Cons have been gradually catching up to the major advances in event technology, adapting some of the best practices from fellow large-scale events like major league sports and music festivals. RFID technology is improving fan expos by being integrated to keep perimeters secure, while events are finally phasing out paper guidebooks!
We’ve looked at the Con landscape in North America today and these are some of the biggest developments in the industry, and how they are contributing to a considerably heightened fan experience.
Picking up Credentials
Waiting in inexcusably long lines to pick up credentials has been the bain of the Con experience from the fan’s perspective. It is not uncommon to see fans standing in miles-long lines, clad in their elaborate costumes, anxious to get into the event. Would Optimus Prime really wait two hours in line to pick up his badges?
“It seems that numerous Cons experience such tremendous year over year growth in attendance, that they quickly outgrow their processes,” notes Andrew Feuerstein, Intellitix’s business development officer in charge of convention outreach. “Something that worked just fine when the event drew 2,500 patrons becomes a major headache as attendance grows above 10,000.”
Hampered by outdated systems of verifying identification and printed-out lists, the processes of entry into Cons was badly in need of modernizing. Thanks to advances in registration software, RFID access control, and the uptake of pre-event credential mailing/fulfillment services there are major improvements being made to the entry into the event, and patrons are spending less time in line and more time enjoying what they came to see.
Borrowing from the world of music festivals, Cons have started to embrace the event app. When around 85% of people between 18 and 34 own a smartphone, it seems senseless to have thousands of paper guidebooks printed out and inevitably discarded.
Through bespoke event apps, fans are able to program their weekend accurately, get notified of any updates or changes to the schedule, receive notifications with offers and deals, and generally have a more seamless experience.
From the Con organizer’s perspective, they get access to broad swaths of fan data that can be harnessed to great effect. Not only are they able to get accurate reads on the popularity of specific fan tracks, but they can monetize in-app ad space, and integrate social media into the experience.
Security at fan conventions is a deeply complex topic worthy of its own feature, but it’s certainly worth noting that this landscape is changing very quickly.
It should be no surprise to anyone familiar with the Con industry that it has unique challenges when it comes to searching its fans adequately. With elaborate costuming being an integral part of the culture, pat-downs or metal detectors aren’t sufficient, while being meticulous about searching each person can cause long wait times to get into the event. And all of this is saying nothing about the thousands of fake weapons that fans bring with them!
“RFID access control can help add an extra level of security to Cons by making the authentication of credentials such a simple process that event security teams can spend more time focusing on searching patrons rather than trying to differentiate between a real and fraudulent credential,” adds Andrew.
Cons are the lifeblood for many vendors in the fan culture space. They offer unprecedented access to the fans when they are in spend mode, and the ability to gather important email addresses and info is extremely valuable for staying in contact after the event.
The old model of paper and pen lead retrieval is cumbersome, outdated and needs to be retired. Vendors often complain that the time spent writing down information is inhibiting them from communicating directly with the customer, and that any kind of backup will inevitably lead to people moving on beyond their booth.
RFID technology can also be a solution to this problem through the use of handheld lead-retrieval scanners. With a simple ‘tap’ against a patron’s credential, vendors have the ability to collect vital information about their booth visitors (name, e-mail, phone number, etc.), leading to an increase in leads over the course of the weekend and fosters a more valuable interaction between patron and vendor.