As a self-proclaimed comic and video game geek, this past weekend gave me the opportunity to completely embrace that side of my personality – San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC). I know the images that appear in many people’s minds when they hear about Comic-Con; people dressed up in odd costumes, rabid fans trying to get in front of their favorite writers or stars, and even some violence this year. Although I did take the opportunity to geek out, the PR/marketing pro in me never left and neither did the jaded New Yorker. I approached Comic-Con with a critical eye, as I do with every other trade show. But to be honest, I was very impressed.
This was not my first Comic-Con. I have attended New York Comic-Con for many years but this was my first trip to SDCC. I had heard great things about SDCC, but most of the discussion always focused on the celebrities, sneak peeks at movies, and the exclusive content that was available. Before the convention started, I was apprehensive. How is it possible that a convention with that many people could run smoothly?
The staff at the San Diego Convention Center, the volunteers and the local police did an amazing job organizing the nearly 130,000 attendees. As the days went on, I found myself admiring the staff and volunteers and the way they were able to organize all of the chaos (at times they almost seemed too willing). Lines with thousands of fans were handled smoothly and efficiently, with volunteers directing people all along the way. The convention center roped off specific areas in the hallways and even outside around the building to ensure all lines were organized and easy to navigate. Police were stationed at every crosswalk near the convention center to ensure that the mass amounts of people could cross without incident. Buses, sponsored by Showtime, gave attendees free rides from local hotels and even had Comic-Con representatives at every station at the Convention Center to let people know what time the next bus was expected and answer questions about routes. Even the nearby restaurants got in the act by customizing menus with superhero themes and offering discounted menus. Although I am sure that local residents of San Diego were not too happy that we invaded their city for a few days (I even saw a news report that nearly half of the area residents were going to avoid the Convention Center area during Comic-Con), the downtown restaurants, hotels and stores seemed to embrace the mobs of fans that attended the conference.
Overall, I was very impressed with SDCC – both as a comic book geek and as a PR/marketing professional. Tell us your tradeshow experiences in the comment section below. We would love to hear from you.