Anime Expo 2011 Convention Feedback Panel
by Gia Manry,
The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation's CEO Marc Perez and Marketing Director Kim Groomes introduced themselves to a small audience in the Live Programming 2 room, and immediately opened the audience microphone for comments and complaints about this year's Anime Expo convention. A few of the repeated comments included:
- A lack of communication or inconsistent messages about convention policies, especially with regard to premiere badges.
- Long lines outdoors in the sun, both for registration and for other live programming events.
- Difficulty getting into the AMV screening event.
- This year's autograph session was much more organized than last year's.
Responding to complaints about lines for registration, Perez revealed that Anime Expo will have the entire convention center next year, which will help deal with having to wait outside and other line issues. The con is also considering running a Comic-Con style preview night prior to the convention's official first day, but that's still up for discussion.
Another attendee criticised the small font size of the schedule in the program guide; Perez responded that they are trying to save money by not having the schedule take up the entire guide, and that attendees can also get live schedule updates via mobile application or the projected schedules around the convention center, which automatically update whenever the programming staff changes things.
When an attendee complimented the convention's decision to allow people to sit in hallways this year, Perez revealed that Anime Expo launched a "we love your feet" campaign this year, which includes the sitting policy and carpets in the exhibit hall.
A premiere badge holder felt that the ticketing for events was haphazard, and for the AMVs screening they were put in the regular attendee line. After a visit to con operations they were told that it shouldn't have happened. Perez noted that premiere badges are only in their second year at Anime Expo and they are always working to improve it, but that there's a certain learning curve to using them so some fans have a great experience and others don't. He also noted that they can't sell AMV tickets because then they would be selling access to copyrighted materials, although the only way that an attendee could get an AMV ticket in advance was by purchasing a premiere badge.
One attendee, who already had a four-day badge, decided to volunteer this year and felt that the people who were handling volunteers were overly demanding and harsh. She told Perez that the convention needs her, but she doesn't need to volunteer for them. She also felt that it didn't make any sense that people who work for four hours get a single day pass refunded (a $50 value) while people who work 16 hours get their four-day badge refunded (a $75 value). Perez replied that he is also a volunteer, apologized that she had a bad experience, and asked her to stay after so that he could talk to her about who the problematic staffers were and the possibility of making up for it. Perez also added that there are about 35 paid employees, which do not include him, versus 750 volunteers.
A Chicago-based attendee complained that too much of the programming was geared towards guests and industry, rather than more fun fan-run panels, and suggested that the application to run a panel for Anime Expo shouldn't require a company name, which may put off some non-company attendees. He also complained about the Saturday closure of the south wing, and more specifically that the staff seemed to have no consistent message about what was going on and what areas were closed. Perez responded that the convention does and will continue to lean towards industry events, but agreed that the application shouldn't require a company name and is not supposed to. He also offered that Baltimore's Otakon leans more towards the fan side of things. With regard to the closure of the hall, the perimeter was originally a 100-foot perimeter, and then it was expanded to 200 and then 450 feet as per the policies of the Los Angeles Police Department. They didn't want people to panic and so were told not to make an official statement until the situation was under control. He himself heard several stories about what instigated the evacuation of the area, including that it was an electrical problem or that it was a homeless guy's package.
After one attendee detailed a problem that security at the Nokia Theater was having with a Japanese attendee who didn't speak English, Perez noted that they plan to have more Japanese-speaking staff in various areas of the convention. The attendee also complained that she was not informed about the no-camera policy for the Kalafina concert until she was already in line for the event.
Perez revealed another possible policy change for next year, which is to cut off event lines once the area outside of the room reaches capacity and to instead hand out color-coded tickets to people who want to attend, letting in one color at a time (e.g. the first 50 people get green tickets and go first, the second get blue and go after all the greens enter, and so on).
This year Anime Expo had to compete for space with several other events, including a Microsoft developers' conference which is taking place next week but already has a couple of the convention center's rooms in use.
An attendee brought up the consistent lateness of all of the panels in Live Programming 1 on Friday, and asked why the AMV showing wasn't held in the Nokia Theater. Perez replied that certain companies want to do certain things at the show, and revealed that each event in the Nokia Theater costs at least US$30,000, so there's a limit to how many events can take place in that space. They want to find a bigger home for AMVs next year. He also suggested the possibility of setting up other areas around town to pick up badges outside of the convention center; Perez noted that it would be cost-prohibitive, and that the convention needs to be able to collect demographic information. He also revealed that the gold band on this year's badges is the first step towards trying to mail out badges (for an added fee) next year, which may or may not happen. Registration will also open earlier next year.
Perez clarified for one attendee that the Saturday closure was due to a found object chained to a table, although the owner of the package— described as a homeless man —came back to claim it.
Another attendee complained that he couldn't see the subtitles in the Last Exile premiere because it was so full, and everyone around him was also angling to try and see the words. Perez noted that next year they want to try and have three screens in that space (the concourse hall) to prevent that problem.
A second-time questioner complained about lines being cut off, especially for autograph sessions, and specifically requested that fans who get cut off for autographers who will have additional sessions be given priority access to those later sessions. Perez replied that they will consider the possibility.
The final comments came from a man complaining about a line for a Miku-related panel being led up an escalator and blocking his (and others') access to part of the hallway by the live programming rooms. He also complained about not being able to see the AMV screening. He also asked why they no longer allow those staying at convention hotels to sign up for tickets in advance. Perez noted that it was gone before he got there, but that clearly the biggest issue for AMVs is that they need a bigger room, and that it shouldn't matter whether attendees are staying at an official convention hotel or not.
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