Fan Events are for Fans

Recently, I attended an event in Toronto called FANeXpo. Basically, it's five conventions all rolled up into one event: it's a science fiction, anime, horror, comics and gaming convention, complete with vendors, freebies, and people who are famous essentially for being good at their jobs. It's the biggest genre event in Canada, and I've been there every year for the last 7. Too bad the way it's organized is starting to really suck.

Now, to their credit, it wasn't as bad this year as it was last year. Last year they were in a smaller venue, but still sold the same number of tickets, and people were literally prevented from entering due to fire code regulations. More than that, if you'd already been in, you couldn't get back in without going to the back of the line with all the people who hadn't been in yet. I was able to sidestep that one day last year by walking in with Stan Lee like he was my manservant, but that's a story for another time.

There were hundreds of people who swore after last year's debacle that they would never come back. Odds are most of them still came back anyway, because almost everyone is totally full of shit when they say something like that; just ask all the people who swore they'd leave the U.S. if Bush won a second term, and then all the people who swore they'd leave the U.S. if Obama won. Sadly, those who said they wouldn't come back to FANeXpo this year and then did anyway probably wished they'd kept to their word. Don't get me wrong, once you were actually in the event all was well (for the most part)... it was the getting in that was so poorly done.

First of all, the advertising. The convention centre they use for this event has two buildings: North and South. The South building is larger, and last year they were in the North building because they managed to get themselves outbooked by a dentist convention. So if you were grinding your teeth about how shitty FANeXpo was last year, you had easy access to hundreds of people who could help preserve your smile. This year they announced very publicly that they had both buildings, and that the event was going to last 4 days rather than the usual 3. Awesome! Right?

Princess Leia Cosplay
Cosplay as it's meant to be

Except, not really. The event lasted four days all right, but apparently what they actually meant when they said "we have both buildings" was "we have the South building, and ONE ROOM in the North building, where you pick up your passes. That is not what "we have both buildings" fucking means. If you say you have both buildings, I expect there to be panels and presentations happening in both buildings, where I can see scantily clad cosplay girls who don't realize how much they're revealing. So does everyone else. Do not ever lie to your attendees.

So those of us with deluxe passes got to go to the North building on Thursday to collect our passes and be let in early on that day. And all was well. Except that for some reason they made us go through a fucking rat maze of barriers that served no purpose other than to make the exhibitors feel like they were getting in earlier by not having to go through it. It didn't sort us at all, it didn't filter us in any way, all it did was slow us down for no fucking reason. Maybe they figured we all needed exercise from being sad lonely nerds who live on Soda and Fritos? Who knows. Then Friday happened, and even more mismanagement became evident.

First of all, that North building where we with deluxe passes were able to enter on Thursday was now, for some reason, closed to us so that only people who hadn't yet collected their tickets could enter. Why the fuck would you get half of your attendees (and most of your money) used to entering from one place, and then forbid them from using that place again? We paid about $100 each for access to your event, we will fucking enter from wherever the hell we want. And we did, because they even mismanage their mismanagement of their attendees. Inception, bitches.

The "line" outside

Now, there is an indoor bridge that goes between the buildings. When we entered from the North building every day because fuck you for trying to stop us, we came across that bridge in order to get to the South building. The alternative was to wait outside on the concrete like a bunch of troglodytes. There happens to be a very tasty chip truck that parks outside the North building, and I decided one day that I wanted to eat at it. So I tried to return along that bridge to get to the other building. I'll give you three guesses what the operative word in that sentence is, and it's not nipples.

I tried to go back along the bridge. For some reason, I wasn't allowed to take the return journey, as if my walking in that direction would throw off the rotation of the Earth and plunge us all into eternal darkness. I tried on two separate occasions to go back the way I'd come, and both times I was specifically told I wasn't allowed to do it. The second time I squared up my shoulders to the person who told me that, leaned down just a little so I could look him in the eyes, and said "I dare you to ask me what I think of that." I waited for the panic to flood his eyes, and then walked away, where I passed outside to see that the customer service desk was conveniently closed.

That's right, they put their customer service desk outside, where nobody would know where it was. You remember the fucking rat maze? There was about 1000 square feet of unused space behind it, where they usually put the ticket booths but didn't this year in order to lie to us about how many buildings they'd rented.

The Take-away

  1. Don't lie to your attendees
  2. Don't confuse your attendees
  3. Don't prevent your attendees from doing things they should be able to do
  4. Don't make your attendees jump through hoops
  5. Don't take your attendees for granted

In hindsight it's probably a good thing for me that that's where it was, because I might have gotten myself arrested for forcefully telling them how fucking retarded they were for some of the organizational choices they made. Organizers of FANeXpo, I'm going to say this one time, and one time only:

We come for the genres, we put up with the event.

The last two years your event has been a piece of shit, which we have tolerated because it happened to contain things we were interested in. Do not think for one moment that you are the ones we are loyal to. We come to genre events because we love the genre; the location and name of the event are incidental. If AssRapeExpo were a gaming convention in Idaho with representatives from gaming companies there to demo new games and offer time to play them, we would go to Idaho for AssRapeExpo by the thousands.

We don't care about you, we care about our fandom. If a similar, competing event were to spring up in, say, Niagara Falls, scheduled for the same weekend and with comparable guests, but better run and organized, you would find the next FANeXpo to be severely fucking underpopulated. The sooner you learn that, the better.

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