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Monday, August 13, 2012

Natsucon 2012: The Wrap-Up Post

So yesterday was the last day of NatsuCon, a Midwest summer anime con that is celebrating its fourth year entertaining local otaku and occupying convention centers with geeks in cosplay. It was loud, it was busy, and most of all, it was fun.

Which isn't to say it went without any bumps, but name me one convention that goes perfectly. Hint: there are none. Even Comic-Con has its fair share of screw ups. Despite the flaws, I think this year's NatsuCon was even better than last year. This convention is clearly improving with every passing year, which means 2013 should be very impressive indeed. Especially if they go through with their closing ceremony promise and bring back Micah.

After the jump are some of my thoughts and ideas of how NatsuCon went this year compared to last, and perhaps some things that could be done better in the future (sorry but long post is long).

Registration: This one was . . . actually a bit of a hassle. They said on their website that you could pick up badges early on Thursday. Cool, right? Except they don't tell you where they are doing it, so that after walking through the convention center aimlessly, my friend and I eventually found Natsu staff set up on chairs in the Doubletree lobby. A detail that should have been communicated better, I think. Also, they kept the computers from last year, which meant long lines again. Although at least they got a third computer? That's progress, in a small way.

Note to people planning on going to Natsucon 2013: pre-register now. You won't regret it. And, of course, get a room in the hotel block. So many benefits!

Gaming: I actually went to the gaming room more this year than last year, mainly because I'm a sucker for dancing games - and Nexus Gaming Alliance brought double the dancing games than they had last year. Plus, it meant stomping around on a dance pad to Vocaloid music. Score! And there was a more diverse pick of games than last year. I think there were more tables for game systems, too. I only wish I got to use the In The Groove 2 machine, but that was very busy during the weekend.

Vendors/Artists: Another component that visibly improved and expanded since the year before; there were three rows of vendors and several more tables for artists than last year. I was very happy that some of my favorite artists came back, including Moustache Cash Stache (Regular Show references for the win!) and the amazing amigurumi folks who made my Eleventh Doctor amigurumis. Also, there were a lot of great vendors in the vendors' room with a lot of impressive swag. I regret not getting those Accel World figurines, although I did end up with River Song's sonic screwdriver. As long as someone is selling ramune and someone else has Doctor Who stuff, I'll be happy.

I'm actually wearing my Black Butler/Grell t-shirt from one of the dealers right now. Note to t-shirt dealers: please carry more medium sized shirts? It's a little disheartening that a lot of the shirts I wanted were either too small or way too big for me. Carry a few mediums for 2013!

Panels: I've already spoken about the panels I've been to, many of them simply superb, some of them made of fail, others did not even come into fruition. Also, I'm still in despair over missing the sweet Tenchi Muyo panel. Maybe next year! So this section is going to be more critical than others; sorry!

The thing about running panels is that you have to have some sort of planning ahead of time, and you have to plan enough stuff so that you keep most of your audience entertained. This isn't an hour where you and your friends goof-off behind a mic without any direction, and it certainly isn't the time to not have any plan and end up handing the entire panel off onto the audience. Believe me, I don't come to panels just to find the success or failure of it resting solely on my participation; you have to do something, too!

Here are some good ideas if you are running a fan panel and are stumped for conversation starters beyond "so, what do you guys wanna talk about?": prepare a fun and informative power point that you can elaborate on with your geekishness; make up some simple games that can be tied to your panel topic and requires audience participation; get a short video clip or two of something amusing and relevant that your audience may not have seen yet but would love watching (like bloopers or cut scenes or really short OVAs); have a trivia contest with cool prizes so the big nerds in the room feel appreciated. Also, candy! Just be careful if you're throwing it and it's something like Smarties, though.

Also, if your panel involves A/V, TELL THE STAFF AHEAD OF TIME. Not every room may be equipped with a projector, or the projector may only be available for panels who designate needing it. Don't wait until the day of your panel to inform the staff of these needs. And if you are having A/V difficulties, don't panic! Either call a volunteer or staffer discreetly for assistance . . . or hope someone like me is there, sitting in the audience just waiting for the opportunity to stand up and dramatically declare, "Don't worry, I work in media services", like a huge nerd.

And con staff? There were at least two panels whose panelists never showed up. One was cancelled, the other was saved by helpful con attendees. We can prevent this from happening! Collect as much contact info as possible from your panelists, and contact them on a regular enough basis so you know they're prepared and still coming, and they know y'all are involved in their process. If a panel must be cancelled with nothing to replace it, manage to make an announcement so that people know it's not happening and can make alternate plans. And if someone has a history of dropping panels, black list them from running panels; only reliable folks should have the privilege of running panels. Two dropped panels is two too many.

I hope I haven't scared off anyone who wants to do a panel next year. I've done tons of panels before and they are so much fun; they're also a great way to connect with fellow fans of your panel topics and talk about things that really interest you. All you need is a little planning, some fun ideas, and enthusiasm so that even people who don't know much about your topic can feel involved in the panel.

Events: Run. Them. On. Time. If you know your event starts at eleven, get the gears going at least ten minutes before hand. Do what you can ahead of time so that you don't leave people hanging in line as you are doing prep that should've been done already. If yours is the first event of the day? You don't have an excuse for not setting most or all of it up before the room doors even open. Plus, if the room is still in use and there's not a scheduled gap between events (although this is rare), use the 'back stage' part of the main events room to set up. Con staff will be more than happy to assist; it's what they're there for!

Also - and this goes for event runners and con staff both - please get some sort of handle on how the lighting and sound works in a room before you start a series of events. Nothing fun about having the strobe lights of the main stage flashing in my eyes because someone can't figure out how to turn them off and keep them off. God forbid someone with epileptic tendencies had been in the audience then. At least A/V issues in the main room were handled efficiently, and were able to be played off of for the audience's amusement.

Brina Palencia: More Brina. All year, every year. At every con. Even cons that aren't anime related. And at least one of them should involve her cosplaying as Horo. Um. Yes. Ignore all of that, please. But anyway, Natsucon had awesome guests, from sword masters to DJs and wonderful voice actors. So keep up the good work, Natsu, with the guests! Like Brina.

So Natsucon was pretty great. You can go to the Natsucon Facebook page and look at all the great photographs and videos that have been posted there, both by them and con attendees over the weekend. I've also got my own (amateur) photos over at my Flickr page, although I still need to update it with the few photos I took from Sunday. I'll also have video from this weekend up later this week, including a short clip of yours truly looking foolish to the tune of Miku Hatsune's sweet electronic voice.

Thank you for reading my Natsucon posts so far, especially if you found them via Natsu's official Twitter and Facebook pages! I hope some of you stick around and subscribe to my anime/manga blog; I will do my best to make it worth your while. And please comment with some of your favorite stories of Natsucon 2012 weekend!