NYCC. Was. Crazy.
I'm not sure what else to say other than that. I've gotten some more retailer numbers back and the total attendance number is now pushing 96,000. First and foremost I want to thank everyone who came to the show; all of the fans, the exhibitors, the amazing guests, the speakers, everyone. You were part of something pretty monumental this weekend.
New York Comic Con took a huge step forward in cementing itself as a can't miss international event this weekend and we also took some steps backward as well and I'll get to those shortly. This was a year of questions for us on NYCC, with 18 months between shows we simply did not know how the community would react. Combining NYAF and NYCC was a totally new wrinkle for us. Moving to permanent dates in October created a totally different profile for the con. The construction going on at the Javits Center was an unknown. In a sense, a very different team was working on the show as we created and launched ReedPOP along with 6 new events since we last had a NYCC. In short, the landscape, the show and the very group I helm were all quite different. However, the reaction was intense. 96,000 people. A nearly 20% jump in attendance. Wow. Thank you.
Now what we need to work on. I know there is a lot, there always is. I also know many of you will post comments on additional things we did not get right. I appreciate the feedback, all of it. Please know, as a general rule; we know we are not perfect as a team, we do not promise perfection, but we do promise to always listen and always improve. The fact remains that NYCC has grown so fast in 5 years, that we seem to always be playing catch up with the growth. Every year we have had a totally different space at the Javits, which means every year trying to learn from the previous year, yet craft a largely brand new plan. These are not excuses, but rather the reality of the undertaking the team faces. Our goal is happy fans, and I know not everyone was happy this year so once again, or commitment is to always, always improve and the first step in doing that is acknowledging where we fell short of your expectations.
Saturday was too crowded. No doubt. This crowding sometimes created confusion as we tried to move people into the building and create an organized system to get that many people into the con. I spoke with Milton Griepp from ICV2 on Sunday night and explained to him the inexact science of coming up with a capacity number. It truly is a moving target and a best guess, here is what I told ICV2:
We asked Fensterman what the maximum capacity of the con is at the current number of days. “That’s tricky to say because they don’t give you a number,” he said. “It’s essentially how it feels. So public safety simply looks at the show floor and if there’s too many people on it, they shut you down. It’s that subjective. So everything we do we have to do is by how many people could be in the building at any given time, because we don’t know how many people are in the building. We know how many tickets we’ve sold, we know how many exhibitor passes are out there, we know how many pro passes are out there. But we don’t know how many of them are going to show up at any one time. So we have to peg it to what we think is the top number that could be in the building at any one time based on the space we have. It’s an inexact science.”
Would I have cut off ticket sales a couple thousand earlier if I had Saturday to do again? Yes. For the future, we will need to determine how best to use additional space at the Javits. For us to grow further, create even more 20 foot wide aisles (perhaps a few 30 footers as well) we will likely need to expand the show floor to multiple levels of the building. This year, due to the construction, the space above the show floor (it's called the Galleria and River Pavilion) was not available. I see that space, or perhaps a hall downstairs as the best options to assure we have all the space we need for the show floor.
The lines to pick up your badge if you purchased online were too long, they moved quite fast, but we can still do a better job on this. An idea might be extending the deadline to get your tickets mailed to you. Another is better signage outside the building so fans know exactly where to go. Yet another is handheld scanner for the staff to work the lines.
I got feedback that staff and volunteers were not knowledgeable enough and did not provide good direction. We can ALWAYS do better in this area. Always. ReedPOP is a team of about 20, so we bring lots of additional staffers from Reed Exhibitions events, and they are amazing people, but do not know the show as well as we do. We will work to better orientate them. We also plan to hire additional security (we had about 100 at any given time in uniform and plain clothes) and additional temp staffers. Keep in mind, that as crowds began to form (Saturday was most chaotic as a vast majority of fans arrived in large bunches between 10:30 and 11:30) we have to change plans on the fly to do our best to keep a semblance of organization, this creates challenges in communicating those changes to 500 security, staff and volunteers. We need to improve our communication across all those folks on site.
I've heard from a number of Anime fans that they felt NYAF got pushed to the side and that's disappointing. We plan to do some meet up's with the Otaku to discuss how we can improve this in the future. I will say this, we had nearly the same number of Anime panels and screenings as we did at any NYAF, the same amount of space committed to panels and screenings and exhibitors from previous NYAF's were consulted with about having a separate show floor for Anime vendors, besides the artists (who we accommodated with a separate Artist Alley) they did not want a separate space. That said, we do know we can do better to create the environment the Otaku really wants and we'll be asking for your help on just how we can do that.
I share all these thoughts with you in an effort to show you that we care about always improving and we do listen to all of you. On balance (and I fear some of you may insist otherwise) I think NYCC/NYAF made tremendous strides forward as being a can't miss event on a national and international level this year and I'm proud of the amazingly hard work the team put in to create it for you. Will we work hard for the next 12 months to learn from our shortcomings this year and get even better? You are god damn right we will. We build this show for you. Our motto is Fans First. Always. And I promise we'll put you first as we craft plans for 2011.
Thanks again for making NYCC something special, even if not perfect.
No rest for me, I'm in Europe on business for the rest of this week, so if I'm slow to reply to emails or comments posted here, that's why, but know I am reading them.