Con Review: MystiCon 2014

mysticonby KT Pinto


MystiCon 2014
February 21–23, 2014
Roanoke, Virginia

When I heard who the GoH was this year (first Marina Sirtis, then John DeLancie, both from Star Trek: The Next Generation), I was a little worried about MystiCon. Could a medium-sized convention take on the responsibilities that go along with a crowd-drawing star?

I had no reason for concern. MystiCon had amazing security, crowd control (even with the con being at capacity), and time management. They also made sure not to forget all their other guests, which is something that happens when a con is not used to a mainstream media guest. Their Author GoH, Todd McCaffrey, was a good draw as well, and was extremely outgoing and personable.

Pre-programming was a simple process and there was a huge variety of choices. The layout of the hotel is simple and the rooms are easy to find. One concern of mine was that the readings seemed like they were being held on a separate floor from the rest of the programming, but MystiCon had it on the floor with the con suite, and had planned other programming around it, so it wasn’t in no-man’s land, and it was possible to pull in passers-by.

The one problem I did notice with the convention was something I’m starting to see at other conventions as well: poor moderation on panels. Some moderators I experienced were amazing—like on the Delphic Oracle and the ghost panels—but some moderators were so ineffective, other panelists took over the reins. I’m not sure if it was because of inexperience or just personality issues (like for example, I know I am not moderator material), but no matter what the reason, a bad moderator makes the experience not as much fun for the panel or the audience.

All in all, MystiCon was great! Some concern was mentioned about how they will survive without a mega-media guest, but I have gone to this convention in the past, and I don’t think they will have any problems in 2015.


Con Review: MystiCon 2013

Mysticon2013by James Fulbright


MystiCon 2013
February 22–24, 2013
Roanoke, Virginia

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 Good
• 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.