The lines at Salt Lake Comic Con on Thursday were astounding. The turnout was absolutely amazing.
And appalling, because these lines were for picking up VIP and GOLD badges. If people wanted to just pay at the door and get into the show with a wrist-band, they could walk straight in, but tens of thousands of pre-registered attendees stood outside for hours waiting to pick up their badges. Meanwhile, thousands of vendors and presenters waited inside the building wondering where everybody was.
The problem is that Salt Lake Comic Con hoped to process 100,000-ish registrations in advance by having people come to satellite locations for badge pick-up throughout Salt Lake and Utah Counties. These were open (and obviously under-utilized) on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
Why didn’t it work? Because Salt Lake Comic Con expected customers to change their behavior. They expected these people to go out of their way, to make a special trip out just for badges.
You don’t solve a problem of this scale by asking 100,000 people to act differently. You modify your OWN process so that their existing behavior becomes part of the solution. This is event management 101.
Put on big-boy pants, Salt Lake Comic Con, and do what the real conventions do: mail badges to people in advance. You’ve got tens of thousands of enthusiastic fans pre-registering with credit-card numbers. Collecting a mailing address during pre-reg is easy.
But how bad is the problem, really? Simply put, people who paid in advance for three days of convention will only get two days.
Dan Farr and the Salt Lake Comic Con organization know this. If badges don’t go into the mail for the next show, Dan Farr knows that he’s taking a day of the convention away from tens of thousands of people whose money he took.
My real concern, though, is whether the thousands of people who got turned away from entry after waiting in line all day Thursday will ever bother coming back. This is the third time that Salt Lake Comic Con has failed to get paying attendees through the door in a timely manner.
I applaud folks like my friend Nick, who is their head of security, who scrambled on-site to make the most of a terrible situation. I’m pleased with the good behavior of the attendees who did make it inside, and who set aside their frustration and anger and enjoyed the show for the hour or two they were able to. I’m excited to be part of such a big, enthusiastic show. Of course, I was inside the building at 9am as a vendor, and by around 4pm I was seriously wondering where all the people were.