How to Use Tech to Turn Fandom Events Into Must-Attends
Fandom conventions aren’t just gatherings for “geek culture,” they’re big business. According to an Eventbrite study, the industry is currently worth $4 billion.
The standard-bearer of these events is Comic-Con. In 2017, more than 135,000 people and north of 725 exhibitors attended the San Diego show, while a record 200,000 tickets were sold to the New York festival. These numbers point to an industry that will only continue to grow in popularity, profitability and participation.
However, bigger doesn’t always mean better in the event industry. As fandom gatherings become more popular, old and new festivals must find ways to distinguish themselves from competitors. Technology can be that differentiator.
All systems set to ‘go’
Technology can create new ways for fandom events to engage with their attendees. But it can also lead to more headaches. In fact, even a small glitch in tech can turn a “peak geek” experience into a letdown.
Any person who has staffed or attended a convention knows how integral tech is to the overall experience. Cell service, for one, is almost always spotty. Swiping open a phone to text someone, only to find that signal bars have all but disappeared, can lead to frustration for fans and staff members.
Then there’s ticket processing. Conventions appeal to passionate niche audiences who don’t hesitate to buy tickets to their preferred panels and forums. But any hiccups in the processing technology can fluster potential attendees and eat into the event’s earnings.
In short, convention-goers and participants have a lot to lose when tech betrays them. Anyone preparing to attend or work a fan fest (or any other expo) should strongly consider these three types of tech:
1. Cashless technology
People don’t come to fandom conventions just to meet the cast of their favorite film or series. They want that meticulously crafted action figure, that artist rendering of Deadpool and that t-shirt they’d only ever wear at the next con. Eventbrite’s research found that purchasing swag is one of the top three reasons for attending these events, with 70 percent of fans citing that purpose.
Installing a cashless payment option such as radio frequency identification tags into a convention badge can simplify the payment process for an event retailer and attendee. RFID works a lot like the magnetic strip on a credit card, meaning payments can be processed with one swipe.
This gets your event retailers away from taking currency and allows them to process more transactions, while your attendees can experience a more convenient purchasing process and hopefully want to spend more. Either way, cashless transactions remove an important hassle for staff and attendees.
2. Live simulcast
There’s a lot to do at fandom events. In a single hour, attendees can choose from as many as 40 panels, Q&As and classes. The sheer volume of possibilities can leave them wondering where to go next.
Live-stream technology makes it easier to choose, by letting attendees digitally experience the whole expo. Eventbrite found that 96 percent of event creators plan to utilize some form of live streaming this year.
Take “crowd” streaming, for example, in which event staff can crowdsource a simulcast. To get started, have your staffers create an event hashtag. Then, encourage your attendees, panelists and celebrity participants to broadcast their experiences on Facebook Live or Periscope and attach the hashtag to the stream’s caption. This is shareable content that builds on your event’s momentum and serves as marketing material for organizers and staff to utilize for future installments.
3. Event apps
Event apps have become the holy grail – or Iron Throne – within the fandom circuit. Organizers want them because attendees expect them and they work like any other app: Attendees download them for free and then gain access to the information they need, such as a map of the space, schedules, panelist bios, etc.
Apps gather data as fans continue to interact with them, information that can be very valuable to event staffers and organizers. For example, let’s say the interest in a certain panel or Q&A is greater than anticipated. There’s no way that you can cram hundreds of people into 50-person space, but if they have attendance information ahead of time, a simple venue change could keep the ire at bay and prevent your staff and attendees from feeling overwhelmed.
Take a page from Dragon Con, for example, and allow attendees to share their schedules with others through the mobile app. Or do what New York Comic Con does with its app and hold contests for exclusive swag. You can even use a little geofencing to remind attendees that they’re near an autograph session that’s about to happen.
No matter what technology is used, check and double-check its ability to handle the event. Use technology to make the fandom event experience productive for your staff and retailers and a special one that your attendees will be more than happy to revisit in the future.
Have you utilized tech in innovative ways at a fandom event? Is there a tech solution that attendees of your last convention wished you implemented? Leave a comment below and tell us about it.