How to Convention – EyeCon Edition

5/12/17 – Hey everyone! I just want to make an amendment to this old post of mine. When I wrote this initial post I’d say I’d very cautiously recommend this con. Now I’d say go into this convention with a bit of a Buyer Beware. Between the OTH con where they charged $200+ for the best seats for a concert…only for the fans in the cheap seats get invited to join those who paid for the best seats on the floor (and no, those who paid full price didn’t get a partial refund) or the difficulty in getting refunds for cancelled guests, it’s clear that not a lot has cha nged. There’s one incident, however that pushed me over into writing this update: it’s called Genesis.

At some point EyeCon introduced a convention called Genesis. It purposed to be a 90210/Gossip Girls/Gilmore Girls event. They had less than 100 people sign up for tickets so they did the honorable thing and cancelled the event. The less honorable thing? Look at the relevant portion of the cancellation announcement below:

For those 100+ attendees, we apologize and ask you for your understanding. Full refunds are available upon request, you wont have to fight to get a full refund. Were happy to do it. For those of you willing to transfer to one of our other events, you may simply request the transfer to the show of your choice. For now, we have our nearly sold-out event for One Tree Hill in May and Autumn is organizing the first ever North American Greys Anatomy themed event for which we will have information very soon. Any attendee who chooses to transfer to another event will receive a free gift (that wont be available to anyone else) as our token of appreciation. Please forward any and all requests to eyecongenesis@gmail.com . Refund requests will be honored within 14 business days.

Hey! They’re giving refunds! What’s so bad about that? You have to ask. When an event is cancelled, refunds should be automatic. Period. Exclamation Mark. Beyond that, this whole “refund requests will be honored within 14 business days” bit? The convention was cancelled in February. I know someone who as of the writing of this post was still waiting for her refund and now was having to get her bank involved to try and get her money back. They’re so happy to refund your money, amirite? Just be careful, okay? It’s now clear their problems are long term and deep-seated. There are so many good convention companies out there, it’s just hard to recommend one with so many continued problems.

Now back to my original review 🙂

Hey everyone! No new book review today, I’ve been on a bit of a dry spell when it comes to reading for about the past week and a half or so. Things will pick up again as they always do, but in the mean time I decided to do a post about part of the reason there’s no review today: the past several days I’ve been in Atlanta, Georgia for the #TVDLastRide, EyeCon’s final Vampire Diaries convention.

If it’s the last convention, why am I writing a review ? Because EyeCon as a company is still very much around and kicking. Currently there are two One Tree Hill conventions on the docket, and they’re looking to expand into other shows which means they’ll be around for some time to come. I found myself wishing I could have found more information about the company before I made the commitment especially given how expensive this convention is and thought that others might appreciate having it as well.

I’ve been going to cons off and on for almost twenty years now, and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned that the con’s management is vital: you make your own fun, but a well-run con gives you the solid bones needed to let you have fun. I’ve done enough of these to have a good sense of what works and what doesn’t. My primary comparison will remain Creation because that is the niche that these conventions are in and Creation does remain the big player in the market.

This post is mainly going to focus on how the convention is run and if the various add-ons are worth your money. Hopefully by the end you’ll know what to expect and where I’d suggest spending the extra money on if money is indeed a concern.

Let’s get started. And yeah. This is easily my longest such post I’ve ever written. Be warned.

Day 0: Pre Con Stuff

Normally, I don’t touch on the things that go one before a convention, because there’s really no reason to. You register, you get your confirmations or tickets and move on. However, EyeCon does do things a little differently which makes me feel like a section like this is warranted. For those of you reading this post, I’m quite well aware of the background of #TVDLastRide and why things were (to an extent) the way things were, but honestly, I don’t care. I was a first time consumer of this convention and this was my first impression of them. It could have easily been avoided, had the desire truly been there.

Anyway.

Unlike most conventions, you don’t get a confirmation from EyeCon when you make your purchases. The only way you have any idea that your transactions when through at time of purchase is your PayPal receipt. If you don’t keep folders (or use labels) in your e-mail for this kind of thing, I strongly suggest you do so, so you can find it quickly. You will need it later. Now, per current verbiage from the EyeCon website:

Approximately once per month leading up to the convention, we update the EyeCon database and enter the purchases. At this time we assign badge and seat numbers in the order which the purchases were made and then we email an EyeCon receipt which will itemize your purchases.

You want to know when I got my confirmation for #TVDLastRide? Two weeks prior to the convention. TWO WEEKS. I bought my ticket some five and a half months earlier. During this time there was absolute radio silence for the convention for anything #TVDLastRide related. Oh sure, there were tweets about their One Tree Hill shows, but absolute nothing about this rapidly approaching convention. Personally speaking, I tried the following to get information about when the overdue confirmations would be coming: a tweet (it got a favorite, but otherwise no response), an e-mail (unanswered), a text (unanswered), two attempted telephone calls on two days (no response and the mail box was full both times) and another text which answered a secondary question but not my main question. At least I had an issue that was eventually resolved. I know someone else who was promised by the show-runner on Facebook that she would be sat together with her friend (even though they ordered separate times) to accommodate a hearing issue. They never responded to her attempts to communicate with them before the convention either. Spoiler alert: they never fixed it at the convention either.

Honestly, this is completely and utterly unacceptable for any convention, let alone one that has been around as long as EyeCon has (prior to this con they’ve done seven Vampire Diaries, some True Blood and at least one One Tree Hill con, they are not newbies by any means). To make matters worse, the convention organizer would pop up on a Facebook fan group and make things worse by a) not only not answering our questions/concerns, but being dismissive or passive aggressive in responses to some very real concerns that we were having. Now, the One Tree Hill con is very much the favored child of the relationship, so maybe communication for future cons will be better, but as of right now, know what you’re in for. If you have a nervous constitution, you may well be driven insane.

Grade: D-. I was nervous as get out in the weeks leading up to this convention. I wondered if there was even going to be a convention. Knowing someone who knew someone help eased my anxiety, but without a question this was a horrible introduction to this convention.

Day 1: Friday

First up: Registration. To keep this post PG, I will call it a nightmare. What I called it in the real world contained much harsher language. Problems that I know people had when it came to registration: missing add-on tickets, missing badges, missing packets. I’d bought a photo op where the actor ended up cancelling before the show and my packet made no mention of it. There were so many problems that they eventually had to set up an “issues” table to give them some space to work on all the problems. You need a photo ID to pick up your packet. Bring your Paypal receipts. Check your packets against your receipts because there were high odds that the list they provided didn’t match up to what you purchased and because with the receipt they just fixed it with no questions asked. While I’m glad I got my issue resolved, these are the kinds of issues that you can understand (though maybe not forgive) with a new con. As we’ve established, EyeCon is not one of those.

Grade: C- They get a few points for fixing most issues without too much a fuss, but it’s clear these packets were slapped together hastily and no QC work was done in making sure they were done properly. If the current system is too cumbersome (and this convention was a fraction of the size of their huge first convention) they need to look into finding a replacement way of doing business. Oh, and I forgot to mention: don’t plan on picking up a printed schedule. They’ll tell you to look at the website. Fantastic if there’s wifi you can hop on to or if you’re lucky enough to have a decent signal. Kinda sucks if you don’t. Also: it makes the con look realllly cheap to not having something printed, even if it is only a single, single-sided page.

The Dealer’s Room is open on Friday’s as well. It’s your usually assortment that you’d find at this kind of con: a table with official show merchandise including photos that can be signed for autographs, some tables related to actors and/or the charities they’re associated with and a few other random dealers. There were maybe a dozen tables if that, you can easily check it out between panels.

#TVDLastRide did have an hour of bingo during the day. I don’t see it on the One Tree Hill schedule, but I don’t think it’s a big loss. While fun to attend with some good prizes (autograph tickets!), there’s nothing special about the presentation. Feel free to use the daytime hours to sight-see instead if you’re so inclined.

Finally for Friday: the ticketed party. It sadly was a disappointment. That lack of printed schedule? Kinda wound up being problematic. The website said the party started at 8. The hotel listing said 7. The Emcee told us 7. Yeah. You know where this is going: it was supposed to be 8. Due to the miscommunication, they did let us in at 7:45 so hurray? There was no DJ. Music was seemingly being chosen by a random staffer’s personal playlist and it wasn’t really appropriate for the venue at all. Not that the songs were inappropriate, but it wasn’t party music. We finally went over and asked them if they could play something more fitting. And they kept starting to…and then kept cutting it off. Yeah. They only had two of the guests there, so if the celebrity aspect is important you might want to see if it’s the guests you care about. They might or might not have a snack, all beverages are cash-bar only. The room was so lifeless that we ended up leaving for a while while planning on coming back for karaoke later. That was an even bigger mess. It was supposed to start at 10. At 9:45 they hadn’t even started setting up the equipment. It wasn’t working properly. They spent the next hour plus trying to resolve the issue as one of the guests did an impromptu concert just to try and give the crowds something (bless him, I have mad respect for him for doing so too). They never did get it working properly, and at 11:00 they finally tried to make it work with what they had (i.e. reading lyrics off of cell phones). It didn’t end. When the speakers started going wonky at 11:15 making it literally hurt our ears to continue listening we called it quits. Yes, I know this was the first time they tried karaoke. But given that the party and the karaoke were in two separate rooms and that they had an experienced A/V guy on hand, it doesn’t make sense that this wasn’t set up prior and just pushed out of the way. Maybe if they had, they’d discovered the problem sooner when it could have still been fixed.

Grade: C. The party genuinely was underwhelming, and if I were going to include the fiasco of the karaoke in my grade, it’d probably be more in the C- minus range. However, if I remember correctly, I don’t think you needed the party ticket to attend the karaoke so I’m not going to bring down the party grade for that reason. That said, if you are trying to be smart with your money, I might look into the Saturday night party instead. There are some issues there as well, but at least you should be getting most (if not all) of the guests at that event. It’s more expensive, but you get more bang for your buck as well.

I’m not going to lie. I was very disappointed with Friday and if I could go back and do it again, I wouldn’t have come in a day earlier and instead just checked out what I could once I was able to get on the ground. Overall, if you aren’t going Platinum I’d skip this day entirely and I don’t think going Gold or weekend GA makes much sense. The weekend GA pass saves you a measly $5, and the extra $115 you’d need to spend for Gold on top of the weekend pass really only nets a saved seat. With one exception (which I’ll go into later), I don’t think that being a few rows forward is worth that extra money. Instead, I’d say come Saturday/Sunday and use the savings towards autographs, photo ops or an event ticket instead.

Day 2/Day 3: Saturday/Sunday

I’m going to lump these days together because Sunday is basically a repeat of Saturday minus any special events. I will say that on whole, the photo op and autograph prices are roughly on par with what Creation charges, if not slightly cheaper. Relatively speaking, it’s a decent deal. As for the private autograph session, I didn’t attend so I can’t speak to the experience itself. The $795 ask is very steep, but I suppose it’s also the closest thing to Creation’s VIP experience in the sense of having the mini-meet and greet. The allowance of candid shots with the guests is nice, but I do find it a little absurd that for that price you’re still expected to shell out extra funds for the autographs themselves. For the current con listed, you get three autograph tickets, but there are actually six guests so far. You can see the problem, can’t you? You can get up to two more tickets with your seating package, but it’s my understanding that most who take them up on this get GA tickets instead to help keep costs down. Currently the extra three autographs will set you back another $100, making it over $1000 by the time you add admission for the opportunity and that’s assuming they don’t add more guests. I can’t justify spending that much, but maybe you can.

As for how the posed photo-ops go, I liked the system: they did them all up front so pictures would be ready by the time the autograph session rolled around, so that if you wanted to have it signed you could. That genuinely is a nice consideration for the attendees and if you wanted to wear something special for the photo ops and change later to be more comfortable (I’m mainly thinking shoes) you can. Pictures were printed almost instantly as well. If you sat towards the front, waiting for your pictures to be printed was a viable strategy, though it did tend to bog down later on. Now, I’m not entirely sure how well it scales up – our convention was small (of the 15 rows nominally available for Platinum members, there only wound up being three) and a show even double our size, there may still be merit to spreading out the panels and doing photo ops in between like Creation does. Still, I had no real complaints. Grade: B+

Much like the photo-ops, the autographs were for the most part, smoothly handled and showed the convention’s experience in running them. My only niggling issue is that I do think the most popular guest of the day (and they had to know who that would be) should have been placed at the end of the room by the exit door. Traffic got a bit messy because people were either trying to squeeze past the line if they didn’t have that guest’s ticket or because they tried to squeeze back into the line if they decided to hit up the other guests first. Making him last would have made that whole process smoother. My only disappointment is that none of the guests I met were chatty (like anything beyond a hello). It was very much sign and move along. Obviously there is personality at play, but others I’ve spoken to said that at past Eyecon they found the guests not too talkative either. I’m wondering if it’s the guests or the con telling the guests to just keep it moving? Not entirely sure. Still, good job here. Grade: B+

As far as Q & A panels go, I like that they last an hour. Rare is the con that gives you a full hour with a guest and I will always give that the thumbs up. I’m not a huge fan of having staffers pick who gets to have the mike versus mike-stands that if you get in line quickly enough you WILL get an opportunity to ask. Yes, I tried to ask a question, was acknowledged as wanting to ask a question but never had the mike brought to me. It sucks. Personal grievances aside, I think the mike-stands are also just more efficient because there’s no playing the “the next question is coming from this part of the room” the guest can just say “next question” and boom, someone asks. Easy peasy.It’s a minor complaint.

My bigger gripe is that there are so few of them at this show, like four total – two Saturday and two Sunday. A Creation convention from two weeks ago had 3 on Friday, 5 on Saturday, 4 on Sunday (5 if you went Gold and had access to the extra Gold-only panel). On top of this there were multiple trivia sessions, costume contests and auctions. You can see where I’m going with this. I’ll touch more on relative values later on, but you can see how there’s just not much here here Q & A wise. At least it’s run well though. Grade: B+

By far, my favorite event of the night was the Celebrity Banquet. A buffet dinner that grants you (and eight others) the opportunity to sit with one of the guests and chat for well over an hour, it’s basically a meet and greet that feeds you and much cheaper than you’ll otherwise be able to get it – only $110. I sat with one of the actresses who was utterly charming, the girls at the table were a lot of fun and it honestly felt like a girlfriends dinner. I had an absolute blast. And here’s the big but.

I got lucky.

Seating at the banquet is done from highest tier ticket to low, and then within each grouping the lowest ticket number to highest ticket number within that group. So let’s saw you bought ticket #3 for a Platinum seat. All the Diamonds (even the Diamond who bought a badge the last week before con) still get to choose ahead of you.I barely got the last of the guests I wanted. I’d been disappointed with my other options. Would I have had fun? Probably. As much fun? Definitely not.

Tickets are now capped at 100, but if you don’t have 10 guests, that means there will be people who don’t get to sit with a guest. Or, if you’re towards the back of the line, odds are higher that you won’t get to sit with the guest that you want. Your experience can easily depend on who you get to sit with because while you do get a a group photo (your table mates) with all of the guests, the guests don’t get to mingle. You don’t get a seat with a celeb, your only chance of saying hi is the three seconds at the photo. I don’t care how many say “just make friends with the people at the table!” because that isn’t what is being paid for – what you’re paying for is access to one of the guests. So yeah, that exception I mentioned about Gold? This would be it. I still think it a gamble to go to banquet with a Gold ticket, but I really wouldn’t suggest GA as the odds are too high you won’t end up with a guest at your table. If you’re going and you aren’t buying a Diamond/Platinum badge early, make sure you’re comfortable with the inherent risk before hitting that purchase button. I’m glad I took the chance. Grade: A

Finally, the Saturday ticketed party. If you’re going a la carte, this would be the party I’d pick. A bit more expensive, but at least all the guests attend if that’s why you’re trying to go. Just know to expect that the biggest of the guests are most likely going to be there for a half-hour or less – a schedule left by a staffer on a table showed them only there for like 15 minutes initially. It’s fairly routine for cons like this, but they certainly don’t advertise that it’s basically a fly by. They also didn’t announce when they were leaving. If you weren’t paying attention you could easily look up and discover they were gone. If you’re bold enough to make the most of it, you can get those chats and hugs in before they go, but you gotta be fast. Otherwise, you’re going to hang out with your friends/fellow con-goers and at the $115 asking price, it is a bit pricey. Again there is no DJ and the only drinks are cash-bar only. The music was at least better and to their credit they tried to do karaoke again after Friday’s debacle (still didn’t work fully from what I understood though), so they also get some brownie points for that. Grade: C (edited 5/12/17 – if you’re bold and you’re fast, you can get some interaction with the guests. Otherwise, good luck. If you’re going Platinum or Diamond, by all means go. But is it worth paying a la carte? No)

The Wrap Up

While I ultimately was able to have a good time at this convention and indeed make new friends, I still find myself a bit hard pressed to actually recommend a convention run by these people if alternates for your fandom of choice exist. In some areas (the way their photo ops and Q & As and general timing of things) their experience clearly shows. In others ways, the sloppiness is simply unforgivable. And even if those things can even out, I still have the issue with the ultimate value that this convention presents. My $400 here got me: a great seat, 4 Q & A panels, 2 parties and 1 autograph. At Creation, my $320 ($340 this year) got me: A great seat, almost a dozen panels, a party, a concert, and 7 autographs. That’s not a small difference in value.

I know EyeCon is the small fish in a big pond and I truly do understand that. But at the amount of money it takes to attend one of their shows (especially with travel costs) it’s disingenuous to not look at value There has to be enough to justify your attendance when nothing is refundable and guests are limited as you can be left holding a very expensive ticket with little to show for it if cancellation by a favored guest occurs. That said, if you do decide go, go Platinum. I think its the best bang for your buck. I don’t think Diamond quite offers enough for the extra cost, even for the first row seats as as mentioned, I feel like Gold is overpriced given that seating is still only going to be middling at best.

I feel like this convention is a great “supplemental” con – a way to meet actors you can’t meet elsewhere. But if you have alternate options, I’d still say to go to one of them over this one first. They’re probably better run and get you more bang for your buck. If they are the only game in town, you can still have a very good time, but just know what you’re getting into and prepare accordingly.

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2 thoughts on “How to Convention – EyeCon Edition

  1. Thank you for the review! I attended Eyecon’s 2nd One Tree Hill convention and I agree with all of your comments above. I just wish I had your blog to look at before attending the convention. I didn’t have much of a choice since this is the only convention company for OTH in the USA. Then Guests Events (a company based in Paris) had an OTH con in Montreal, Canada which is the same distance from me (California) to Wilmington, NC (Eyecon’s OTH). I went to that one as well. Attending cons from 2 different companies allows for comparisons and the ability to weigh the pros/cons. Even though Eyecon no longer does TVD cons, your review is still ever so helpful!

    • Thank you! I’m curious, was the OTH con run any better? I felt like a lot of (or almost all of) the pre-con issues through the registration woes could be attributed in part to a lack of enthusiasm/frustration on the part of the staff (they were talked into holding it and it flat out didn’t sell well, OTH con was apparently the only reason they didn’t cancel it) so I’m wondering if your experience was smoother!

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