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A Follow-Up Talk With CCI's David Glanzer, August 2006
posted August 29, 2006
Given their measurable season of shows lasting from Feburary through July and a professional on staff to answer media requests just like mine, I was happy to avail myself of a proper wrap-up chat concerning the increasingly important comics-related convention business Comic-Con International for the year 2006. David Glanzer, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the organization, was nice enough to answer a series of questions a few weeks after this year's slate of shows came to a close that I hope will complement my pre-show interview and more immediate reaction pieces like Newsarama
's fine one this year
, and allow for better reporting of the business in 2007 and beyond.
TOM SPURGEON: What was your final head count for the show? Can you break it down as much as possible?
Some time ago we made a decision not to issue press releases for our attendance figures at any of our show; Comic-Con, WonderCon and the Alternative Press Expo.
This was done, in part, because different events count their numbers differently and sometimes it really is like comparing apples to oranges. And while attendance figures are obviously an indicator of how many people attended an event, it isn't necessarily the only barometer by which a determination should be made about the success of a show.
A clear example is APE, which had an attendance this year of about 4500 people. Certainly not the size of WonderCon or Comic-Con, but still a very successful show in terms of people exhibiting, fans that attended, and the value it has to the industry as a whole.
But to answer your original question, while we are actually still in the process of verifying our numbers, we know that we had at least 9,000 individual exhibitors and 114,000 individual fans and other attendees.
SPURGEON: Was there growth on Wednesday night and Thursday daytime as many people felt on the floor?
The short answer is yes. Pre-registration had increased this year, and pre-registered attendees are among those who get into Preview Night, so yes, we did notice a spike this year.
Thursday started off with some great programming and we did notice a lot more people on the floor that day as well.
SPURGEON: How did you come to those figures? Why does it take a couple of weeks to get a firm count?
We have to pull the information from our offsite registration company. They do an initial pass to eliminate obvious duplicates, which actually takes longer than you might imagine. The information then comes to us, and we do the same. But we have to check each department against each other to make sure that we not only remove duplicate names, but people who may have been registered in more than one department.
In addition to that there are some badges that are hand written, so they don't appear in the database immediately. Those need to be checked against registration forms and if we can't verify them, then we can't count them.
SPURGEON: Now that you've heard back from your various people in assessment concerning 2006's show what is the con's general view on how it went? Were there any surprise feelings making themselves known during the assessment process?
I think things, for the most part, went fairly well. As we've discussed before, there are always areas that can be improved upon and this year is no different. I think we were all pleased with how quickly registration was handled. Pre registering allowed for quick entry into the hall as well as giving us a good indicator of how many people were planning on attending which was a big help for Saturday.
SPURGEON: Can you speak to the notion that there were more complaints this year about services for the disabled? What were the nature of those complaints? How did the con not meet the needs of those people and what is going to change for next year's show?
On Wednesday evening I received a couple of calls from local reporters asking if there were any major changes in the Disabled Services department.
Then, on Thursday, I received still more calls from other reporters asking if we were curtailing services for the disabled.
First I'd like to read what it says in our Events Guide in relation to Disabled Services:
In the Lobby in front of Hall A You'll find a rest area for the disabled, the elderly, expectant and nursing mothers, and parents with small children.
If you are mobility impaired and would like to borrow a wheelchair, the Disabled Services department has wheelchairs for loan in two- to three-hour increments (with proper ID and a $20 cash deposit).
Special seating (on a first-come, first-served basis) is also available for programming events and the Masquerade -- please let the Disabled Services department know ahead of time so they can reserve a seat for you. The Disabled Services department will also be providing American Sign Language interpreters for the hearing-impaired.
The Disabled Services desk will be open from 9:00 to 8:00 on Thursday and Friday, from 8:00 to 7:30 on Saturday, and from 9:00 to 5:00 on Sunday.
I should also point out that this year we had a new head of this division. In addition, while it may have been his first time as the head of this department, he was been with Disabled Services for many years.
The majority of concern seemed to stem from charging and storing electric mobility devices. Apparently this has been done in the past, but because of liability issues and the increase in units and lack of space for storage, we announced we would not be able to store these devices overnight.
However I'd like to point out that while this message then went out, the truth is we did store some of them. On Saturday I walked to the Disabled Services area before the show opened and noticed 14 electronic mobility devices parked along the seating area.
From what I understand, another area of concern was how we allowed people into some of the bigger programming rooms. If someone was mobility impaired, they were allowed to have their attendant wait in line while they were positioned next to the door, when their attendant reached the entrance, both were allowed in. And in the rare instance where an attendee couldn't do without their attendant, we placed a volunteer in line for them.
We have long been committed to providing equal access to those with different abilities and I think we've done fairly well over the years.
Currently we're looking to see how best to address the issues brought up this year, and part of that task involves looking to other "large crowd" organizations both in San Diego and other California cities and how they implement policies for the disabled.
SPURGEON: There seemed to be several complaints this year about the security staff. Are you going to work with Elite next year? What steps is the con taking to improve the services they provide?
I don't know that we've finalized a contract with Elite next year so I can't really comment on that question. I will say, however, that we treat any complaint, be it with security or any department, very seriously, and those complaints have been or will be addressed.
SPURGEON: You shut down on-site registration on Saturday. Do you have any notion at this point as to how many people were turned away?
We really don't. I will say that while some people did get out of line, others chose to stay in line. And we also asked local media to broadcast that we were halting on site sales, so I'm sure that had an impact as well, but specific numbers is something for which we have no data.
SPURGEON: What if anything does the con plan to do for next year's show to take care of overcrowding concerns?
Trust me when I say this is one of our major concerns. It's imperative that people who come to the show have as safe and comfortable an experience as possible.
There are a variety of ideas to mull over. Some of which we are now taking a look at. Hopefully we can address the crowding issue in much the way that we were able to tackle the registration issues this year.
SPURGEON: What options are you considering for three, five, ten years down the line in terms of the crowds?
Again it depends upon what solutions we come up with this year. And of those solutions, which work best next year. Then build upon those for future shows.
SPURGEON: Were you happy with the way registration went this year as compared to years previous?
I would have to say yes. For the most part those who pre registered were able to get into the show much quicker than in years previous which allowed for those who registered on site to have less waiting time than they might otherwise have had.
SPURGEON: Will booth prices go up for 2007? How much? If not, when will you next consider raising the price for a booth?
A booth price at Comic-Con costs $1,800, though we do offer a couple of different price break discounts for early payment.
As with most events, booth prices, for the most part, are a hard dollar amount you can count on. Recently we've noticed a dramatic increase in early booth purchases so a booth that is billed at $1,800 can actually be had for less.
Last year we offered a $600 discount if you paid in full at the show for the following year and a $300 discount if you paid by a certain deadline. This year the discount is $300 if paid in full at the show for the following year, or a $150 discount if paid by a certain deadline.
SPURGEON: That's all I have... Hey, is it true you already can't get a hotel room?
Well, since our hotel room blocks aren't on sale yet, I would assume this is true.
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