What is new for the convention this year, where and when is it and how do the people get memberships?
Phoenix Comicon is May 24-27, 2012 and held at the Phoenix Convention Center and Hyatt Regency in Downtown Phoenix. Full event memberships are $40 from now until May 23rd and are $45 at the door. Children 12 and under get in for free with a paid accompanying adult (18+) and must be accompanied by an adult at all times. Limit two children per paid adult. You can purchase memberships at our website Phoenix Comicon or at the the door. There are many new and exciting things this year so it is hard to get them all here one example is the Bleeding Cool Fan Awards hosted by blogger Rich Johnston.
What are the biggest challenges with putting on your show and your greatest triumphs and what have you learned from past shows that has enabled you to grow each year?
There are many challenges putting on an event this large as a volunteer organization. One of the biggest is organizing, it is difficult to get so many volunteers together to get things done. Plus organizing how to move people throughout the convention center so they can participate in everything while minimizing lines and wait times. Each year we learn something new, such as needing more cashiers at the registration area to deal with our Saturday rush and we try to make changes to reflect what we learn. This year we have completely redone how our organization is organized to help create better communication, it has taken a long time but has enable us to do better internally which allows us to present a better convention to our attendees. I think our greatest triumph is the fact that in the past two years we have tripled our attendance, allowing us to get even more amazing guests like William Shatner, Patrick Stewart and George Perez out for our 2012 event.
What guests do you have planned?
2012 marks the 25th anniversary of Star Trek the Next Generation and in honor of that we are bringing out Patrick Stewart, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis and Brent Spiner. We also have William Shatner from the original Star Trek. Joining them are Jon Bernthal who plays Shane in “Walking Dead”, Gigi Edgley who played Chiana in “Farscape”, Casper Van Dien who played Johnny Rico in “Starship Troopers” and Jaime Paglia the Co-Creator of “Eureka”. From Anime we have Phil LaMarr, Chris Patton, Quinton Flynn, Vic Mignogna and Maile Flanagan. Authors include Aprilynne Pike, Frank Beddor and Michael Stackpole among many others. Our Comic list is extensive this year but includes people like George Perez, Brian Pulido, Greg Horn, Billy Tucci, and Whilce Portacio. To see a full list of all our guests go to Phoenix Comic Con
How big is your expected attendance?
Last year we had 23,001 attendees we are hoping to hit at least 30,000 attendees this year.
How does your show compare and contrast to other comic conventions as well as your previous shows? The great thing about Phoenix Comicon is that we are always striving to grow and develop. We ask our attendees for feedback on their experiences with us so that we can develop a convention with great customer service. While we can by no means please everyone we are constantly working to develop our event. With the growth of attendees we are experiencing each year we have been able to expand our exhibitor hall, guests, programing and signature events. This allows us to offer more every year and never become stagnate.
What do you think allows your convention to grow as it has in a down economy and in the wake of so many conventions in the Tri-state area?
I think it has to do with the value of our memberships. You can purchase a four day pass for only $40 and children under 12 get in free, this means its affordable for more people. We don’t charge extra for most events and we are family friendly, with so much going on there are things for everyone to enjoy. We are offering a weekend of entertainment for an affordable price and in this economy people are going to spend on the greatest value.
How have you balanced Hollywood and movies with comics as it must be tricky and how do you keep the so called Hollywood factor from being to dominant as despite the growth many have complained that the San Diego Comic Con has become to Hollywood?
It’s difficult but we want to present a well rounded convention, highlighting many genres. This means sometimes we have to make hard decisions, we start planning the next years guests when the current event ends. We discuss what we want to highlight and how we are going to balance. It takes months of discussions between ourselves and potential guests to settle on our mixture for the upcoming year. The main factor though is listening to our attendees and what they want to see from us.
How many staff does it take to put on and run the convention?
For the 2012 Phoenix Comicon to be fully staffed we will need 846 volunteers. This includes people working months in advance to get everything organized as well as people coming in the day off to assist with tasks.
Can you tell the readers how the guest selection process is done?
First we create a plan, its kind of our ideal for the year and we send out invitations to that preliminary list of guests. Some will say yes, some will say no and some will say talk to me in January. We then take what we get from that round and develop some other options and send out our second round of invites and get responses. This can go on for quiet some time and we will not announce a guest to the public until we have a signed contract. We also get guests who come to us and are interested in attending, so that can change what we do for the year. Lastly there are some people who have open invitations with Phoenix Comicon to come as guests to our event. It can be a long and complicated procedure and we always have to be flexible with our plans .
What charities will benefit from the 2012 show?
We have an ongoing relationship with Kids Need to Read and the American Red Cross. We will have the Geek Prom again this year along with other fundraisers for Kids Need to Read. The American Red Cross will be holding their annual blood drive at the convention as well.
What are some things you would like to include in future shows?
We want to continue offering great guests and more programing. We hope as we grow to bring in more attendees but also more people interested in working together and presenting events with us. We are constantly looking for new ideas like this years Bleeding Cool Awards, Side Kick Training, Steampunk ball and all the other great Signature Events. Ideas from attendees and volunteers helped create what we are today and we just hope to see more of them each year to help us continue being the signature pop culture event of the southwest
You can catch Gareth Von Kallenbach at the convention at the following times…
Upcoming Video Games and Tech: Saturday 12:00pm – 1:00pm
Movies of 2013-2015: Saturday 1:30pm – 2:30pm
Whats New in Theme Park, Travel, and Tourism: Sunday 10:30am – 11:30am
Make sure to check out his swag and charity items during and after each panel.