Awesome Con finished out their 2017 season with much applause. Although there were some complaints, most reviews were positive. From the impressive guests to the fascinating panels to the massive exhibit floor, Awesome Con brought a lot for people to discuss.
Most of this chatter, however, is from the perspective of the patrons. They discuss the convention based on their experiences and needs as customers. While this is important for people wondering if they should attend or what they missed, let’s not be remiss in remembering the many others on-site. Staff, guests, and (of course) exhibitors make up a significant portion of those present and have their experiences and desires.
While I cannot speak for the first two, I’d like to offer some insights as someone from Artist Alley.
Conventions Run Longer for Us
Most guests use a single day pass, attending for the hours of the exhibit floor. 3-Day pass holders might be there for 8 – 10 hours each day. Our table? We clocked in at nearly 40 hours total across four days, including the several-hour load-in on Thursday. And that was for a small Artist Alley table with only a few boxes and a single display!
I’m not saying this for sympathy, but to emphasize how much time we’re on site. Anything that affects that time, including disorganized load-ins/load-outs, increased security procedures, changes in policy, etc. can have a major effect on our already exhausting weekend. If you think the lines to get in were bad? Try hauling multiple bundles of merchandise through bag check or waiting hours to get onto the docks after the convention ends.
Attendees are Wonders
You’ve probably heard about those who enjoy cosplay and like to people watch? Imagine having a reserved seat from which you can look at the parade of costumes and fans making their way. Cosplayers probably hear just as many, “could I get your photograph?” from exhibitors as they do from other patrons! We love every outfit, from the elaborate to the simple; from the movie-quality Black Panther to the cardboard box D.Va.
We’d be remiss to mention that it’s not just costumes, but our customers as well. We immediately recognize that look on someone’s face when they find that one item that they were looking for or speaks to their fandom. Then there are those who ask for something unique and heart-warming, like the man who wanted a commission of his father for Father’s Day. Even children bring us joy, with their endless questions and awe as they see someone creating art from nothing.
Being an Exhibitor has its Advantages
I’m not going to lie – there are some benefits to being an exhibitor. We get into the convention well before you, giving us first look (and even stab) at all the deals and events. Ever wish you could be the first in line for an exhibit or sign up for something? We can! Of course, the downside is we often don’t have as much time as everyone else, so we must plan things like that carefully.
Similarly, we can linger after the patrons leave, which means we can dilly dally on our way out. Even better, the guests often do the same thing or wait until that time to leave. My wife and I spent additional time with Robin Lord Taylor after hours, and Wes Johnson stopped by our table and chatted once the floor was clear.
Artists and Vendors are a Community
When you spend that long adjacent to others, it’s inevitable you’ll build relationships like a neighborhood. I’m not saying we’re all Mr. Rogers-level friendly, but the worst I’ve dealt with are those who keep to themselves. More often, exhibitors are a sociable bunch, especially during the slower times. Mornings over coffee, evenings after the crowd vanishes, and any lulls in the day’s crowds are often filled with conversation.
Like neighbors, we talk about past experiences and plans. Business techniques and advice are shared as much as tape and pencils. Like any community we watch out for each other, keeping an eye on booths and helping wherever we can. While the relationships may only be temporary, although I’ve made a few acquaintances over the years, they’re just as important as my friends.
Awesome Con is Awesome
Although I’ve helped at other conventions in the past, Awesome Con is my only regular convention. My table mates, however, have been to NYCC, SDCC, and numerous conventions up and down the East Coast. In the end, we’ve all agreed that Awesome Con lives up to its name, including for its exhibitors.
This year showed how far they’ve come, with changes to the load-in and load-out that cut down our total time by hours. Ben Penrod has been a staunch supporter of his exhibitors, going as far as to defend us when there were concerns over demands from some convention center groups. Awesome Con has gone out of their way to make our experience as comfortable and enjoyable as the patrons’ own.
So, the next time you’re walking through the hall, stop by and say “Hello”! Awesome Con is your convention as much as (if not more than) ours, and we wouldn’t be here without you.
Keep the awesome going and see you in 2018!