February 22–24, 2013
Today I’m going to start my 2013 convention review series. First up this year is MystiCon… MystiCon was held February 22–24 in Roanoke, VA at the Holiday Inn–Tanglewood. Guests included Orson Scott Card, Larry Elmore and Peter Davison.
Let’s get this out of the way immediately, MystiCon was a fun convention. If you take a quick look below, you might notice that I have more negatives than positives. I highly suggest you not read anything into this fact. The convention is well run, professional and fun. Most of the issues they experienced came from some very astounding growth rates between 2012 and 2013. When you add about 450 people to an 850 person convention, bad things have a tendency to happen. The positive here is that most of those issues are fairly easy to solve prior to 2014.
• The programming was very well run; panel topics were interesting, and the panels were well attended.
• The guests that I dealt with were all personable and engaging. I never got the feeling I could not approach any of the guests.
• The staff were very friendly and professional. It seemed like they truly wanted to see people having a good time.
• The convention used the mobile app LiveCon to display their schedule. I know other cons have used this app, but I hadn’t had a chance to really use it myself. As a guest, I like it a lot. I didn’t have to carry a paper copy of my schedule around with me all weekend, which is a big plus.
• The Dealer’s Room was a decent size, with a nice selection of dealers and plenty of walking space (but see below).
• The hotel appeared to be extremely flexible in working with the convention. Check-in was very quick. And, while I had a few maintenance issues with my room, once I arrived the hotel resolved those immediately. Additionally, the hotel sold reasonably priced (not hotel-priced) concessions during all meal times.
Possible Areas of Improvement (The Bad)
• Pet peeve time: Name badges. Please, if you are a con organizer, make the names large enough on the badges so that they can easily be read from a distance of about six feet. I had at least ten people ask me my name, and then apologize for asking, stating they couldn’t read my badge. Additionally, I highly suggest MystiCon drop the watermark from behind the names. That just makes it even harder to read the badges.
• It is really not a good idea to have panel discussions going on in rooms that are next to concerts. The panelists should not have to shout at the audience, and vice versa. I experienced this at a couple of panels during the convention.
• The next one is really just a minor irritant, but someone took most of the paragraph breaks out of my bio when it was placed in the program book. I felt it made me seem like I didn’t understand basic grammar, which is bad because I was listed as a blogger on the guest list.
• There was a major bottleneck in the main hallway. The convention either needs to limit its attendance to about 900–1000 people, or find a way to get rid of the tables in that hallway (or possibly some of both). It also might be a good idea for Security to take a proactive role in organizing any long lines before they happen.
• I had a situation where one of my scheduled events was cancelled, but I was not informed. If the schedule changes during the con, it is mandatory that all guests involved be contacted. Also, the con might find it useful to request contact information from each guest, so they can be reached during the con.
• The Dealers’ Room was nice, but I do have one question: Where were the costume dealers? There was a good-sized Masquerade at this convention. It would have been nice to have a costume dealer or two.
• The stage in the main programing room was outright dangerous. The convention needs to either push the hotel to buy a new stage or rent one that meets basic safety standards.
Okay, that’s it. Like I said earlier, the con is very good, even with all my areas of improvement. MystiCon is definitely going on my list of cons to go back to next year. MystiCon 2014 will be held February 21–23, 2014.