Management was really, really terrible and gave off overall shady vibes.
Application: Their site was confusing, as their AA application is a PDF with instructions to mail in with a check for the hefty fee of $360 for 2022. I could not believe that a convention expected me to mail them a check without acceptance in these modern times of online forms, so I simply e-mailed them the form and asked if that was appropriate. (I expect a lot of people don't even HAVE checks these days.) They said no problem, and that I would be sent an online invoice. I honestly thought it was first-come-first-serve based on this. But then, no invoice came, and Megacon was only one month away. I honestly forgot about it, and figured "okay, guess I didn't get in and they just never told me". Even that is pretty weird, but then lo and behold, in my e-mail was a third-party email from a credit card processor for the Megacon table invoice- only like 35 days out from the con.
Definitely a crunch, but I decided to go for it since I had already prepped a lot of stock for another con I had a month later. Still, it took days from this invoice for them to finally send out a sort of passive-aggressively worded acceptance e-mail.
Around this time, I was seeing MANY people in my artist community complaining because they HAD sent a check, the $360 had been deposited, they had paid for hotels/flights/etc, and were now receiving a rejection letter with word that refunds would take potentially a month to process. Mind you this is heresay, but a red flag nonetheless.
Load in: Load-in for the cars was also poorly managed. They have a car garage loading area with multiple doors spanning the vendor floor. They directed everyone to a single door, regardless of the fact that the AA section was many, many doors down. I was able to move my car, but this organization could certainly be tightened up. They marked tables with chalk on the floor that even on the first day was rubbing off and illegible. I had people asking me all weekend what row/number they were on.
Staff: Our Artist Alley row the first day had 4 tables completely empty. They earn a star just because on Friday morning they let me and my neighbor extend out to take over tables. Definitely helped because I really think people were skipping our whole row due to emptiness. Other than that, I had few interactions with staff. Definitely nobody came by to check on us, I had a hard time identifying who was staff at times. Not outright hostile but not great either.
Attendance: I did well, and it was well attended. This was a pretty big problem on Saturday because we were clearly at fully max capacity. Almost certainly they put on a data blocker in the entire vendor/artist hall room because of the capacity and there was a 4 hour period or so where nobody had data and some artists felt forced to pay the $80/day rate for wifi. I took sales offline via square and ran to the bathroom once in awhile to process all the payments. I figured this had some risk involved but wouldn't lose me more than the $80 anyway. (And all payments did go through, though that is somewhat just me being lucky.)
Layout: They clearly needed better signage for basically everything. Sections are marked via big banners hanging from the ceiling, but you have to be pretty close to them to read them just because of angles and how tall all the stuff around you is. I didn't notice any super bottlenecked spots during the con, the actual floor layout seemed "okay", I just think the signage is a real problem.
Parking: Not bad. But SATURDAY! OH, SATURDAY! I had to walk a damn half MILE with goods to restock because when I arrived at 8AM (AA opened at 9) or so, the entire lot for the convention center was already CLOSED with no warning whatsoever. There was no staff to talk to. They would not let you roll down your window and explain that you were a vendor and had a table to be at. The line to be redirected to a far-away was unmoving and probably miles long. The ONLY way I was saved was because a friend had given me a parking pass to their hotel nearby or I probably would not have gotten to the con until 10. Regardless, I still had to walk with so much stock so very far and had staff yell at me as I re-entered the building without waiting through, again, the INSANELY long line, even as I'm carrying probably about 20 pounds of stuff. Most stressful moment of the convention by far.
Rebooking: This was a real issue. Literally the FIRST staff member I talked to when I picked up my badge said: "Make sure you re-book for 2023 ASAP. We expect tables are going to sell out before Saturday." I said "Ok", and walked away, and then thought... Sorry, WTF? Are you cutting back table numbers or something? How could it POSSIBLY sell out unless you are downsizing? No way does every artist rebook, anyway. It seemed like a very manipulative comment. No way was I going to rebook before I saw what my numbers were for the weekend.
No surprise, Sunday rolled around, the con ended, and guess what... Over the loud speaker were multiple announcements about how generous they were for "extending the 2023 booking period", and that they were offering a discount. (Eyeroll.) The incredibly generous discount was... $15 more than we paid this year for my table, making the rebook cost $375 and the "Regular Rate" $415. Steep increase for this con in my opinion. More than the increase though, what was really rubbing artists the wrong way was the clearly manipulative tactics they were using trying to sell us on rebooking ASAP. I had neighbors in the AA visibly yelling and upset about them lying about how much the discount really was and how just generally poorly planned it was.
Regardless, I rebooked. I made the money back to justify putting up with this, but I do hope Fan Expo seriously takes into consideration all of these problems.
Load Out: Oh my god, what a MESS. There is 0 chance for anyone to re-use the load out garage because the line for getting into it goes out of the parking lot. You're pretty much forced to just carry your stock out to wherever you managed to park. I saw an entire bin of stock spill across the road as an artist struggled to get their rolling cart steadily across the walkways. Like I mentioned earlier, the loading deck has many doors spanning the area of the vendor room. They're the big truck-style doors that roll open and take some space to open/close. For some reason, they only had one set of small doors open to load in and out of for awhile. Of course, everyone was using those as it was the only option.
Here's what should have happened: They should have opened literally any of the other big rolling-open doors so traffic would naturally be thinned out and they could also open the big main rolling-door near the smaller doors people were using.
What happened: They made everyone stop using that door, leaving no way to enter or exit as they rolled open that big door and yelled, frustrated, at vendors with no warning or idea that we were not supposed to be walking in the area.
Look, it's well attended. Attendees were sweet and in a good mood. It's a big con. But... Just. Huge, huge oof organizationally. I will return for the money, but I will definitely not be quiet about criticism.
For a price of $350 for a four day show is ok if the hotel cost in their surrounding area aren't too high.
Load in is a nightmare since their email didn't give a clear address nor the entrance of getting the inventory in. Maps are crappy since their exhibitor hall is huge yet there's no aisle numbers to be found but the overhead ceiling of signs that said vendor hall, tattoo alley, artist alley, and celebrity signage. Even the booth number are only left with chalked number on the ground. Which isn't helpful when attendees want to find a specific booth number to find their favorite artist. Staff wasn't helpful at all since they said we can't do anything for you to find the load in entrance.
Celebrities cancelled their appearance last minute so not a lot of attendees show up. Plus it's around the same time where people are starting to go back to school and many shows happening before megacon.
I would come back for the show in a few years but will wait when the economic situation is better in Florida.
By Saturday morning I had only done about 30 sales, artist ally was empty, but the vendor area and the celebrity area were packed. By the end of Sunday I had barely covered my tables, everyone of the artist I talked to said they either barely covered the trip, or barely cover their table. Everyone was spending money on the celebrities. I think there are to many artist/vendors, I understand they want to have a big selection but it gets overwhelming and also it makes it hard for everyone to make back what they put into the show.
Loading out was a whole crazy time, I did like that they made sure attendants where off the floor before even opening the loading dock, good safety choice and helped keep foot traffic down so artist/vendors could get out quick. But they told us we had to wait an extra hour to get into the loading dock, so I went on an adventure to find someone to ask where we could just load out into the parking lot (because the door they had been letting us use was closed) and no one could answer my question, I got told by one staff member that the loading dock was the only option, another told me to use the door we had been using to come in (the one that was closed) and another said that we would have to park in front of the building in the drop off area and walk our stuff up stairs.
In short, staff needs to be more available (I only saw a handful of staff members the whole weekend, that weren't working celebrity tables) and be on the same page, they also need to have info about loading in and out. The prices are crazy for artists, vendors and attendants, it's forcing people to chose between a ticket and buying from artists/vendors. With the ton of cons in the Orlando, you would think they would want to keep admission low to get more people in the door. The only way I would go back is if they lower the prices for artist tables/admission.