Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

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Wrap-Up Thoughts on BayCon

The BayCon Closing Ceremonies were scheduled immediately before the Feedback Session, and ChairPurple Kitty Crowe was initially confused and forgot that there was supposed to be a Closing Ceremonies before the Feedback Session. She asked for the audience's forgiveness, saying, "I may be a purpose person, but I'm a green chair."

The Closing Ceremony itself was fairly minimal, with Kitty introducing the guests of honor one last time, and those who were present (some had earlier flights and had already left). Larry Niven thanked the committee for their hospitality, saying, "This convention treats their guests like royalty. It's good to be the King."

Statistics: Total membership count was 2,567. There were 314 program items.

Kitty introduced her daughter – and next year's Chair – Sabre, and we segued into the Feedback Session. The following are the points I recorded, more or less in the order they were aired.

People who had not attended BayCon before did not know and never learned that there are stairs to the second floor off the pool deck, and that therefore it's silly to wait around the elevators if you're capable of taking stairs. Maybe we need signs in the elevator lobby and near the pool deck door? [My thought: considering that the person who made the complaint later said there were no maps of the hotel anywhere, despite the hotel having several of them prominently displayed throughout the building, I'm not sure this would have done any good. Maybe it would, and it wouldn't necessarily have done much harm, but I'm unsure of how much hand-holding we can do for people who won't read.]

There was difficulty at times with e-mail sent to programming@baycon.org. Sabre suggested that you should start following up if you don't hear a response within 48 hours to anything you send to a BayCon e-mail address.

Party lists in the newsletter bore only a passing resemblance to reality.

There was no handicapped access to the "party balcony" because of the bump to get through the sliding glass doors. People in wheeled devices need a small ramp to get over the bump.

Masquerade was very well done and well attended, and the costumes were great.

Writers' Workshop information was difficult to find and not well organized. It is possible that a fair bit of e-mail to the workshop e-mail address vanished.

Hotel told a person who needed a refrigerator to keep medication cool that "refrigerators are not assigned based on need, but in order you arrive at the hotel." Nevertheless, a refrigerator eventually appeared in that person's room; nobody seems to know how it happened.

Match Game set, both physical and technical, was well done, even though it was a custom set not used by any other event.

Lines for picking up artwork were too long. Need more cashiers.

An attendee had to be taken to the hospital due to an allergic reaction to a cat someone brought into a function room. That cat was also taken into the hotel restaurant, as was a rabbit, in violation of health codes. In neither case were these service animals. People with pet allergies were vociferous that animals should be left at home. There were several reprises of this complaint throughout the session.

Kaffeklatch location should be listed in publications.

Hotel maps need to be bigger and more legible. [See my observations above on this; even if you made huge poster-sized maps and put them up on the walls, you'd have people complain that there were no maps. On the other hand, those of us who have been attending the convention for upwards of twenty years are so intimately familiar with it that we may not be sufficiently sensitive to the newcomers' concerns.]

Tech staff were great; everything was where it needed to be and with plenty of time before it was needed.

Program rooms were locked until 10 AM, instead of being unlocked earlier so people could arrive and set up before the first scheduled event each morning.

Game Program was "outstanding;" Party Mavens "great."

Parties showing videos had difficulty getting the cooperation of the hotel so they could attach their equipment to the hotel's TVs. [I note that the Holiday Inn Express in which I stayed recently had RCA A/V ports on the front of the TV, which worked. Maybe the next time the hotel re-equips its televisions, it will buy video-ready sets.]

Chardonnay Room was too small for a 30-kid Harry Potter wand-making workshop. This led to a discussion of the general problem of matching program items to room sizes.

BayCon did have someone doing an approximately halfway-through-the-panel attendance count on most program items. [Maybe we'll get to see those figures someday; I know I'd find them interesting.]

Remember, "The Sex Panels always run long." (One quip in reply was, "There's a ribbon idea there.")

Themed reading worked well.

Everyone working on Art Show and Masquerade were great.

Friday registration lines seemed abnormally long. Head of Registration said that (a) they were implementing a new registration computer system this year and (b) "There were more of you here this year."

Problem finding Skyview Lounge (9th floor lounge); need signs. (When told "There were signs above the elevator buttons on all the floors," the observer said, "I didn't see them.) Others suggested maybe just listing it as "9th Floor Lounge." BayCon is seriously short of function space.

Silicon Valley Room is much improved since they installed an air conditioning system in it. There was some discussion of the improved Doubletree A/C systems. Apparently the hotel now has 4x the code-required A/C capacity.

Service in the Coffee Garden was "abysmal" but this was not a universal observation; others said things were fine. Michael Siladi said, "There was a wait staff person who was so bad, I had her fired." [!]

Need more "moderator training" to make it less easy for audience members to "hijack" panels.

Web site should include basic information like "When does the first program item start" and "when does the final program item end." That is, not what the program items are, but when do things start. Start times of fixed functions like Dealers' Room and Art Show should also be announced in advance. People want to know if the end days (Friday and Monday) are "full days" or not.

More newbie-friendly things like "What is a Masquerade?" would be helpful. People who haven't attended an SF convention before need more orientation material. (For example, Google "SMOF" and you get a list of definitions that are not useful if you don't already know the community. Even the SMOFcon web site doesn't explain that "SMOF" stands for "secret master of fandom," based on an old inside joke of fandom, but really means "person who is involved in planning and running science fiction and fantasy conventions."

There was a joke program item on the schedule, listed as being in the Santa Cruz Room. (There is no such room in the hotel, but it sounds like a plausible place, given the naming convention the hotel uses for its function rooms.) Although this is a standing BayCon joke, it's not appreciated by people for whom this is their first convention.

If you use 90-minute program blocks, you need to make the actual length of the panels (it was supposed to be 60 minutes, with room for spillover) more obvious not just to the panelists, but to the attendees. Many people thought they were supposed to stretch to 75 minutes, and some thought they were supposed to use the entire 90. Maybe the material given to the members, like the program book, should explicitly give the scheduled running time as (say) "10:00 – 11:00" even though the scheduled block runs 10:00-11:30.

Could we have more programming? [This sounded to me like a request for panel-type programming to run later into the evening, like as late as Midnight.] Michael Siladi discussed just how much programming they are fitting into the hotel, and how long it runs. On Saturday alone, for example, there were 127 different program items.

People grumbled repeatedly about the use of "military time" (24-hour time) in the schedules. [As I've said earlier, this, like the allergy that Americans have to the metric system, is another sign of our insularity. Everyone else in the world manages to handle 24-hour time without much trouble. In fact, most UK train schedules are on 24-hour time, so that when one local train operator published its schedule using AM/PM indications, they were brought to task in the pages of RAIL magazine for being old fashioned and out of synch with everyone else.]

Dances were fabulous. Four hours of 70s/80s/90s dance music.

Audience participation events (like the Feedback Session) should have a wireless floor microphone and someone bringing the microphone to people. People sitting on the head table who say, "I don't need a microphone" are usually wrong. Just because you can hear yourself speak doesn't mean that the people twenty rows back can.

Water service outside the function rooms was much appreciated.

After this very long feedback session, Michael Siladi auctioned off one more Charity Auction item: Stephen Furst's autographed name badge, which went for $35.

And then we were done, except for the move-out and the Dead Dog Party.

My own observations were that BayCon seemed very well run to me. There were lots of people there, but everything seemed to run fairly smoothly except for large events, which still haven't seemed to figure out how to start on time. (In their defense, a big reason for this is that they can't get the space early enough because they have to use it for programming the rest of the day. It takes time to reset a room, and they rarely schedule enough time for it due to program pressure that would result from taking the three largest function rooms out of circulation for the afternoon.) Parties were crowded and people were having a good time. Program content looked reasonably interesting to me, although I only got to a couple of items other than those on which I was scheduled.

I've already said how impressed I was that they pulled off the special requests I made for Match Game. The people involved didn't even get touchy with me when I asked for some last-moment adjustments, but instead brought a "can-do" attitude that I really appreciated. This is a good crew, and they should be proud of themselves.

I read elsewhere that the Dealers' Room was not as crowded as the attendance figures would suggest, and I did see that you rarely had to wait long for a seat in the Coffee Garden. The question is where were all of those people? Surely they can't all been spending their days at FanimeCon and their nights at BayCon, could they? Or do we really have a large number of people who only come out at night?

There were plenty of people in costumes of various sorts at the convention, which I appreciated and which I think give the convention color.

I had a good time, and I think a lot of other attendees did as well. I'd say BayCon's only problem now is that it has no place to grow but has done such a good job that growth, if only through word of mouth, is almost inevitable.
Tags: baycon
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