Website needs help -- I was never featured as an artist on it even though some of my fellow AA people were (that’s not very fair). I was finally listed two days before the con in the big vendor list at least. They claimed they were having some issues with their site. Similarly, applying to this show could really use some automation, I had to phone the newspaper and pay my table fee with a credit card. They didn't even have the current exhib package online, you had to contact them for a non-interactive PDF to be e-mailed to you (2015’s was on the website during the application period). That should all be current on the website, and we should be able to register and pay through there too. Come on, folks. Woo commerce is free.
Biggest beef is that the move-in instructions were completely absent. Two days before the show, we received an e-mail that included the following:
“Exhibitor badges will be issued upon arrival unless otherwise requested. Each badge will include contact information for members of our team who will be on hand to help if you need anything at the show or need a volunteer to cover your booth while you take a break. We will be issuing a exhibitor/visitors package with information on local restaurants, businesses, etc. Watch for this as it will include special offers for exhibitors of Northern FanCon.”
None of that ended up being true. Not a word of it. We arrived Friday morning to set up, and there were no signs and no staff who could tell us where to check in, where to park, or even where to go! Just other confused vendors milling about. There were no maps of the grounds sent to us, (i.e., park here, load here) and so we, along with several other vendors, spent at least 30-45 minutes driving around, walking into random buildings and trying to find someone fancon-related. It’s a big fairground/arena type series of buildings. Eventually we managed to find where our tables are, since at least it was on the floorplan sent out a few days previously, and we found the right building. So we just parked wherever we felt like and started setting up. One of the staff eventually came around and gave us our badges, but I wish there had been a check-in station when we arrived so it wasn’t so confusing. The lady who gave us our badges seemed to be the only staff member on-site at that time! She could only talk to us for a few moments before she was pulled away by someone else. The badge did NOT include any contact info for Fancon team members, nor was there any sort of exhibitor/visitor package as promised. Chatted with a lot of the other vendors and they all seemed to agree that check-in was a disaster. I think perhaps it went better for people who arrived to set up on the Thursday night? But for Friday morning, I am going to say it was our second worst check-in/set-up process, after C4 in Winnipeg in 2008. That really needs to be fixed. Signage, clear instructions beforehand including a map and parking/loading details, and a stationary staff member or check-in desk is all that is needed.
About the show itself, I think the ratio of attendees might be a little unbalanced, there sure were a lot of vendors and the aisles never got super crowded. It being in multiple connected arenas was sort of confusing to me, but I think where the AA was got a lot of foot traffic so that was okay. We did reasonably well, certainly made costs and some profit, but it wasn’t a killer show, profit-wise. One thing that I don’t recommend they do again is hold the costume contest during the hours the vendor halls are open. It was DEAD for the two last hours of Saturday because all of the attendees went to see the costume competition. I cringe to think how much of the vendors’ time that completely wasted. I didn’t make a single sale during that time, nor did anyone else near me that I could see. I saw maybe 2-3 attendees walking around during that two hour span? Ugh.
There was one AA vendor who had a MASSIVE booth with a wire-grid retail assembly. If they did AA tables they must have purchased at least 6-8. I wasn’t sure if they were a vendor who was just put in the AA for room/fitting reasons, or if they were an AA person. It sort of interrupted the AA and I think blocked people from coming down our aisle. Not the vendor’s fault, just a placement issue.
Not sure on attendance since once the show was over, all was quiet on social media and there were no follow-up e-mails (at least yet). But it has been a week since the show at this point so I am not really expecting anything, to be honest. Might have been a few thousand?
I don't want to completely rag on this convention because I feel it was actually a pretty good show for a small city, and that the organizers seemed really dedicated and hard-working. I think they were perhaps spread too thinly though, and they have a lot of work to do in terms of their interactions and support of vendors. But it is a new show so I’m sure it will improve as time goes on. We haven't decided yet whether we will go back foe 2016. We might wait a year or two for them to work out some of these issues. I would recommend it as long as it is within driving distance, and you are prepared for some of the new show hiccups.
One brilliant thing they did was have a carnival midway (West Coast Amusements) running at the same time as the convention outside in the parking lot. What a great idea to draw people in! It was too bad there weren’t sandwich signs or something on the road or outside the convention centre to let people know the convention was going on. Man, even a single sandwich sign on the main road near the convention would have been a big help, I bet. Didn’t see a single sign outside.