Just like last year (I think these interviews are becoming a thing), I spent some time speaking with Matt Solberg, the Convention Director of Phoenix Comicon. The conversation covered things from what Phoenix Comicon is doing to keep things affordable for attendees and families (who lets face it make the cutest group cosplays), to how they continue to help serve the nerdy community through their work with Kids Need to Read, including plans for a fundraiser this Spring.To kick things off I asked Matt about a post on Facebook where Matt was pleased to share how pleased attendees were with how well things were ran in 2015, especially in relation to other years, where there always seemed to be at least one thing that really stood out as a problem for attendance (be it lines, photo op issues, or fire drills). In the post he mentioned that for 2016 the issue that they decided to tackle was memberships and how they’ll be easier to purchase, both from a logistics and a financial standpoint.
Looking at online registration, it used to be a cumbersome process… we’ve streamlined that process. IS anybody going to notice it? Probably not?
Our pricing in 2015 was in line with other shows in other cities, but the market is not necessarily the same… we’ve heard complaints that it’s gotten more expensive and we’re SENSITIVE to that, our expenses have gone up (off duty police officers, space) our cost of doing business, when we looked at pricing for 2016… my goal was to find a way to either NOT raise prices or to lower prices in a couple of ways.
We eliminated one of the price increases. Keeping prices lower longer… We said “we’ll make it the 1st wk of January… then we’ll make it last week of January, so three more weeks . We lowered the onsite pricing, but Thursday was already so low that it’s kinda tough to go lower.
When it comes to being sensitive to attendees Matt also brought up that the con is open to questions and feedback, with the biggest non-complaint related questions being about guests, and some variation of “Why the con hasn’t had [Insert Celebrity Name Here] at Phoenix Comicon?”. Once we got past the initial joke about how actors, authors and artists should just quit their jobs so that they can do nothing but appear in panels at conventions Matt broke down some of the logistical (and yes financial) aspects of getting guests to cons, and why it’s about photo ops and autographs as much (if not more than) it’s about getting them in panels for attendees.
It really depends on which genre of guest
Stereotypically… attendees are asking about celebrities, and the shorter answer is, we work with a handful of booking managers… people we’ve booked with for a number of years, and we’re always looking for new ones… we see who they represent… their client list, and then we make decisions and inquiries… It’s kind of a process of elimination in who we book for the show… and just because we’ve never had a guest doesn’t mean we’ve never given an offer.
But even then, certain questions need to be asked.
1. Is there an actor we want?
2. Do we know how to get to that actor… it’s gotten much better over the years…
3. Once we are able to get to somebody it’s a question of are they available
For example, Walking Dead is usually filming when the summer is… another example is Bruce Campbell… who didn’t have the time until Burn Notice was finished.
Next thing is, do we want to, or can we afford what that actor will cost… because it’s about guarantees on money they’ll make against photo ops vs autographs… will that actor make that guarantee. We then look at what are they charging… [and how will attendees respond]
What we’ve learned in the past year is our attendees are price sensitive.
Are there things attendees can help us to do book guests… they [attendees] can help gauge levels of support… by putting money where your mouth is for guests
Last year we brought out actors and had to pay out on guarantees… maybe… it was too much, so for the next year do we end up being a little more conscious? Because … there are [attendees] who just want to go to the panel and not buy the photo op.
So, hear that nerds?!?!? Want awesome guests? Then invest in the awesomeness, first by telling Phoenix Comicon who you want. And while I get that photo ops can be expensive at times (depending on the guest), know that in the mind of this blogger, if it’s a guest you care about, It’s definitely worth it, for you and the guest. In the almost words of Ash: “Listen up you primitive screw heads… this here is my PHOTO OP”
With all the discussion around cost and memberships, Fast Passes of course came up again, and it was a discussion that focused not so much on the passes themselves, but the good that can be done with them. the proceeds for the sale of the first 100 will go to an awesome cause!
Kids Need to Read is an organization Phoenix Comicon has supported since it existed in it’s early stages, and Matt explained his hopes for how Phoenix Comicon can support them in even bigger ways in 2016.
Our support for Kids Need to Read for 2015 is over $29,000… but our goal for 2016 is $50,000… were hoping to do more. With the original Fast Pass, it was 500 total [passes] with the [proceeds] going with the 1st 400 to the con, and 100 to Kids Need to Read, and that’s about half… but we inverted it, and we’re still going to do more fundraising events onsite and 3rd thing…This spring we’re going to do a Fundraising drive for Kids Need to Read. We want to have a 7-10 day period using social media and webmail and website etc…
Matt went on to talk about why helping Kids Need to Read is so important.
They’ve got a few projects they’ve got a bookmobiles that they’ll take to neighborhoods and schools and they’re needing funding to stock it and deliver. And we looked at Kids Need to Read as being a great partner, let’s see if our attendees are able to help raise money when it’s not tied to a Geek Prom, I have a feeling that our attendees will give back… and help an organization that’s very easy to work with. They do a lot of good.
We’ve never done anything like, I want to see how it goes and maybe we only raise one to five thousand and that becomes a benchmark and let’s do it again next year and can we build it up more, but can we use those bloggers, and will they be willing to cover it?
We’re going to try it and see.
Finally we spent a little bit of time discussing Fan Fest 2015, how it went compared to it’s first year in 2014 and what if any thing would be changing in 2016, both for Fan Fest and for Phoenix Comicon.
The early December time is a difficult time for attendees and volunteers… It’s the week after Thanksgiving and … three weeks before Christmas, attendees would love to go but couldn’t afford it, because of holidays… other time commitments, that year end crush of getting everything done… BUT…Overall attendance was slightly up.
Looking forward though everything for Phoenix Comicon looks to be shaping up to being an amazing con, especially if you know WHO is going to be there (yes that’s an Alex Kingston and Billie Piper pun).
Also, on a completely cosplay related note, YES, even though some small things may change for Phoenix Comicon in 2016 (more on that to come) almost all of the building usage and space will be the same in 2016 as 2015, meaning we’ll get the SKY WALK!!! Yay for not having to melt in May!
Planning on attending Phoenix Comicon in 2016, and do you have any thoughts or questions you’d want us to pass along? Let us know in the comments!