I have, for the last week or so, been debating on whether I should write a review of StellarCon this year. As the FGoH, I was uncertain if it would be appropriate for me to make comments on the convention. After considering the situation for a few days, what I’ve decided to do is write the review, but do so from the perspective of a guest, not a convention organizer.
[I think it’s important for the reader to note that StellarCon is in an interesting position, due to the fact that it is owned by a student organization from UNCG. This means they have to deal with a few wrinkles that other cons don’t typically face.]
StellarCon 36 was held March 2-4, 2012 at the Best Western Plus, in High Point, NC.
- As a guest, I was greeted with an email from the Con Manager (Chair), shortly before the con, stating that my hotel room was registered under the convention, and I would need to contact him to get my key once I arrived at the con. Initially, I was very concerned about this. Knowing the convention (intimately) from the ConCom side, I was concerned that it might be difficult to find the Con Manager when I arrived. I had visions of him being pulled in six different directions all day on Friday. This turned out to not be a problem. I checked in with guest reg when I arrived and they contacted the Con Manager to bring me the key to my room in very short order. This allowed me to bypass all of the hassles of dealing with the hotel front desk.
- My family’s badges were ready to go when we arrived, with all names spelled correctly.
- The convention provided me with a tent card that had my name on one side and my schedule on the other. This isn’t a new thing for StellarCon, but it was helpful.
- Most of the panels I sat on had strong attendance. I can’t tell you how concerned I was that some of the panels would end up being my fellow panelists and me talking to empty chairs. It feels really good to have an audience show up for your panel, believe me.
- The con suite seemed to have food during most meal times.
Possible Areas of Improvement (The Bad)
- The convention only provided bios for the GoH’s and Special Guests in the program book. This was inconvenient, as most guests like to know who is sitting on their scheduled panels with them. I asked the Con Manager about the reasoning for this, and was informed that many of the bios provided were really long and the ConCom did not have enough space in the program for all of the bios. My recommendation for the future is that they request 2 bios from each guest, a comprehensive one for the website, and a shorter one (2 paragraphs) for the program book. Any guest that only provides one bio will have to understand that it will be subject to editing. I have edited some of the guest bios in my day (heck, I‘ve had to write a few), and no one seemed really irritated. I’m sure the guests would prefer to have an edited bio, than no bio.
- The schedule provided to me ahead of the con did not have the readings/signings listed on the individual guests’ pages. If you didn’t look at the readings/signings on the schedule grid, you had no idea you were scheduled for those, at least I didn’t.
- I was not contacted about being a moderator before I received my schedule. Some guests (not me, thankfully) are apprehensive about being a moderator. This is something that should be asked ahead of the schedule being released.
- StellarCon hit my pet peeve... The names on the badges were too small to read without violating people’s personal space. This really disappointed me, as I have mentioned this to the convention multiple times in the past. (I’m begging all of the convention organizers out there, if you can’t easily make out the name on the badge at a distance of about six feet, the font is too small and you need to fix it.)
- Finally, the last area is one that the con has to weigh very carefully. The hotel is starting to noticeably fall apart. The biggest concern I heard, and I heard it frequently, was that the air conditioning in people’s sleeping rooms did not work. I went into a few of my friends' rooms and could really tell a difference between their room and mine. The challenge is that the hotel is just about the only site that falls into the con’s budget. I wish I had some good advice for this one, but frankly I don’t.
Okay, that’s it. I’m not going to rank StellarCon 36 as I did with SheVaCon, because as the FGoH, and a previous ConCom member, there is obviously some bias on my part. I do want to say, however, that I did see some improvement in the convention over recent years. I truly hope they continue that trend.