This January was the first time that I attended FrostCon. I attended as a media representative and a panelist.
In the interest of full disclosure, some of the comments I have are about mobility access and I do have a medical condition which limits my ability to walk unassisted. Basically, after a couple hours I have to either take medication or have a wheelchair handy, otherwise my feet can swell severely and it becomes painful (sometimes impossible) to walk. It’s a personal issue, so that’s about all I will say on that, but it does mean that mobility issues are something that I notice probably more than the average able-bodied convention attendee.
Also, keep in mind that I have attended a variety of conventions, of various sizes in Canada and the US. I have attended as a fan and as a media representative. I have run panels and A/V presentations multiple times at various events. I have even been on convention committee for a couple of events, and I have experience managing tradeshow booths (up to 10’ x 30’ size at national tradeshows) from my day job.
I’ll start off chronologically with what happened and then lead into a list of the problems I noticed and recommendations I have for the convention to improve.
Here’s the short review I posted on their Facebook page:
If you don’t want all the nitty gritty details, you can skip to my pictures and lists at the end.
Read the lengthy explanation…
I know that was long, so if you don’t want to read through all that and you’d like to get to the short of it…
Here are a few pictures I took of the crowds. I didn’t manage to get better pictures of the elevator in picture 2 being blocked or any pictures of the women’s bathroom door being blocked on the lower level.
Here are the problems in a nutshell:
- Extremely poor organization shown by convention organizers, with programming decided shortly before the convention.
- No advance notice given to panelists that their panels were approved — contacting panelists DIRECTLY is essential. Posting a schedule on your Facebook page is an extremely unprofessional way to share an unconfirmed schedule and you can’t rely on panelists actually seeing that.
- Programming posted only a week before the convention.
- Programming not posted on their website, only on their Facebook page.
- Programming not available in a printed format that attendees could carry with them at the event.
- Maps not available at the event — not even digitally.
- No crowd control.
- Poor security at the paid coat check.
- No badge check in any rooms.
- Unprofessional staff making offhand, condescending remarks about the lack of equipment that was promised in advance.
- Poor mobility access.
- Poor coordination with the venue to ensure safety measures were in place (including disabling escalators as needed) and that convention attendees would not accidentally wander into an area dedicated to another event running the same day.
- Lack of signage — no signs for registration, no wayfinding signs directing people to the convention floor.
Acknowledgements byFrostCon staff of some of the issues (emphasis mine):
We would like to thank all our attendees, artists, vendors, guests and volunteers for making this our BEST YEAR EVER! We are so glad you were able to come out and celebrate geeks and cosplay with us at FrostCon 3.0. We hope to continue to gain your trust and support as we grow.
We would like to take this time to address two areas that we need to improve on. We want to assure you that we hear you and we take providing you with the best possible experience very seriously.
FrostCon would like to assure you that moving forward we will take steps to ensure we provide you with a professional and organized coat check, we realize we bit off more than we could chew, and we are very sorry for the long wait some of you endured while your gear was located.
Also we would like to apologize again for the tech mix up, we are taking steps to ensure that moving forward FrostCon has an onsite tech crew and a head technician to deal with making sure all our needs are met and on a timely course.
Again we want to thank you for coming out and geeking it up with us!
Posted by FrostCon on Tuesday, February 3, 2015
- Staff lounge should be a separate room not easily accessible by the average attendee.
- Coat check needs better security in place. NOBODY should be able to wander around in there without being escorted. (and I’m not the only one who thinks so)
- Crowd control is important. Multiple times I saw staff members standing around looking bored and doing nothing about the crowds around them. Even when those crowds were blocking elevators or bathroom doors. (overcrowding and/or blocking halls, rooms, and stairwells is against their policies — elevators and escalators should be added in here too — but nothing was ever done by staff to control it)
- For a convention heavily focused on cosplay, there should be dedicated areas for cosplay photography. It is bad for traffic flow when people take pictures of cosplayers in the middle of crowded areas, especially the dealers’ room and hallways.
- Printed programs, maps of the venue, and maps of places to eat nearby would be extremely helpful. These can be done cheaply — even a single letter sized sheet, double-sided and photocopied would suffice, at a minimum including scheduling, hours, and a map of the venue. You know what else would be great? QR codes that people could scan to save this stuff on their phones. It’s really easy to make QR codes. Or use a Guidebook app like other conventions. My point is that it should be easier for attendees to get information in print as well as digitally. Panel attendance was low, partly because people didn’t know what events were going on.
- Mobility access may seem to affect a minority, but it is important to make your event accessible to a wide range of people. Paths to elevators should be taped off and staff should ensure that nobody blocks elevators (for persons with mobility issues) and that nobody blocks stairways (for safety reasons).
- Staff needs to maintain a professional attitude with the public. Condescending remarks are not conducive to a positive convention environment. Every attendee, media rep, and guest should be treated with respect (also, fellow staff members and volunteers should be treated with respect).
- Never, ever attempt to run A/V panels and presentations if you are unwilling to actually rent the equipment in advance. It is extremely inconsiderate to panelists and guests when you do this. I actually saw one of the guests was so upset that she couldn’t do her presentation on a projector that she cut her panel time to 20 minutes (when it was originally going to be an hour), suggested people take a look at the presentation at her booth, and spent most of the time at her table looking really disappointed. The organizers should be EMBARRASSED that they handled this so poorly for the guests. at the very least they should have rented a projector for the guests.
- Cross-post content and update your website! The schedule should have been on the website, how did that slip through?
- Constantly be available to people making inquiries. If you have a problem with your email client, get it fixed as soon as possible. Not responding is not okay. I had to send out inquires THREE WAYS before I even reached a person to talk to about concerns for equipment for my presentation. That should never happen.
- If something goes wrong, tell people. When the decision was made to not have A/V equipment, everyone who wanted to have an A/V panel should have been notified immediately. No excuses. You have contact information for all panelists and guests, you should notify them. This is exactly where an email using the BCC field would have been appropriate.
- Choose a different venue, or at least a different floor. Being on a floor below street level is not good for large crowds. This can potentially become hazardous if there is a fire or some other accident when crowds are not being managed. Give yourself more options for a safe environment for staff and attendees. If that is the only option at that venue with the space you need, consider a different venue.
- Signs need to be posted! There should be signs directing people to registration and weapons check. The registration/info desk should also be clearly marked with a sign.
- ALL STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS should be aware of key information such as where to register for specific kinds of passes. It shouldn’t take asking more than two people to find the right desk. Everyone at the info/registration desk should know who has what information and exactly which passes are available and what restrictions may apply to any passes.
All in all, I would NOT recommend attending FrostCon for most people. If you want to cosplay and hang out with your friends, or if you want to take photos of cosplayers, those are about the only good things going for it — but those strengths are from the attendees, not the organizers. the artists and dealers were fairly good, for the small selection of them, but again — those strengths are not from the organizers.
Until they address and fix some serious issues, I will be skipping this one in future.
And I’m not the only one with complaints (note that complaints have been removed from their Facebook page unless they are reviews — which cannot be hidden):
Check out more complaints in this thread on Warosu. Note that there is some NSFW language and it turns into trolling and personal attacks by the end. Also note that Antonio jumps in and complains about the personal comments but largely ignores the comments about the convention being poorly organized or deflects them and tries to blame others. I don’t agree with personal attacks, but seriously — all of the comments about the convention being poorly run are true, and that’s a problem. Most of the issues are on the onus of FrostCon, so trying to blame all the problems on the Sheraton is dishonest. And gee, thanks for making it so the Sheraton will never want to have an anime convention there ever again because you’ve been publicly making negative comments about their venue.
Here are some of the more specific complaints, in case you don’t want to read the whole thread: