the experience on the floor.

  5. I was on the show floor Thursday (the big booths), Saturday, and Sunday.
    The only places where traffic was bad were at the smaller vendor booths towards the back and sides, where the aisles were narrower. Four people could move down those aisles, which means only the middle handled traffic, as shoppers stopped in the other two aisles.

    Photo spots won’t help much. Say you’re walking one way, and the cosplayer is walking the other direction. Are both of you going to navigate a crowded show floor to get to a designated space to take a photo which takes… a few minutes to stage? Better to remind people to take photos at the intersections. But then, the intersections will attract hordes of photographers…

    People do need to be reminded to only stop at the intersections, and then preferably by the supporting tree columns. Me, I’m not above going into “New Yorker” mode with people who block aisles, or stop moving in the middle of an aisle with heavy traffic.

  6. “Torsten just because you can find something with google doesn’t mean anyone knows about it.”

    NYCC has always been great at telling people where that entry is. There’s always a slip in my ProPass letting me know where to go. But it’s really all for naught once the show is opened and the main queue line has been let on the floor.

  7. “Could attendees reserve [panels in advance, online? Not really, as the Con and content providers want a full house. RP did allow people into panels as other people left. [This was my experience at the DC Super Hero Girls panel.]”

    I don’t get this answer. They could still have advanced reservation for panels, while also having a standby line in case the panels still have extra room. In fact, to be more fair they could always have a set percent of seats specifically for standby. I’ve suggested before that they could use the RFID badge technology so that attendees can reserve for panels online, and then staff members could scan their badges as they entered the panel room. Disney World has a similar system for their attractions called FastPass+, where park goers can reserve up to 3 FastPasses in advanced per day. There’s also a tier system, so that you’re limited to only reserving one E-ticket attraction, so that not all E-ticket attraction FastPasses get booked as fast. I guess the main complication is that all other panel rooms aside from Main Events do no clear inbetween panels, so they don’t know how many seats they could allow people to reserve in advanced. I think they could at least test out an RFID badge system for Main Events as a replacement for the wristband system, as that would cut down time waiting for wristbands and also clear up space that is currently used for wristband distribution. One big drawback with the first come/first serve wristband distribution each morning is that it prevents attendees from waiting for early panels and autograph sessions elsewhere. If an RFID badge system ended up working well for Main Events, then they could expand that to other panels.

  8. Matt:
    How do you redeem your reservation? Do you scan your badge upon entering Javits, and get a wristband?
    Do they scan your badge as you enter the event space? How much longer does that take when 3000 attendees are eager to get good seats?

    BookExpo (in the past at least, dunno about currently) would have ticketed events for the more popular authors. Some you paid for in advance (like author luncheons), others were distributed freely each morning, starting a few hours before the show floor opened.

    ReedPOP could easily do that at the ticket booth set up in near the Blue Entrance., which is outside the “clean zone” of NYCC, and generally underutilised. The badge is scanned, and then you are limited on how many tickets you can pick up for yourself and friends. Or you get wristbanded, which makes crowd control a lot easier later.

    I’d actually like to see an author luncheon, or breakfast, like at BookExpo. Stage it in a hotel ballroom, you eat while the guest talks, you get a gift bag upon exiting, Everybody’s happy.

  9. Setting aside booth space for photos may not be the answer, but designated photo space SOMEHOW is definitely the way forward for North American comic conventions. Unless they restrict cosplay to a separate room, which nobody wants. But sure, let’s just make the open spaces w/ supporting columns the photo opp sections, that works. Cosplayers can decline photos in the middle of the aisle and say, “Meet me 20 feet that way for a photo.”

    Sectioning off “express lanes” from shopping/browsing lanes in the aisles is a must, as well. I’m surprised no one has done this yet.

    And it was terribly congested all over the floor. The Lion Forge booth was set further back in the narrower aisles and we actually did better with traffic flow. I had to pass through the Marvel, Image, and Dark Horse sections about a hundred times to meet my booth guests, buy lunches, etc., and every time it took me about an hour to work through the bottlenecks and back.

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