A Not-Dead-Yet-Dog panel was held at the con Sunday morning in Delta Central. As the crowd was larger than anticipated, the room was opened up to include Delta West.
Many voiced their thoughts, and some even volunteered to help with areas we’ve needed help with! Topics covered a wide range, from welcoming newcomers to signage. The panel was productive enough that it was extended well into the next hour (Apologies to the panelists who were bumped).
The gist was that people want MW*C to continue, and to continue with the same focus. There was little suggestion of changing the date or hotel, though we are looking into those options. It was noted that the Ramada location is pretty much perfect in terms or access to fast food and other dining options, groceries, other hotels, etc..
Some thought there should be events for large numbers of members to socialize and generally be more welcoming for new members. It was noted that we had banquets early on and, while we could still do that, one reason we stopped was that people back then said they’d rather have more panels than overpriced food (there would be an hour lost on either end of however long the banquet was for set-up and take-down). Some were somehow unaware we’ve been holding the Meet & Greet in the Con Suite for years (apparently, some people don’t see the notices in the PRs , Program Book, or the many signs posted at the con). There was discussion of moving the Meet & Greet to the ground floor function space or the Party Suite, and having a Walmart-style greeter stationed in the lobby to direct new arrivals to con registration (as registration needed to be where it was so it can be locked up at night). It was suggested that new members could have the option of some sort of identifier (badge sticker, ribbon, etc.).
It was noted that the “graying” of fandom is a common problem among other groups, and that they haven’t had much luck changing their demographics either.
A number of ideas on how to reach “the young people” were bandied about: increased advertising (though nothing specific on how or where to advertise), increased social media presence, and the usual catch-22 of programming — i.e. panel topics are based on member input; for people to have topics representing their interests, they need to become members and suggest topics (and have enough volunteers to hold the panel). Of course, we are not looking to attract random young people; we want new people who are fans, or, at least, protofans — people who will contribute and be(come) part of the fannish community.
Obviously, there is no magic bullet, no single thing that will suddenly solve the problem. It was noted that the local anime con is apparently foundering (and their attempt to do a spinoff was cancelled due to not enough pre-registrations). And while it wasn’t brought up, as long as MW*C is Memorial Day Weekend, we are outside the regular school year for MSU (commencement was May 4-6 this year), and, as always, the student population during summer sessions is a fraction of what it otherwise would be.
Some resident young people were quizzed, spoke, and even volunteered to help with some additional social media platforms.
It was also suggested that young people find the time-honored term “GoFer” off-putting, so we are seeking alternative terms.
Other suggestions included registering with Google as a “business” (which we have now done), and making transportation from Flint and Detroit airports easier by providing transport, chartering shuttles, making people aware of the Michigan Flyer, etc..
We also re-explained that the timing of events this year was beyond our control, having been prompted by the lateness of info from the hotel; we did not receive the hotel bill for MW*C 37 until very late, which was a good chunk higher than expected due mainly to more last-minute cancellations than usual, which reduced the credits against hotel costs; this, naturally, caused us to re-examine the number of MW*C 38 pre-registrations and hotel reservations, which were lower than we would expect for that time. We also had not received a proposed contract until that same time, by which the deadline for cancelling without penalty was already past; we negotiated an extension so there was about a month to see if memberships and reservations would pick up, and so made that announcement. While a few memberships continued to trickle in, we were still in danger of not making the minimum number of reservations which pay for the function space, meaning it could cost thousands more in penalties to either put on the con or cancel it; as a result, we saw no choice but to announce a postponement. No sooner had we done that, then the hotel notified us they were willing to waive such contingencies, so we were able to continue after all.
Obviously, we are sorry for anyone who was inconvenienced, and hope to avoid these circumstances arising again, but at present do not have a definite hotel location or dates set, or know what conditions might be set in an eventual contract. We are in discussions with Ramada as well as looking into other options.
The regular Dead Dog panel was also held as usual Monday morning, with a typical number in attendance, which garnered some additional volunteers to do panels on gaming and other topics and help with more social media platforms, as well as (yay!) a volunteer to coordinate the Game Room.
Thanks to everyone for the input! We have already or will be looking into many of the suggestions, and will be contacting volunteers for various things. Please direct any additional suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.