Otakon 2011 Convention Feedback Panel
by Gia Manry,
Otakorp president Bob Klementz, programming chief Scott Argenziano, logistics & operations head Jeff Lee, and relations chief Jeff launched the convention feedback panel and requested feedback from the attendees, who lined up. They also requested that the audience only ask one question at a time, and get back in line if they have a second question.
The first question was about the AMV contest: why is there always one fewer comedy entry than the other categories? An AMV staffer pointed out that what they show is the top two hours out of a total of nine that are submitted. The next attendee asked about the handling of panels this year, particularly the Anime Parliament and few other regular panels whose panelists are considering not coming back next year due to how "messy" things were this year. Argenziano apologized for the problems, particularly the Anime Parliament's as that was the convention staff's fault due to a scheduling SNAFU.
An attendee complained about enforcement of rules, particularly as lines get shifted around since some people who were waiting to see Johnny Yong Bosch in his first autograph session were moved while others remained where they were, and the latter group managed to get into the autograph session and displaced people in the official line. The staffer in charge of the autograph session came to the stage and replied that in that particular case no one cut in line who hadn't been waiting appropriately, and the convention staff always tries to be fair about line situations.
The next attendee also asked about lines, complaining that this year's were the worst ever— sometimes waiting even an hour in line proved to be no guarantee that attendees could get in. He suggested that Otakon do a VIP pass like Anime Expo and New York Comic Con/Anime Fest, and Lee interrupted to say that Otakon will never charge extra for memberships. The same attendee complained about seating issues— namely that the people waiting in line were forced to sit in the front, making screenings very difficult to watch. Lee acknowledged some seating issues that the con will be working on that.
A first-time attendee told the staff to bring back the anime burlesque show next year and also complimented the convention staff for being wonderful to her as an attendee with an accessibility sticker on her badge, while many of the convention center staffers gave her a hard time. Klementz apologized and noted that there were several issues they would be addressing and that was one.
New anime is often being shown in 16:9 widescreen but the screens are often 4:3, resulting in a squished or cropped look to the shows. Lee said that in order to accomplish that change on all screens would cost another US$15 per badge, although they have pulled it off in the Video 5 HD room.
An attendee suggested a fancy-dress masquerade ball for Otakon, and Klementz said that they've looked into it, especially this year, but there's a lack of staff interest and location for such an event. Something else would have to be cut in order to accommodate it. However, it was heavily discussed internally, Lee revealed, but the cost-benefit analysis simply doesn't pan out at this point.
There was some confusion, one attendee complained, when it came to line policies and room clears. This was one of the first years they haven't done room clears all the time, so it was often confusing as to whether one was happening or not. Klementz replied that with one exception this year, the only times they do a room clear are when it's listed on the schedule. The unscheduled clear was before the Hetalia premiere, which still started on time.
A major goal this year was to get the convention center doors open on time, and this year they actually accomplished opening them a half-hour early. An attendee asked for the schedule to come out earlier, which the staff chuckled at due to how difficult such a thing would be for Otakon, due to the volume of content, coordination with guests, etc. Additionally things happen at the last minute, so they use the Guidebook app and give an "awesome sheet of awesomeness" (basically a schedule and map) along with the program guide. The same attendee suggested gauging interest in advance so that they can move panels to appropriate-size rooms; the staffers revealed that they watch the Guidebook application's "thumbs-up" feature for this purpose, and those who don't have it on their mobile devices can access it on their desktop computers online.
The next attendee requested more cosplay photos in the program guide, which the panelists said they would consider. Another attendee asked for more control over the volume of screenings because sometimes they were so loud "as to be painful." Lee said that it was something they would work on as much as possible.
A regular Otakon attendee complimented this year's line control, but said that the overall crowd control felt like a step backwards from past years. HR staffer Rea Konecki reported that the number of staffers in SpecOps was very low this year, which resulted in this and other problems, and encouraged the attendee to become staff to help with the problem.
Another attendee complained about the convention center staff, as one of them attempted to redirect her from where she was actually trying to go, forcing her to go a long way around instead of the appropriate route. The next complaint was with the Saturday afternoon AMV screening, whose line only had one staffer who could not control the line very well while there were more people needed checking badges. Konecki reported that it was again a staffing issue, and that the badge-checkers are not trained for crowd control.
At this point during the panel, Klementz requested that since there were only twenty minutes left, to please keep the feedback as short as possible.
During the rave, crowd control was trying to prevent people from dancing in circles, said one attendee, but he felt that they should have been focusing on the "conga lines." Next came a request for more trash cans because of how much garbage winds up on the floor; Lee said that it is definitely being worked on. She also requested more events during the Matsuri street fair on Thursday (as an alternative to standing in line); Lee said that it was a resounding success and will only grow, but some staffers— as volunteers —can't get Thursday off of their day jobs.
A hypoglycemic attendee complained that a staffer had cussed her out when she was trying to sit down and eat something in between panels, and also complained that three Gundam panels were scheduled at the same time. The panelists joked that they were just trying to figure out which Gundam series she was a fan of. The issue of the Gundam panels was due to aforementioned problems putting together the schedule; Konecki requested that she give her the name of the offending staffer.
The next attendee complained that a room was closed off due to being at capacity, but no new people were allowed in even after others left. This is because they were actually probably over capacity, and the people who left probably didn't have decent seats left. A staffer said that the rooms have more seats than they're supposed to, but Lee interrupted and corrected him that all of their room layouts are approved by the fire marshal.
Line control was brought back up: the exhibit hall was hard to get into this year ("it took hours"),, there was a "line nazi" who sent a group of attendees away and told them to come back in an hour, but ten minutes later they were able to get in. The line for Tiger & Bunny was also very long and hot with little or no access to water. Lee noted that they try to do more and more and better and better on water every year— they pay for all of the water bottles throughout the convention —. The attendee asked how many staffers they have working each room and was told that it varies depending on availability. The attendee offered to help if they needed medical staff, but for liability reasons Otakon does not have a medical staff.
A woman was very upset about the exhibit hall hours being shorter this year compared to last year; Klementz replied that the hours haven't changed, but the year prior they extended the hours for one day after a fire drill took place, resulting in the convention center being cleared. Another attendee complained that while signing up for the Artist's Alley they thought it was a first-come-first-serve, but then it turned out to be a lottery situation. That was something new this year and they intend to continue using it.
The next attendee complained about his application for a press badge because he said that the criteria was very confusing. Klementz said that he couldn't speak on behalf of the press staff, but Jeff Lee said that there are a lot of factors and they try to do their best. The panelists asked him to give them his name so they could speak about the issue more specifically later. Another complaint about lines came up and the panelists asked him to come up for a business card to discuss the specifics of the problem.
Klementz asked the remaining attendees to get in touch with the staff on Twitter, Facebook, or the convention's forms or contact info on the con website in order to provide the remainder of the feedback.
Finally, Klementz announced that their total membership tally was 31,000 (unofficially: 31,348). The convention also collected US$43,000 in donation for Japan relief. Finally, next year's event will take place in the same location from July 27-29.
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