This is part 2 in a multi-part look at convention line issues and potential ways to fix them. This article will cover the pros and cons of a number of those issues. Looking at the problem, there is no 100% perfect solutions to the problem, just different ways to handle the issue. In the previous entry we were working with the problem of long lines and “campers” (People who start a line hours before an event for the Guest of Honor, this is not intended as a way to handle an incredibly long dealers’ room line.) This entry is going to cover the positives and nega
How do you mitigate this from happening?
Mitigating the problem is actually more difficult than dealing with the problem as it currently is. The biggest creation with changing the status quo is that you now have to take into the account the concept of “fairness.” Fairness is such a loaded concept; what is fair for one person is unfair to another. Fair is a horrible concept, it implies a level of self-importance or group-importance over another group or set of rules. Westley from the “Princess Bride” said it best “Life’s not fair; anyone who says otherwise is selling something.” That is what has to happen with any change or rule or organizational change, or situation that challenges the community created by line creation. You have to sell the change as fair to the community and the rest of the attendees of the convention. People will/do understand the current model at most conventions and commercial events of getting in line ass early to get in to the event to get the best place. Implementing any change will make the attendees incredibly uncomfortable and question the concept of “fairness” by the convention or the management of the guest of honor. With that, let us examine a number of potential ways to mitigate line camping, speed up the line, and make more attendees happy. To paraphrase Kevin McKeever from his “Do Anime Conventions Have a Future” panel, lines are the biggest problem as attendees grow older, money is tighter, and their free time becomes more valuable, which makes people not want to come to your convention (herein referred to as the McKeever Situation).
In a perfect world ticketing is an incredible solution. Everyone has a fixed location in the room, so no one needs to camp out. This creates some new problems. How do you distribute tickets? How do you assign tickets? How do you cover the increased cost of creating those tickets? How do you prevent counterfeits? How do you prevent the camping waiting for the “box office” to open? How do you deal with a “pit” in the room instead of full seating?
What Can Ticketing Solve
If you have seating, it completely eliminates the need to camp for any event. You make everyone have a ticket to get in; the line becomes irrelevant because everyone knows EXACTLY where they will be at for the Guest’s event.
It eliminates a large amount of communication issues between various staff departments.
It lessens the personnel needed to control a long line.
It takes stress off of Guest/Band Relations and Guest Management.
What Problems Ticketing Creates
You need to print tickets.
You need to make those tickets difficult to counterfeit (as we learned in the past, someone will take a ticket/badge, reproduce it, and sell it in the garage).
You need someone to design those tickets.
You need to create a place and way to distribute those tickets.
You need to have staff to take tickets.
You need to come up with a plan to handle “pit” events.
If you have a multi-tiered badge system, how do you handle tickets “fairly?”
How do you make sure one ticket per badge?
If you do a number in line, how do you handle the chaos of putting people in order?
How do you handle lost tickets?
From here, let us look at what these problems are in detail
Handling a Multi-Tiered Badge System Fairly?
This could be the hardest of problems to overcome. If you already have a multi-tiered system, and it is established, you have created a source of income that is now counted on, to some degree. You have also created the expectation of these levels and their perks being available, and as such your existing attendees plan their budgets accordingly (assuming an attendee saves and budgets for any show). Removing those perks will be removing a level of expectation and “importance” the convention goer experiences by being one of the elite upper tier badge holders. Seriously, on an unconscious level, upper tier badge holders feel entitled and special because they have spent more and have a list of perks that are above the average attendee.
So, now, how do you handle the situation? There is a couple of ways, first way would be a separate registration line for the upper tier badges, with that the first N number of tickets are placed and if a premium wants one at registration time they can get one. Those tickets would have to be front row or two, or a numeric value for a position in line. This now, puts the responsibility of deciding if you want to go to the concert at the time of registration check in. Upper tier badges aren’t purchasable at door… What if they are? You have to maintain, basically, a separate container of upper tier tickets throughout the duration of the convention. If during line up, an upper tier badge holder doesn’t have a ticket they wait at the end of the line. If they start camping, send them to registration to get a ticket. Wait, doesn’t that cause the McKeever Situation? It does, depending on when the guest event occurs. If pushing the person, at say 8 PM on Saturday night, back to registration the registration stations would be rather dead by then, but by then the event would already be starting and the lines formed. The problem occurs when the person begins camping at 4 PM or 2 PM or Noon. That person would have to be shushed off to registration, and back into a line, which is something we are trying to significantly limit. Not only that, it now increases registration time for everyone else because you have a person in line, who shouldn’t be there, trying to get an event ticket that he/she should have gotten when they pre-registered. Every second counts for someone in line, a 10 second delay for one person will be a 20 second delay for the person behind him, a 30 second delay for the person behind him, and so on and so on. If you have a hundred person line, that is a 1000 second or 17 minutes.
Here is another situation this method creates: Attendee Decision Pressure. By forcing an attendee to decide if they want to go to an event when they pick up their badge now places them under pressure to make a snap or semi-snap decision for someone who hasn’t explicitly come for that guest event. This WILL cause a delay in the registration line, thus creating the McKeever Situation.
So, this comes down to how Anime Expo handles tickets, they have a ticket booth. This for a smaller convention can cause increased costs for a professional looking ticketing booth, but realistically, two six foot tables with four chairs will eliminate that cost. What does this buy us? First, it will eliminate the pressure of deciding on going to the guest event at reg-pickup/purchase time. Second, it prevents people from going back into the registration line to get tickets to the event. Finally, it makes sure people who really want tickets will have the opportunity to get the early numbered tickets. This could be the best distribution method. If you open the ticket booth at the same time as registration, keep it somewhat close, and give it some room for a line. You alleviate/eliminate camping for that line because you need a badge. You keep the line quick by handing out the tickets in a numeric sequence, or some sequence that gives upper tier badge holders better seats, and you significantly lessen the all-day “camping” of main events. The biggest problems that arise now are putting people in order for a “pit” event and getting proper staffing to handle ordering people. The positive note about ordering people is that humans’ love order and as such will work to preserve that order. There will still be pissed off people, just hopefully not as many.
Handling a “Pit” Event
First, I should explain what a “pit” event is in case any reader out there is unfamiliar. A “pit” event is an event that lacks chairs in the center of the room; chairs exist in the back of house and or on the side of house creating a center open area, or pit, where people will congregate in mass.
Now upper tier badges with a pit is not as bad as a general admission badge. With a finite number of upper tier badges, with only a subset of those attending the event, allows for ticketing to be broader. You could potentially get away with a “1-10,” “11-20,” and so on, up to the maximum number of upper tier badges. The same could work for the general admission (lower tier) badges, but it would create a less controllable mob of people in line. Think of it this way, you are in line and you are in a “blue” group, human nature would dictate that you fight to be the first person in “blue” group. This would create the need for “camping,” among groups. This in turn is failure for what the ticketing system was created to eliminate. So, with that you would need to have sequentially numbered tickets for the larger general admission attendance pool. This is based on the assumption that the number of general admission badges is not fixed and the potential size of the subset of general admission badges can and will be larger than the upper tier badges. This means signage and a significant number of line control staff. This can be done effectively, but requires planning, patience, and respectful, nice, well informed, and happy looking staff. The problem at hand will be the first year this is implemented; it will be a disaster due to inexperience of both staff and attendees. Education and experience is what it will take to make this work properly.
Making Sure One Ticket Per Badge
This is probably the most non-issue of the issues. The easy solution is to create a location on the badge for a “punch” to go. When the attendee gets a ticket, their badge is punched in the appropriate location, with a specific shaped hole punch. This doesn’t eliminate counterfeiting, but it makes it significantly more difficult to get multiple tickets.
Handling Lost Tickets
This is probably the cruelest thing, but most necessary. If you lost your ticket, you are forced to the end of the line in with the people who don’t have tickets. To keep people who found tickets from getting in at the wrong line, badge and tickets would be mutually checked. It would be like “IF I am an upper tier AND I have an upper tier ticket THEN I may use the upper tier line else I must use the general admission line.” There would have to be a no-replacement policy, just like badges.
The remaining problems with tickets arise with staffing, communication, signage, and web site updates to disseminate information.
Next: Part 3 The Multi-Tiered Badge Approach