What Went Wrong at Fandom Fest?

The gears are still turning, kids.

Yesterday I talked about my personal experience at the convention. I’ve also picked up membership in a few groups and I’ve been keeping up with Reddit. Fandom Fest is still fresh in my mind and I’m in full-tilt administrative mode right now. I have all of these wonderful ideas and nowhere to go with them, so I’m going to hold a little bit of Q&A with myself about what went wrong and how to fix it.


Solution:  Crew meetings.

It doesn’t matter the size of the convention, every staff member should be required to attend at least one orientation meeting. Said meeting should include a program, panel list, and location chart that each crew member or volunteer needs to learn.  Crew members should also have station assignments and personal schedules so everyone is on the same page and the poor crew members aren’t left stranded for ten and twelve hours without food or drink. For something as large as Fandom Fest, multiple meetings are a must. Make sure everyone signs in for at least one of these meetings.

Everyone should have access to the organizers, whether it’s through headset, text message, or social media. Pretty much everyone has a twitter account and a smart phone these days, so that’s a good way to keep in touch in case of room shifts, cancellations, or any other unforeseeable minor (or major) catastrophe. If for some reason a crew member can’t answer a question, the organizers or the event manager should be within easy contact to answer said question.


Solution: Okay, this one should be obvious. MAKE SIGNS, PEOPLE!

It’s not hard to print up a few signs – or even run to the nearest pharmacy and pick up a notebook and some markers to make your own. Hand-written signage is better than no signage.  Yet again people didn’t even know a literary track existed. Some of us made up our own panel schedules to hand out, and that’s how we managed to attract the small crowds that we did.

If you have changes or cancellations – write them up and post them in multiple places for people to see. Lines for events should be clearly marked and roped off beforehand. Live feeds on Facebook and Twitter will do wonders for the attendees who feel like wandering cattle.

People should be given programs from the start. It’s only fair that if a person is paying that much money to enter an event, s/he gets to know all aspects of said event.


Solution: Make sure you have your ducks in a row before you let the first person in.

I think this one goes hand in hand with everything else. I understand that it’s hard to keep track of a huge function – I’m an events planner as part of my day job, so I know how quickly things can get out of hand. But you have to keep communication with your staff at all times. You have to be honest with your audience. And more than anything, the people you’re promoting (and who are promoting you) have to be kept in the loop.

I have a hard time believing that the organizers allowed one of their big stars to be left at the airport, or that another star was left waiting in his hotel room. I also find it to be in atrociously bad taste that a cancelled Q&A session was blamed on the celebrity. It does not matter whose fault it is. The organizer should step up and take responsibility. That’s the only professional approach to a bad situation. No matter what, it’s always the convention’s fault! I don’t say that to point fingers… I say that because it is always the responsibility of the management team to make sure these things go off without a hitch. Yes, things happen. But it’s the way they’re handled that makes or breaks a reputation.


Solution: Don’t be rude.

Yes, it’s a trite answer, but it’s the truth! Everyone – and I do mean EVERYONE – was frustrated. This is where professionalism comes into play. You can’t strongarm people out of the way then expect them not to complain. I’m not the type to scream “abuse” but if you touch me, then yes I’m more than within my rights to get you for assault. I don’t like physical confrontations, but I’m not afraid to lay someone out if he injures me. I don’t fight fair, and I don’t hit like a girl. I don’t care if you’re in uniform or costume… touch me and it’s on like Donkey Kong.

I understand why the room was shut down on Saturday, but I also think there were much more professional ways of handling it than loud-mouthed women biting my head off because I was trying to get through the masses to a panel. I might be nobody, but damn it I’m still a guest and a panelist, and I expect to be treated with the same respect you’re treating your stars.

Oh, wait… it appears I was. Nevermind.

It’s appalling to think that the organizers are refusing refunds to people who didn’t get what they paid extra money for by citing that their attendance negates the claims. Excuse my language, but that’s bullshit, people.  You don’t shut people down from the start. You first offer to explore the issue. If someone doesn’t get what s/he pays for, then you’re obligated to give that person at least a partial refund. Otherwise you’ve stolen money and you’ve crossed the line from disorganized to criminal.

Yeah, I’ll say it. Refusing refunds for services not rendered is THEFT and it is ILLEGAL.

Personally, I agree with John Barrowman when he told his fans to ask for their money back. They didn’t get what they paid for, so it was only fair. I can’t speak for him, but I’m fairly certain he would have understood if he’d just been told the truth from the start. He seems like a nice enough guy that he can accept problems. It’s the lack of a solution that seemed to really get under his skin.

Treat your guests better, because chances are they’re going to ruin you before you ever get the chance to ruin them.


Solution: Be honest, people. It’s not that hard.

I understand that the organizers of any convention don’t want to draw negative press, but in trying to forcefully silence the masses, you’re opening yourself up to even more negativity than if you’d just handled the situation and moved on. You can’t demand that people only tell the positive, because not everyone experienced the positive. You have to take the complaints with a logical and professional head because snapping at your upset customers is only going to get you smacked down.

These comments should be welcomed and accepted. And each one should be addressed individually. And here’s another dirty little secret – if someone complains on your Facebook wall, don’t delete the comment because it makes you look petty and childish. Oh, and like you’re hiding things.

I also find it in extremely poor taste that vendors have been threatened to have their reputations ruined over this. There’s no contract in place, and even if there was, libel and slander clauses are bogus anyway. It’s only libel or slander if it isn’t true, so that argument is invalid from the start.


So those seem to be the biggest issues I’ve gleaned from the massive piles of rants. I should end this by saying that I’m voicing my personal opinions. I’m also open to suggestions if anyone has any other ideas as to how to make things work better.

Personally, I agree with John Barrowman when he told his fans to ask for their money back. They didn’t get what they paid for, so it was only fair. I can’t speak for him, but I’m fairly certain he would have understood if he’d just been told the truth from the start. He seems like a nice enough guy that he can accept problems. It’s the lack of a solution that seemed to really get under his skin.


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