Oh boy. Where do I begin when talking about OmniExpo as a convention. Well, first of all it is important to note that OmniExpo is a relatively new convention, having just began 3 years ago. That being said, my last convention, Holiday Matsuri is in it’s 5th year and was much larger and much more well organized.
OmniExpo is “your spring destination in Orlando, Florida for Scifi, Comics, Anime, Fantasy, Gaming and Pop Culture!” that took place in the convention hall portion of the DoubleTree by Hilton near Universal Studios. It featured many different panels such as the Super Hero Cafe where How It Should Have Ended. Other panels included May May’s Maid Cafe, Total Drama Expo LARP, a Formal Ball and Dinner and others.
What sold me going to this convention was HISHE. If you’ve followed my blog, you would know that they are one of my favorite Youtube Movie Critic channels. My friend and I cosplayed as Marinette and Alya from the cartoon, Miraculous LadyBug. The Super Hero Cafe panel was absolutely amazing. Tina Alexander, writer and Daniel Baxter, Director, spoke about the origins of HISHE, showed clips from their channel, answered questions and interacted closely with the audience. Guests included Marty McFly and BATMAN. Because… He’s BATMAN! HISHE also showed an exclusive premiere of their Deadpool video before it hits Youtube on Tuesday 3/8/16. It’s phenomenal and had the audience in stitches.
I also attended AbraCadabraCosplay’s panel on Wig Styling. It was a very informative panel all about the very extensive art of wig styling, but comprehensive so that anyone from any level could follow along and learn quite a bit of information. They also do assist people via their FaceBook page, so feel free to check them out! Her panel was very educational and nicely put together despite the fact that OmniExpo… Provided NO overhead projectors. Or anything really to the smaller panels. And this is where I get into the problems that OmniExpo has.
While I only attended on Saturday 3/5/16 for most of the morning and early afternoon, it was still noticeable that there wasn’t a lot going on. The attendance itself was low which isn’t always a bad thing, but there was little to nothing exciting going on in the halls. The ticket for the day I attended was $35 which is already a tad high for a newer convention. To compare it, MetroCon’s Saturday is the same price with a much larger crowd, more panels and more activities taking place as well as more staff. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, as I was willing to pay the price… If there weren’t panels that charged admission. The Maid Cafe was $10 just to get into the door, with food costing an extra $5. The Makeup XFS which was poorly advertised on their calendar (it failed to mention it was an extra charge), also cost $20. HISHE was a bit more understandable, as the ticket was $5 plus $11 if you wanted coffee and dessert.
Signs for registration were handwritten and confusing. The way to the registration desk was supposed to be accessible from the main convention area through the vending room… Which did not open until 11am. This forced attendees to go around the pool area in a long, winding walk past the rest of the hotel to purchase their tickets. Not to mention, signage in general was pretty much not provided. Nor were there staff members readily available to ask. The ticket staff were phenomenal and quick (we had a fantastic person at our window that was a total joy), but the staff checking wristbands at the door were sitting down, barely interacting with convention goers and we walked right past a booth handing out important FLYERS for the convention TWICE and were not offered one.
Sure, some of the conventions I have been to have practically held my hand. But Metro literally has tables set up straight after the tickets are purchased with information and friendly staff the entire way to get you started, not just at the ticket booths. Not to mention, the security do talk to people and do interact and communicate information to large groups. There weren’t even a lot of people there and they couldn’t manage that!
Then there were the overly in your face staff… The ones running some of the panels like Total Drama and the Maid Cafe. The Maid Cafe was worse, as we were browbeat to come check it out only to be told once we were brought there that it was an extra charge and made to feel uncomfortable when we paid and were told we didn’t pay enough (as apparently, we only purchased enough for one ticket despite them knowing we were a duo). Total Drama wasn’t as bad… But still, they got in our face and told us to sign up… But in a way that will instantly remind you of a Jehovah’s Witness (ie Not good). There is a reason that major conventions like MetroCon (Tampa) and MegaCon (Orlando) don’t allow panels to charge extra often… And this is the reason why.
Okay, so that’s staffing and organization and well… Giving your panels actual tools, supplies and staff to get them running and to help them along. Alright, yeah, so organization isn’t their strong suit. At least the other portions were enjoyable, right?
Nottt really. The vendor room itself was rather well set up but honestly, felt fairly empty. The artist alley did have a lot of talented folks, but… Very few.
I might be nitpicking here or being too harsh, but I got literally LOST a few times in the vendors room and artist alley at Holiday Matsuri. Not to mention, if they had put the two together it would have looked more full and inviting and probably helped booster their sales. Maybe lower the fee for the vendors if you are already charging attendees so much to invite more inside for the first few years?
But of course, what really makes any convention great, are the cosplayers and the people. Despite the slow feel of the convention, I met some phenomenal individuals and have made new friends on Instagram because of this convention. My friend and I also managed to have FigmentsMedia take a photoshoot of us. They are fantastic photographers and provide a great service, so go check them out as well!
I don’t regret going for this very reason. However, I feel this needs to be brought to people’s attention and perhaps OmniExpo can learn from this and do differently in the future. Who knows, maybe there will be a time where I will want to attend again. As is, I will not be planning for next year.