I’ve noticed a trend in the comic con scene that has me concerned and I feel it is my duty to report on it. So-called “Special Events” seem to be popping up at some of the major conventions and, after attending several myself, I started asking myself (and others) – Where’s the “Special” in “Special Event?”
Comic Con Credentials
Before I get too deep into the question, let me share my credentials. After all, what weight would this conversation carry if I were a con-newb?
I’m no rookie. The Nerd Fu crew has been attending comic book conventions (Comic Cons) since 2012. Our travels have taken us all over the country and even up to Canada, including Houston, Dallas, San Diego, New York Seattle, Austin, Ottawa and more. We have attended as fans and as media, though most cons don’t really provide much in the way of special treatment to us “lowly bloggers.”
What “Special Events” Are We Talking About Here?
Let’s be clear. I’m writing specifically on events at the convention that require the user to buy an extra ticket – events that would typically just be another panel in the lineup. So, we’re not talking about off-site events, concerts or parties hosted by third parties.
To date, I have only opted to purchase tickets to two of these events, but I see (in doing research for our weekly podcast) that several upcoming conventions are offering “Special Events.”
Special Event 1: Stan Lee Meet & Greet Package
Dallas Comic Con
That price might sound high, but the payoff was amazing! The sold out panel, with about 100 attendees, was one of the best experiences of my life! The panel lasted about 90 minutes (if memory serves) and every single ticket-holder got : 2 autographed comic books (Con Exclusives), a photo with Stan Lee and the opportunity to ask one question. There was no lining up or hoping that you would make the cut. EVERY person got to ask a question.
Additional photos from the Stan Lee panel
Verdict: YES – This is what I call “Special!”
Special Event 2: Doctor Who Special Event – “The Ponds”
Cost: $29 – $99 (depending on if you wanted VIP access)
The event was advertised as a special panel with actors Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill & Alex Kingston. However, five days before the event, Alex Kingston canceled. No refund was offered and a replacement guest was brought in – Michelle Gomez. I have nothing against her, but that is simply not what I paid for.
And what was so special? The stage was decorated with a Tardis and some Daleks. The stars of the panel were provided with beer and wine to drink. The fans were provided with ….. nothing. No commemorative ticket, no shirt, no poster, no autographs, no photos, no prizes, no “special” anything. The folks who paid for the “premium” tickets simply got in first and got to sit closer to the stage.
Verdict: NO – This was simply another panel with the word “Special” in the title
Upcoming “Special Events” for 2016
As I mentioned above, we’ve noticed an increasing number of these “Special Events” on the schedule for the rest of 2016. I did a bit of research to see what made each of these so special.
Harry Potter Special Event: Hogwarts Reunion
MegaCon (Orlando, FL)
May 27, 2016
Cost: $29 – $110 (depending on if you want VIP access)
The event page (found here) makes no mention of anything special for ticket holders. So far, none of the guests have canceled, but it is clearly stated that “all sales are final, no exchanges or refunds for any reason.”
Verdict: Undecided. It’s too early to pass judgement, but I do have to wonder why this is not simply another panel in the convention lineup. MAYBE the folks at Fan Expo have something awesome planned and will be providing fans with a truly unique experience, but it sure hasn’t been promised in advance.
An Evening With William Shatner
Dallas Comic Con (Fan Expo Dallas)
June 2, 2016
Cost: $199 in advance (*admission to Fan Expo Dallas is NOT required to attend this event)
That price tag does seem pretty high, but let’s see what it gets you. In addition to a panel, where guests will “hear tales from the set of the USS Enterprise and beyond,” ticket holders will also get a professional photo op AND one autograph.
Verdict: Looks good! A panel, photo & autograph. That’s what I call “Special!” …….. But let’s just see what people have to say after the event. The one thing I find interesting is that this panel is on a Thursday night. Fans attending the convention are going to need to get there a day earlier than normal.
Doctor Who Special Event: Tales From the Tardis
Dallas Comic Con (Fan Expo Dallas)
June 3, 2016
Cost: $29 up to $699 (in advance)
This one is a little different from the others. The lower level tickets like Blue ($29/35), Bronze ($69/80), and Silver ($139/$155) simply dictate when you get in to pick your seat for the panel, with Silver being the priority. There is however a Gold Tardis package for $699 that gets you some extra perks, including a backstage meet & greet with Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman & Michelle Gomez + a photo op + autographs + a collectible badge.
Verdict: Split. Those “lower level” tickets don’t really get you anything but that Gold Tardis package is actually “special.” In fact, they seem to think that this is VERY special, considering the price tag. Fans could probably buy photo ops and autographs for much less but this now makes the evening truly special and you don’t have to wait in line during con hours to fulfill all those bucket list items.
What Would Make it a “Special Event?”
I’m not just here to complain. My main goal is to educate everyone on this trend and make sure you know what you are getting into before buying tickets to these events. Buyer beware!
My secondary reason for writing this – to educate the people hosting the conventions. Most people are not going to take the time to follow-up and provide feedback to the convention hosts. Instead, if they have a complaint or don’t feel the value is there, they will just not buy a ticket to the next convention or event.
If you are planning a special event for your convention, here are some ways that you can provide fans with a unique experience worthy of their ticket price.
- Commemorative tickets – Something frame worthy or even a cool badge & lanyard that they could have autographed later
- Photo opportunities – Set up a backdrop and let fans pose with the guest(s) – professional or with their own camera
- Autographs – The guests can be signing stuff on-stage during the panel. Let them multi-task!
- Shirts – Think concert-shirt. Fans would love it and they’ll be advertising for you when they wear it
- Prizes – Photos, autographs, memorabilia, a hug… whatever. Draw for ticket numbers during the panel
- Charity Auction – Take a look at what Nathan Fillion does at many of his panels. People LOVE it. I LOVE it!
- Use your Imagination – Think like a fan and not like a business. Ask fans what they want. Take feedback.
It’s Time for Feedback
Ok folks. If you made it this far – Achievement Unlocked. Now we need your help in providing feedback to the convention planners. Hit up the comments and answer some of these questions for us. Your input might just shape the future of these “Special Events.”
- Have you attended any special events and, if so, was it worth the price?
- Do you know of any other “Special Events” at upcoming conventions?
- Do you agree with my comments above or have a different opinion on “Special Events?”
- What other ways could the convention planners make these events special?