Aaaaand we're done. Thank. God. Which probably shouldn't be my first reaction, but it is. I think TwiCon is a brilliant idea. There were some amazing opportunities, great activities like ballroom dancing lessons, I loved the banners around the place, the Meet and Greet was a highlight, I had a brilliant time at the ball, the blood drive was genius, face painting fun,Twilight board games exciting, and of course my discussions and panels... and once I was there, I made the best of all of it, and overall had a good time, and met some stellar people, but the infrastructure was lacking in a few places that made it hard to fully enjoy the opportunities and experiences, and I think the organizers often forgot that this was a FUN event, and therefore it was hard for the staff and volunteers to remember that too.
Key Points for a successful event (I'm talkin' about any event):
*Hire professionals with experience in an event like this (not that the organizers were ill-experienced, but they hadn't done something of this scale, to my knowledge, and some of the interactions were a bit rough; I'm not going to expand. I'm not a gossip column, just an observer who has run many academic events of 100 people or less... but there are core elements that need to be in place for any event to run smoothly, and even small events like my small ones contain them, and large events must contain them in order to be successful!) :
*Thank your volunteers. They paid to attend, often got yelled at, and some of them worked 17 hour days in jobs that only upper staff should have run, in my opinion, and these volunteers deserve a medal.
*Utilize your volunteers and staff. There are some skilled people on staff. Use them. They are free and friendly.
*Offer volunteers and staff members food (bagels, cream cheese and coffee every morning does a lot to save sanity, stomachs, and goodwill); if the event is at a location with little to no food nearby (as it was in Dallas), offer this option at a massive discount or free to attendees. Or hold it in a hotel that offers free breakfast to guests.
*Include details in the program. I collected the bios of everyone for the academic panels weeks ahead of time so that they could go into the program and people would know it was being run by professionals, but they were never included in the program; i.e. people should have known that the 'music panel' was Sam Bradley, and 4 rockin' industry pros (MTV, Wired, The Onion/AV Club, and Bloodshot Records) and we'd have more than 37 (thanks Marah) people in the audience.
*Communicate with your staff. Staff debriefing ahead of time is crucial so everyone is on the same page, and feels involved. I could have had 11 panels on Dr. Suess and I don't know if anyone would have known, since it didn't seem they could even agree about elements I'd confirmed multiple times ahead of time (apparently they 'never knew' that another musician was supposed to be on my panel as well... right.' I've never even been to a summer camp or a chorus that didn't have an 'orientation' meeting with a schedule, itinerary, and things like t-shirts, folders, pens, etc.
*Remember this is FUN (this goes for every conference and convention. People come because they are interested). We like Twilight, remember? We got into this for a fun, loveable, sparkly vampire. So did all of the fans. I don't think it takes much to make Twilight fans excited and happy (of course the big events; but a smile, music, and decorations go a long way too), so that should be projected from the roof tops. The academic panels are a new depth to Twilight appreciation and I'm stoked they were included, but in general, a little fervor and excitement is all you need, and it goes a long way.
I had one woman come up to me yesterday morning and say one of her favorite parts was when I did the sound check before the actor Q&A... how sad is that? I mean I had fun, and I'm glad I could get people to laugh, but that shouldn't have been the best part. The best part should have been one of the programmed things! The sound guys asked me to run down the mics and sound-check them, so instead of 'test 1, 2' I said things like 'paging Dr. Cullen, Dr. Cullen in the house?' and 'I need a little Jacob Black'... those kind of silly things. It was just fun, and entertaining... but it should be a given, not a highlight, if you know what I mean.
So parts of it were rockin'. I'm sure they learned a lot, but yeah... you need to utilize your staff when you have capable people like this, appreciate what they are doing for you, and be willing to smile, and please people. It's not hard with Twilight fans! You blast the soundtrack, say 'Edward Cullen' from time to time, and cheese up the situation!
Day Three report coming... as well as a report on my time as a PA in Oregon on commercial shoots, pictures from Vampire Baseball, and thoughts on adaptation theory perhaps, if that's how I continue to progress, but I just thought I should get this down while I was thinking about it.
I'm also realizing that the fandom is a lot of fun, smart, influential and interesting, but I think I really get my kicks from the film making, and the development process. This is an interesting tangent and I do hope I might be able to run my own event in the future or something... but that may be a back-up. I think I'm more inclined towards the film creation, adaptation, development and marketing than I am to the offshoots of the piece. I think I'm more interested in the adaptation... not the retranslations and interpretations of the adaptation, if that makes sense... Hmm... I'm still figuring all of this out, can you tell?
It's certainly been interesting, educational and eye-opening for me. I hope it has for the partners as well, and the fans had a good time overall, despite the hiccups. Hmm... still pondering, waxing and wondering... we'll see!