I apologize if this is long...
first of all, I'm an artist, so this will be almost entirely devoted to Artist Alley, which I didn't leave except for possibly an hour, total. I also deal at other cons and have friends who make their living using cons, and this is my overall experience:Overall:
Pro: I had a good time. Sales were about 2/3 smaller than what I'm used to at other cons, but I can base this on wares (I do mostly children's book style art, and didn't have time to prepare any specific fanart, or recognizable characters), but overall, sales were ok, and the artists I spoke to are planning on returning next year. people were friendly and other than one or two annoying people (who, if asked kindly to respect that we were working, did such), no complaints! The people were lovely, and I found myself speaking more than usual.
Con: SO DISORGANIZED!
I understand it's a much bigger con, but compared to all of the other cons I've attended and sold art at, Fanime felt like it could have been run a little tighter. This was my first anime con in ten years to be fair, but there were a number of things that went on that annoyed me and a number of my artist friends (some whom make their living via cons) that would be relatively easy to fix. I recognize that Fanime is HUGE, but I feel that the staff just needs to keep pushing themselves
I had the most issues with pre-reg. I feel it should have been easy (Sign up for AA table, receive a confirmation of sign up letter, receive confirmation in a fair amount of time, pay table, good, write to staff with any issues.) and yet... it wasn't. As I understand, there is a HUGE amount of people, so I understand SOME delay time, but I didn't receive any word of whether or not I was accepted/declined/on a waiting list for weeks after I signed up. A friend of mine received an email that her table was declined for no reason we could fathom, and once asked about, the decision was reversed and the table given to her. I should mention she's guest of Honor at a con next weekend, and has been working cons for years, so she's no rookie.
Email communication: Again, understand the con is huge but PLEASE incorporate a system that sends automated emails that your stuff has been received. I was writing very important emails for weeks that remained unanswered. While it may not be a big deal for people who don't do art professionally to lose a table and just enjoy the con, I only attend cons to sell. I don't have the money to spend on travel, hotel fares, gas, food, etc without an income in return as this literally IS my (and some other's) source of income. It's rather terrifying to be told that if you don't OK issues with staff that you'll lose your table, and then staff not return emails in a prompt manner.
And, to put this into perspective, I had another potentially big issue with the con I'm dealing at next weekend, and I wrote an email to the man who runs that con as well as 12 others (or 16. It was a high number), and not only did he respond within two hours with an answer, but I've received a phone call in the past when I had a major issue. I understand I hit them up at a good time, I'm sure, but I've always received a response within a couple business days, while it was taking weeks to just OK the information of someone to watch over my table when it should have taken less than a week.
Tables NOT INCLUDING A BADGE: This seems really silly to me. Why don't tables include a badge? I mean, if I have a table, I'm selling, right? I would MUCH RATHER pay $100+ up front that includes my badge than wait for the table, wait for the badge, blah blah blah. Again, see above that I do this professionally. I literally CAN NOT go to cons that I do not sell at. This is the same for many artists I know, and I heard many people complaining about this. Again, every other con I go to includes the badge price with the table. If this is not happening due to multiple people running tables, just have it written clearly that a table comes with ONE badge. That's how all over cons I attend word it. If you have additional members, you receive one assistant tag automatically, and then have to request more, and these do not count as badges, but instead work as the sticker did in allowing secondary members into the dealer room. This also made registration far more efficient for artists, as you would receive your badge at the same time you registered the table/dropped off the temp. seller's permit. Artist Ally:
Overall, the ally itself was set up well. It was easy getting around and the tables appeared set up well. I was too busy to get to the dealer's hall, so I'll guess it was run in a similar fashion.
However, again, I had issues with sign in.
Signs: oh goodness me SIGNS SIGNS SIGNS! Why were there no signs!? I was at my university graduation on Friday so had to come in Saturday (arranged a friend to cover the table Friday). Anyway, I get into the con, have to ask a janitor where registration is, seeing no signs (to be fair, I came in through a back door, but registration is important enough there should be signs pointing to it). I finally found the registration line, but it was COMPLETELY UNMARKED! It's not even like Fanime has to invest in signs. Just print off 100 or so 8.5x11 photocopies of "REGISTRATION" "PRE-REGISTRATION" or arrows or something, and put them in strategic locations throughout the con. I had no idea if I was in the right line, where the right line was, etc, and apparently lots of others had the same problem, because thirty minutes later when a staffer announced that pre-reg had to move elsewhere tons of people groaned as they ran out of the line, having waited for long periods of time in the wrong place.
There should have also been more printed signs and maps of the different locations the con offers. I almost never had any idea where I was walking, or how to get to some location.
STAFF INFORMATION: Most of my questions were about Artist's Ally. How to get there, where it was, where to check in at the ally, and where the art panel show/silent auction was. Thing was that NO ONE KNEW THE ANSWERS! I would walk from staff member to staff member, asking them questions, and they'd spend some time trying to figure it out, get confused, express they don't know, ask a fellow staff member, express that person also didn't know, and send me somewhere else where no one knew. One time I was told I should ask an artist by a staff member.
I do think they were very friendly, and I have no qualms with them trying to help me, but the fact that no one knew how to answer any of these questions was rather annoying. There should have either been signage, or else the staffers needed to learn the layout of the con better.
stickers: The stickers are nice, but um... almost impossible to see? I feel like this significantly hinders the ability of the bouncers (Ha, I don't know the proper term here) to prevent non stickered people from entering the con in set up and take down hours. This IS an issue, as there are expensive products all about. I didn't have a reason to distrust anyone, but upon realizing that my friend's boyfriend who helped her the whole con was let in early for all set up and allowed to remain for all closing hours never received a sticker or applied as an assistant is disconcerting.
Other cons I go to have a specific unique badge for all dealers (again, realize I'm at an Artist Ally here, so didn't see how dealers were treated), that is colored differently from the other tags, and each artist was given one clip on assistant tag they could give to a helper. From here the ushers were VERY strict on "NO TAG, GET OUT" and it made me feel all kinds more safe with my stuff.
If Fanime wants to keep costs low, this is again a simple solution.... make the paper for artist ally badges red rather than yellow. and then you can still do the tiny stickers for the assistants, but just check them more strictly.
also on stickers: It was SUPER awkwardly set up. I had to wait in line on Saturday with the artists to get in, and then once in, there were no signs telling me where to go to get my sticker. This was veerrry annoying, considering I was maybe tenth in line, and then got into a line that's only purpose seemed to be looking up my table number which I had memorized (as I should), and then telling me to move into the line next to me which had by then accumulated another 10 people. There should have been very specific signs just taped to the tables for this.
Also on that:
Late comer table:
why even make people wait outside the room in a nice line to let it go all over the place once it's let in. I saw a number of people waiting hopefully for a table to open up, and then once they were let in, were not told where they had to go, and if they weren't fast enough, all the people behind them were able to willy-nilly walk in front of them. There should have been a completely separate line for late comers that was very specifically marked.
I think that's about it. Again, from here, things were rather smooth.Overall staff:
Staff was friendly to me. I didn't have any issues.
HOWEVER, I heard a lot stories from people at my table about how they were heckled for very small things that the staffers possibly shouldn't have been doing, or else again could have been solved with signs, or seem rather silly to even be in affect any way.
I like rules and respect rules, however some people were apparently getting far too strict. One person at my table told me how he and his friend were at the Black and White ball waiting in line for a VERY long time. THey were outside on public property and some of the women took off their high heels while waiting. Again, this is public property outside of the convention and not yet inside of the ball. Some of the staffers were walking around telling the women they were NOT ALLOWED TO REMOVE THEIR SHOES! Yes this is an IN con rule, but the staffers NEED to be told that these rules do not take affect once the people are on public property. It can be suggested, but not ordered. Mostly, this annoys me because I'm a woman, and high hells hurt the hell out of me, and I find it perfectly reasonable that some women took their shoes off while in public property in a line. Besides, there were tons of people running around without shoes IN con who weren't hassled.
On this same story, the person then went to tell me that a staff member hassled them for roughly 5 minutes that the heels needed to be less than 3". When they informed him they had measured the shoes and they were less than that, the staff member continued to hassle the same question again and again. To me, I feel the staff member should have just expressed simply "If we have concern that your shoes heel is too high, we can measure it before you enter" and walk away. The hassling was not necessary. I understand these helpers are not professionals, however, they should be told the limits of their enforcing. (In a fair story, I was sitting in the wrong area, and a staff member kindly informed me I couldn't sit there, and I moved right away. He didn't wait for us to move, although he could have, and didn't give us a hard time.)
Mostly, though, I noted that staff was overall very friendly; however they were not always very informed on where things where, or who to direct me to (I once specifically asked someone if they could direct me to information when they couldn't answer my question, and they told me that was unnecessary and directed me to con ops who had NO IDEA how to answer my question, either.)Overall
Good con, great atmosphere, and fun. Lots of points that felt highly disorganized or poorly managed. I entirely believe in the positive intent of fanime, though, and expect I'll return in subsequent years, and look forward to it getting even better