I realize that this event took place on Friday, 17 January, and it is now Monday, 20 January, but I wanted to hold off on writing this blurb until I had some time to consider my own thoughts in relation to those of other fans and attendees of the event.
First, as groundwork, this event was billed as a “Free event” to meet George Takei at The Leonardo in downtown Salt Lake City. George was in town for the Sundance Film Festival, and Dan Farr (who is running the Salt Lake Comic Con events) was able to arrange this for the local fandom.
Here, in a (really large) nutshell, are what I saw and heard from attendees, and my thoughts about it all.
This was a major coup. Anytime you can get someone of George Takei’s status to put his name/face to an event it’s a good thing. Not only for his obvious fan-boy support, but also as a well-spoken, thoughtful activist for issues he cares deeply about.
The event was scheduled to run from 5 pm to 10 pm. Apparently, George had to leave early, at around 8pm. Many people showed up after that, some having driven after work specifically for that event, only to be told “nope. you missed it.”
Whose “fault” this is may be debatable, but there was an obvious lack of communication between the event organizers and the Takei camp. However, these things happen, especially as this event was not George’s main reason to be in town. This kind of thing, as frustrating as it can be, can be chalked up to “bad luck.”
The event organizers failed to properly advise people on the rules of the photo op (the rules to having a celebrity sign a picture from their stacks is pretty simple, no? And $40). Simply letting fans know that a photo with George was $30 isn’t enough. Though conventions and events like this usually allow up to 2 people per photo ($30 per picture, not per person), not everyone is a veteran of these events, and communicating good and accurate information is the most powerful marketing tool there is.
Additionally, the event organizers failed to state whether the pictures would be Professionally done or if fans needed to bring their own cameras. I, having been trained by the Air Force, planned on bringing a camera. Turns out it was a good choice, since that question was only answered in a Facebook post (late the day prior), along with the suggestion to “use the force” to get both my wife and I in the same picture with George*. Even that information was later contradicted, as, while we were waiting in line, we were told that there would be a pro photographer, only to be told a minute later that it was up to us to have a camera.
Again, communication, or lack thereof.
Never mind the minor snafus life not knowing how to separate the lines for those buying only an autograph from those getting a photo, or–God forbid–both.
Finally, after being billed as a “Free Event,” people were turned away if they were not buying either a photo or an autograph, but only to shake George’s hand or say hello. So, the “Free Event” was actually $30 or $40, depending on how “Free” you wanted it to be.
Again: communication. Actually, a lack thereof.
The good thing about this event–yes, there was one–was that all of the volunteers that I personally dealt with seemed to be in good spirits and were helpful and polite, excepting the fact the information seemed to change depending on which of them I spoke to.
Do I need to say it one more time? I will: communication.
I would like to thank George Takei for taking time out of his schedule to try to accommodate the fans. I know that it was appreciated by most, if not all, of the fans. As was his husband Brad’s trip through the line of waiting fans to say hello, and even giving a couple of photos himself, even though its not really his “thing.”
It’s the details of the rest of the event that seemed to be pushed aside. And it is this seeming lack of concern that is, well, concerning to the fans.
Salt Lake City has the ability to support a Convention of substantial size, as evidenced by the 2013 event, despite all of its issues (which have been amply cataloged both here and elsewhere), but it is not enough to simply schedule celebrities to appear; everything else has to work well or the fans will stop supporting events such as these in the future out of frustration.
I would hope that the organizers are doing more than paying lip service to the ample feedback they are receiving through various channels (FB, twitter, etc). Otherwise, they may find themselves on the receiving end of geek backlash.
*Aside from the obvious incongruity of that statement to the average geek, it implies an attitude–accurate or not–that they just want the fans’ money, and it’s up to them (the fans) to make it all work.