Article by PatrickD    (07-19-12 06:55 PM)
I attended my first ConnectiCon back in 2004. It was the convention's second year and I went down with a fellow Anime Boston staff member to promote Anime Boston 2005 and collect pre-registrations. At the time, it was a small event held at the University of Hartford, but it went pretty well and everyone seemed to have a nice time. I can remember sitting at the Anime Boston table and looking over to see Bob May and Peter Mayhew signing autographs and ending the day by watching the cosplay contest.

Fast forward 8 years and I'm now attending my 9th ConnectiCon. It has been held at Hartford's Connecticut Convention Center ever since the convention center opened in 2005 and the convention now hosts over 10,000 attendees who are a cross section of fandom. ConnectiCon isn't just an anime convention, but also caters to sci-fi, fantasy, and comic fans, furries, and gamers as well. The convention also has a well-deserved reputation for being friendly to web comics.

Throughout the years, ConnectiCon has seen some good years and some bad years. Unfortunately, this 10th year was one of the bad ones.

In the last few years, ConnectiCon has seemed to suffer through some growing pains. As the convention grew, it continued to be run as if it was a small convention. Naturally, as a convention grows, you would expect the staff to grow proportionally with the organization structure adapting as needed. Yet if you look at the ConnectiCon program guide for 2012, you can find the chairman, Matt Daigle, still responsible for 4 other positions rather than delegating them to others. Staff have continually mentioned to me over the last few years how they have to go through him for approval on many things, so it appears there continues to be a bottleneck there. From the staff list, there doesn't appear to be a whole lot of growth over the last few years either.

Now that this year's convention is over, the floodgates have opened on the Internet. The thing that most attendees on various forms of social media appear to have an issue with is the attitude of some this year's convention staff. Now, I've been to over 100 conventions and seeing people complain that staff was rude is really nothing new. Normally, it seems to just be an issue of someone saying, "Stand against the wall" instead of, "Could everyone line up against the wall, please?" However, not only have I never seen so many people with similar complaints at a convention this large, but this is also the first time that I have actually witnessed rude staff with my own eyes.

On Saturday afternoon, there was a photoshoot for Doctor Who scheduled for 3pm. A group of about 50 people met up at the bottom of the stairs by registration. It wasn't long until the group's organizer arrived and informed us that we would be heading downstairs to the ground floor where ConnectiCon staff had said we could assemble for photos. Less than a minute after we got there, the group's organizer was told by several convention center staff members in suits that we were not allowed to gather there. While I was not able to hear the conversation, they drove her to tears in under 30 seconds. The convention center staff directed us upstairs to the ballroom level, so we all followed their instructions and headed up. The group found an open area against a wall and began to pose for photos. At this point, I was joined by my AnimeCons TV co-host, Elizabeth.

After getting through a few groups of photos, we heard shouting. This was not simply a raised voice to get the attention of everyone over the crowd noise, this was clearly angry rage shouting like you might hear if someone was about to murder someone. The hair on my arm stood up and my eyes opened wide as I looked over at Elizabeth with surprise. It only lasted a few seconds and then the person came into view as he stormed through the middle of the photo shoot and off to the left. He was a bearded man in his mid-30's with dirty blonde hair wearing a ConnectiCon staff black polo shirt. Unfortunately, he was not wearing a badge or we would have reported his name and completely unacceptable behavior, but all we can do is give a description. There is absolutely no excuse for anyone on staff to go into a full-on rage at any attendees.

I found out later that the convention staff needed the Doctor Who group to move so that they could have an event line in the space we occupied, but at no point did anyone on staff ever address the crowd. I certainly was not aware we were in the way. There was nobody in the area before we arrived and no indication that it was going to be used for a line. Had someone on staff stepped forward and addressed us in a polite manner, we happily would have complied and found a new spot. Unfortunately, the only indication we got that there was an issue was the raging staff member, something I had never seen before in a total of over 300 days spent at fan conventions.

Unfortunately for ConnectiCon, this was not my only negative experience of the convention.

In last year's review of the convention on AnimeCons TV, I spoke about the masquerade running long due to lengthy host segments in between every performance. Not only did that continue to be a problem this year, sending the masquerade nearly an hour past its 9:30pm end time, but it was decided (against the advisement of the masquerade organizer) to show music video winners between some of the performances. Usually conventions will use these to stall while the masquerade judges deliberate on awards. However, since there were only a few videos left to show during the judges' deliberation, they ran out and had to stall while the judges quickly finished selecting the awards. As a result of the masquerade running late, Super Art Fight, which was scheduled to start after the masquerade, ended up starting much later than planned.

As I indicated on AnimeCons TV last year, this is a very easy problem to fix. If you see the masquerade is running long, cut out the between-performance banter! And, of course, the music video winners need to go back to the end so that the judges can use that time to decide on the masquerade performance winners.

This year, the dealers' room was reduced in size and moved to the back of one of the exhibit halls. This meant that one of the convention center's concession stands was located inside the dealers' room not far from the entrance. This might not seem like a problem...until you buy food with your arms full. The tables for eating were on the other side of a wall and the dealers' room exit was on the opposite side of the room. If you wanted to get from the concession stand to the tables, you had to walk through the dealers' room and then back through the online media guest area, fighting crowds the whole way. I pleaded with the staff at the dealers' room entrance to let me and my armload of food through, but she was having none of that and made me walk around the long way. I won't fault her for following orders, but the ConnectiCon organizers really should have given more thought to traffic flow before placing the dealers' room exit as far away as possible from the concession stand. If they allowed two-way traffic or moved the dealers' room away from the concession stand, it wouldn't have been an issue.

Another problem which ConnectiCon suffers from is an apparent stagnation with its methods to deliver information. The web site doesn't get updated as frequently as some other conventions, but it was a lot better for 2012 than it was for 2011 when it hardly got updated at all. However, the ConnectiCon Twitter hasn't had a post since December. The convention's printed program guide seems to be mostly a copy-paste job every year since 2009. (It's pretty obviously using the same steampunk interior design ever since 2009's steampunk cover.) It even still has my same bio reprinted every year which has become more and more out-of-date. I've actually been surprised to find in the program guide for at least the last three years since it hasn't been included on the web site and nobody's ever asked for an updated copy.

One improvement this year was the availability of a "pocket program guide" that contained schedule grids for the weekend. However, they must have large pockets because this 9"x4" guide unfolds into a giant 24"x36" sheet. Some of the schedule grids use rather large fonts, so the whole thing probably could have been made smaller and more convenient.

It would be nice to see ConnectiCon follow the lead of other New England conventions like Anime Boston, PAX East, and PortConMaine and use Guidebook to provide online schedules via smart phones.

At the very least, it would have been nice to see maps of the facility on their pocket program guide...especially since, for some unknown reason, ConnectiCon has decided to not use the Connecticut Convention Center's room numbering and went with its own numbering scheme. This means, for example, that Panel 6 isn't in room 6...it's in room 21. By renaming their rooms, they have invalidated all of the convention center's signage and made it harder to find the programming.

For several years, I've been saying how ConnectiCon just doesn't seem to learn from its own mistakes. Perhaps it isn't even noticing them. With a lot of negative feedback coming in from attendees, hopefully this is the year that they'll take notice, fix the problems, and come back stronger for ConnectiCon 2013. That's why I'm writing about them here. I'm not trying slam the convention. I said wonderful things about it in our podcast back in 2010, but I feel I need to help them realize where the problems are so that they can be fixed!

The convention certainly wasn't all bad. I enjoyed hosting Anime Unscripted with some of the voice actor guests, I had fun judging the masquerade, meeting other cosplayers is always a blast, and Elizabeth and I thought the Community panel was "coolcoolcool". I know a lot of the staff members personally and they work hard to put on a good convention. I also know it breaks their hearts to hear so many people saying negative things, but ultimately there are problems. The problems are not insurmountable. With just a bit of spit and polish, I'm certain the next convention will see a remarkable improvement.

 
Username Comments
Nigoki 
Obsessed with robots
Nigoki
Reg: 02-25-09

07-20-12 01:16 AM - Post#11151    
    In response to PatrickD

Disclaimer: I couldn't make it to Connecticon this year, so I'm going off of reviews I've seen online and comments via social media.

It's really a shame that Connecticon doesn't fix some of these problems, that in my opinion, are very easy to fix.

Some impressions of things I heard about.

-Dealers' Space:
I heard about this change long before the actual convention by talking with a couple friends who are vendors. While it initially might seem like a good things for vendors (less competition) if there's less to see, chances are attendees aren't going to take as many trips through the Dealers' area. It strikes me as odd that Connecticon isn't expanding the Dealers' area considering that I've never seen more than a third of the tables in the gaming area in use.

-Masquerade Filler:
I rarely attend masquerades (just not my thing), but going nearly an hour over time is unacceptable. If I was waiting to see the next event, I'd probably have given up and left. If I had been one of the people presenting the next event, I'd have been livid.
I recall that in 2011, I ran into the problem where due to the masquerade running late, friends who were at the event had to hurry out at the end to make it to a restaurant in the area before it closed. (Speaking of, I'd love to see the convention talk to restaurants in the area about staying open a little later during the event to provide more options)

-Staffing:
It's disheartening to learn about the incident with the angry staffer. I hope to hear that the matter will be addressed. I don't think the con needs to air its dirty laundry, but just acknowledge that they are aware of the problem and are looking to rectify it.
As an outsider looking in, I think Connecticon needs to really look at what are problem areas, and seek out people to take on the responsibilities to fix these specific problems. Do not add it to someone else's work load, but delegate it to someone and make that their primary job. I know convention staffers whose primary job pre-con is to plan out lines for larger rooms and events. Cons have copy editors who are there specifically to review and proofread things like the website and program guide.

Out of all the conventions I've been to, Connecticon strikes me as the one with the most potential. Right now, it's stalling as a "decent" event when it has the foundation to be a "great" event. I implore the Connecticon staff to really take note of what areas people are saying need improvement and address the issues head on. Perhaps make a list of them, and check it from time to time throughout the year to keep them in mind and continue brainstorming ways to fix things. I would love to look back and say "Wow, they took care of these issues" instead of spending another year wondering why the same problems with simple solutions persist.
-Doug Wilder
Resident Mecha fanboy of AnimeCons TV!


 
campanime 
Newbie

Reg: 07-20-12

07-20-12 07:52 AM - Post#11153    
    In response to PatrickD

I'm running a convention for the first time September 7-9 (CampAnime) and I found this article extremely useful. I know that I'm going to make my own mistakes but hopefully I can avoid the ones that you point out. Any other words of advice for a first year con?

Edited by campanime on 07-20-12 07:55 AM. Reason for edit: No reason given.

 
PatrickD 
Executive Producer
PatrickD
Loc: California
Reg: 12-07-06

07-20-12 11:23 AM - Post#11154    
    In response to Nigoki

  • Nigoki Said:
-Dealers' Space:
I heard about this change long before the actual convention by talking with a couple friends who are vendors. While it initially might seem like a good things for vendors (less competition) if there's less to see, chances are attendees aren't going to take as many trips through the Dealers' area. It strikes me as odd that Connecticon isn't expanding the Dealers' area considering that I've never seen more than a third of the tables in the gaming area in use.


I talked to a dealer last year who complained he wasn't pulling in much money. It's possible the room was reduced in size so that the fixed amount of money people wouldn't be spread thin by having too many dealers. Also, it may seem like the room was significantly reduced in size, but it wasn't quite as much as people think. Last year, the back part of the dealers' room was full of guest artist tables. This year, they had their own section. I haven't actually done a table count, but the reduction wasn't as bad as it might seem at first glance.

  • Nigoki Said:
-Masquerade Filler:
I rarely attend masquerades (just not my thing), but going nearly an hour over time is unacceptable. If I was waiting to see the next event, I'd probably have given up and left. If I had been one of the people presenting the next event, I'd have been livid.


The masquerade started late, but that shouldn't really be an open invitation to end late too since that all ultimately ends up screwing over whatever event is at the end of the day.

I've heard they plan to give the masquerade an extra hour next year and have nothing scheduled after it. Hopefully this doesn't mean they plan an extra hour of skits and it ends with the convention center staff making everyone rush out the door immediately.

  • Nigoki Said:
-Staffing:
It's disheartening to learn about the incident with the angry staffer. I hope to hear that the matter will be addressed.


I have been assured that it will be. When you get that many people, there's bound to be a bad apple or two.

  • Nigoki Said:
I don't think the con needs to air its dirty laundry, but just acknowledge that they are aware of the problem and are looking to rectify it.


Ultimately, that's all people are looking for is an acknowledgement of their issues and that they will be looked into. Deleting comments or becoming hostile with people's issues only makes things worse.

  • Nigoki Said:
Out of all the conventions I've been to, Connecticon strikes me as the one with the most potential. Right now, it's stalling as a "decent" event when it has the foundation to be a "great" event. I implore the Connecticon staff to really take note of what areas people are saying need improvement and address the issues head on. Perhaps make a list of them, and check it from time to time throughout the year to keep them in mind and continue brainstorming ways to fix things. I would love to look back and say "Wow, they took care of these issues" instead of spending another year wondering why the same problems with simple solutions persist.


Yes, I've been seeing some of the same issues at ConnectiCon for years. In 2010, I gave the con a glowing review in the podcast. Yes, it had some issues, but I figured they'd see them and fix them. Last year, I pointed out a few of the issues...but then I saw them again this year. Really, stuff needs to be fixed. They're ultimately not huge issues, but they don't need difficult solutions either.
-PatrickD
AnimeCons.com Executive Producer
Co-Founder: Anime Boston and Providence Anime Conference
Host of The Chibi Project & Anime Unscripted™


 
Nigoki 
Obsessed with robots
Nigoki
Reg: 02-25-09

07-20-12 03:10 PM - Post#11155    
    In response to PatrickD

  • PatrickD Said:

  • Nigoki Said:
I don't think the con needs to air its dirty laundry, but just acknowledge that they are aware of the problem and are looking to rectify it.


Ultimately, that's all people are looking for is an acknowledgement of their issues and that they will be looked into. Deleting comments or becoming hostile with people's issues only makes things worse.


I remember working the booth for Anime Boston following 2008's line debacle. People really responded well to hearing that the issue was acknowledged, even more so when we could tell them what specific steps were being taken to fix a problem.
-Doug Wilder
Resident Mecha fanboy of AnimeCons TV!


 
Animelibrarian77 
Newbie

Loc: Massachusetts
Reg: 08-22-12

08-22-12 04:23 PM - Post#11365    
    In response to Nigoki

Yeah it was kind of a mess this year. And you both hit on the head a LOT of what needs to be done.

I think the biggest issue now is growth of con size, with the stagnation of con staff size. Its a hell of a job getting people to join staff, and having angry staffers yelling at you doen't encourage anyone to want to join up. Oi.

 
PatrickD 
Executive Producer
PatrickD
Loc: California
Reg: 12-07-06

08-22-12 04:33 PM - Post#11366    
    In response to Animelibrarian77

When Arisia needed more security staff, they approached Anime Boston. A lot of people staff multiple cons and there's absolutely nothing wrong with approaching another con to see if anyone there might be interested in helping.

A rising tide floats all boats...or whatever the phrase is. If someone has a bad experience at one con, they may decide to give up cons instead of seeking out other ones. On the other hand, if someone has a great time they're going to go out and look for more cons to attend. ...so helping out another con can definitely help the community as a whole.
-PatrickD
AnimeCons.com Executive Producer
Co-Founder: Anime Boston and Providence Anime Conference
Host of The Chibi Project & Anime Unscripted™


 
Animelibrarian77 
Newbie

Loc: Massachusetts
Reg: 08-22-12

08-22-12 04:50 PM - Post#11368    
    In response to PatrickD

True that, Pat.

 
Devarius 
Newbie

Reg: 07-30-13

07-30-13 04:33 AM - Post#12653    
    In response to Animelibrarian77

I had the same experience like the thread creator. It's really a shame that people once something grows bigger lose their enthusiasm for the matter and very soon are just after the fast money.

 
Nigoki 
Obsessed with robots
Nigoki
Reg: 02-25-09

07-30-13 11:33 AM - Post#12655    
    In response to Devarius

  • Devarius Said:
I had the same experience like the thread creator. It's really a shame that people once something grows bigger lose their enthusiasm for the matter and very soon are just after the fast money.


Please note that this was a report for Connecticon 2012. We will have a report on the 2013 convention on our podcast, AnimeCons TV, very soon.
-Doug Wilder
Resident Mecha fanboy of AnimeCons TV!


 
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