Why Conventions Matter to Me

Sorry for the short blog post but I’m writing this the night before Anime Expo starts and everything is insane and wonderful at the same time. This leads me to the topic of today. Conventions and my history with them.
I first started going to conventions in 1996, AnimeFest in Dallas Texas. I was instantly hooked on them from day one. The idea of all the people that understood and loved all the things I did in the same place for a weekend was absolutely intoxicating. It seemed like a thing that shouldn’t exist. It felt like make believe when jumping from conversations of Tenchi Muyo, to screenings of Nadesico, to playing Power Stone all night with random strangers. I slept on a row of seats of a screening room, talked my way into using people I just met’s showers, and ran out of money for food way early into the weekend. And. It. was… amazing! I some how knew this was something I needed to be a part of for as long as possible. I had no idea this would still be a thing almost 20 years later though.
While in college a friend of mine and myself who while running an engagement event to recruit new members for our college anime club were asked my a former MBA business grad if we would be interested in starting a marketing firm to help promote local conventions. We of course jumped at this opportunity.  Our first client was Project A-Kon in Dallas TX. The biggest anime con in the state by a long shot. We handled the marketing for pre-reg tickets and their PR department. We did this all pro-bono (a fancy word for free) since we loved cons and wanted the experience.  We pushed the envelop here in in many ways. I slept on a cot in the PR room during the con since I didn’t want to leave until our job was 100% done.  We did great in our first year and stayed together to do it for a few years past this as well.
After graduating college I got a job as the the tour manager for the DBZ CCG at Score Entertainment. Which put me at a decent amount of cons nationwide. Including Anime Expo, San Diego Comic-Con, and the Wizard World circuit. For someone who had previously only done Texas anime cons this was quite an eye opener. I was off the reservation for the first time and couldn’t get enough. 12 -16 hours days mixed with booth work, industry mixers, and other random gatherings of industry people and fans was not uncommon. and I loved every damn minute of it. I mean, why not? I was in my mid-20’s and everything was on Score’s dime. The party never stopped. The work load for this was intense but the benefits well outweighed and of the long hours.
After this I moved over to FUNimation and got full reign to build and shape conventions for the company. This lead me to a whole new set of opportunities.  Booth designs, events, promotions, and all sorts of other madness. All for the sake of connecting with the fans on a very personal one-on-one basis. Which is one of the deepest joys I have with conventions and one of the bigger things that keeps me going. It’s the energy of the fans. When my feet hurt, I’ve said the same thing 100 times, and been hit by a backpack full of plushies on more than one occasion that is what keeps me going.
A good example of this happened one random Sunday morning at Wizard World Chicago back around 2002-2003. I was in line at the hotel mini-mart buying some water and a bagel. It was a long night the night before and I wasn’t in the mood for pretty much anything at this point. There was a kid in his late teens in front of me in line that was all but jumping with excitement. He turned to me and said, “I met Adam Hughes yesterday!” My cynical mind thought, “ I had dinner with Adam Hughes not to long ago.” A couple of seconds later it hit me. This kid was so excited that he got a few minutes with a comic icon of his he HAD to share it with a random stranger in line at 9 am. I say HAD since it was clear this was something he would be saying to anyone and everyone he came across for the next few weeks. Friend, family, 7-11 clerk. They would all know of this meeting with Adam Hughes.
This quickly reminded me why I went to cons and what I loved about them. Every time you talk to someone at a con you have a change to influence and change their life for the better.  This always reminds me about the time Michael Jordan was asked why he goes 110% at every game and he responded by saying that there could be a kid in the crowd seeing him play for the first and only time and he had one chance to to be a positive influence on them.
Every moment connecting with a person is a change to be a positive influence in there life, and I never want to miss a chance to make this happen. This is why conventions are important to me and always will.