In yesterday’s post, I went over all the great things that happened at Origins. I’m very glad I wrote that post, because I don’t want anyone to get the idea that nothing good happens at Origins. It’s a convention in a wonderful city and the people who attend it are generally friendly, fun, and geeky.
In fact, it hurts me to have to write this post. But it’s a story that needs to be told.
All of my events at Origins 2011 had ZERO attendees.
Compare this to GenCon, where my events were well-attended. At GenCon 2010, I had 15 men and 15 women for speed dating. (We ended up with a love connection, too! They emailed me a couple months after GenCon to thank me.) My Geek’s Guide To Online Dating Success Seminar had a little over 20 participants. And my Dating Doctor one-on-one advice sessions went great, too.
But let’s go back a little further in history, to before Origins 2010…
I was communicating with a girl in the GAMA office about my geek dating events. They were interested in having me run things. I was interested in running things. Perfect match, right?
We agreed to do a Singles Mixer event in which I’d borrow some short board/card games from their lending library and singles could meet each other over a short game or three by the Beer Garden upstairs. Sounds cool, right?
I assumed it was on the schedule. I showed up at Origins and asked about my events (mixer, seminar, dating doctor). It was then, the first day of the con, that I found out that the girl I had been talking to at GAMA had quit two weeks before the con and my events were not on the schedule.
GAMA Executive Director John Ward came up to me and personally apologized for the mixup.
He promised me that it would not happen again.
He promised me that my events would be right in 2011.
Well, I gave away the answer. Things weren’t right.
My communications with the folks at GAMA about my events for 2011 began on April 2, 2011, so about 2.5 months before the convention. This was an email conversation with John Ward in which he said he loved my ideas and was passing my email on to Adrian, who was helping coordinate events.
It took nearly two weeks (4/13) to hear back from Adrian. I had to cut-and-paste my original email conversation with John to him. Many emails were exchanged in the next week, nailing down the details of the events.
On 4/20, I sent a clarification email about how speed dating tickets should be listed:
7 pm – Speed Dating Men Seeking Women (ages 30+) – maximum 20 tickets
7 pm – Speed Dating Women Seeking Men (ages 30+) - maximum 20 tickets
9:30 pm – Speed Dating Men Seeking Women (ages 21-35) - maximum 20 tickets
9:30 pm – Speed Dating Women Seeking Men (ages 21-35) - maximum 20 tickets
Men’s tickets are $20, women’s for $16. (Don’t want a sausage fest!) On 4/25, Adrian wrote to say that Joby (in charge of scheduling, I think?) said that they couldn’t put two different prices for the same event. I wrote back to explain that it was not two prices for the same event, it was two different events happening concurrently.
I attached the screenshot of GenCon’s event registration page (which was instantly posted correctly, FWIW):
Adrian wrote back and said he forwarded it on to Joby.
I figured, okay, things should be good now. If you look at the picture above, it’s pretty obvious how to set up the events.
When You Assume…
Having not heard back in a while, I emailed Adrian on May 25th.
(I should mention that the months of April/May were when I was buying/inspecting/closing on a house and then packing/moving in early June. Did I drop a ball here by waiting a month before double checking? Yep.)
Adrian wrote back to say yep, it’s all in the events grid. I downloaded the events grid, which read:
SPEED DATING MEN (ages 30+)
SPEED DATING WOMEN (ages 30+)
SPEED DATING MEN (ages 30+)
SPEED DATING WOMEN (ages 30+)
I wrote back to point out the obvious errors. Firstly, that one pair of events should be ages 21-35. Secondly, that “Speed Dating Men” is NOT the same as “Speed Dating Men Seeking Women.” Columbus is a pretty open town, ComFest is going on a few blocks down the road, “Speed Dating Men” could be gay speed dating, for all people know. Since there’s no place in the events grid to put a long explanation of things, the title NEEDED to be crystal clear.
I received the following replies (three separate emails) from Adrian:
I CC’d the event guy. When he has the time. He will correct the mistake.
Please check the events in a few days. If it isn’t corrected I will remind the event guy to correct the mistake.
I talked to him that way. I don’t know what happened. Check in a couple of days and let me know if he changed it. He is a busy man these days
A few days. We’re already less than a month from the convention. The people who saw the incorrect event (AKA, anyone under 30 or anyone who thought MEN SPEED DATING = gay speed dating) have already gone ahead and planned other things for those slots.
To note: The men’s tickets for GenCon speed dating are already sold out and GenCon is still over a month away. All 40 of the men’s tickets – sold. Women take a little longer to get signed up, but last year we had a huge rush of sign-ups the day of the event, so I’m confident it’ll happen again.
…and it’s June, the month of the con…
On June 1st, I emailed Adrian to let him know that I checked the events grid and that the descriptions for speed dating were now correct, but the titles were still wrong.
On June 16th (week before the con), I emailed again because I noticed there were 50 tickets available in each section. I could have SWORN it was 20 (as I had requested) before! The last thing I wanted was to have 50 guys show up and only 10 women. That would suck for everyone and if there’s something I hate more than anything else, it’s wasting people’s time when they’re looking for love. I want the folks who experience my events to walk away feeling positive about them.
(Not to mention I didn’t want the Customer Service volunteers to have to process 40 refunds in that worst case scenario.)
Adrian wrote back immediately to say he’d tell registration to cut the numbers to 20 in each section.
On June 23, I go up to the GM/EO window to inquire about my events. Even though there are minimal lines (and no line at all at the GM/EO counter), the guy there tells me there’s no way he can look things up now. In a half-nice way, he tells me to go away. Come back tomorrow, when things aren’t as busy, he says. Then he goes back to standing around chatting with other volunteers.
Fine, I figure. Maybe last minute sign-ups will happen like at GenCon. Friday’s numbers will be more accurate.
On Friday afternoon, 3 hours before my seminar, I go to the GM/EO counter and speak to a lady there, who tries to look up my events on her laptop but is unable to find the registration information. The guy in charge left for lunch, she explains. I should go stand in the line for Event Registration and ask them to look up my events.
I stand in line.
The young folks at the Event Registration counter are a little confused by my request, but between two of them, they manage to look up the speed dating event numbers. Out of 80 tickets total, 3 have been sold.
Out of 80.
(And yes, one was a girl!)
I was upset, of course, but figured I’d meet those 3 people and explain what happened and why the event didn’t get the numbers it should have.
Then This Happened…
I get a call from another event organizer I know, who told me that their event had been moved to the same space where speed dating was scheduled and that speed dating had been moved to the private dining room off the Big Bar on 2 in the Hyatt.
News to me!
I go back to Events Registration, since the GM/EO counter has proved to be less than useful. I ask about the moved event. The folks at the counter know nothing. The tickets, they say, don’t list a location at all. So if people have tickets, they’ll probably just go to where the book says. The wrong room. The room that’s going to have a loud, huge game in it.
They reel in an adult, who explains that yes, things got moved, but there SHOULD BE a sign posted at the old location to tell people where to go. Super, I figure. “Should be” a sign, she said. “Should be.” “We try,” was another phrase she used when describing how they communicate moved events.
I sighed, but needed to get to my Seminar in the C hallway. Hopefully some people came to that!
I book it to the C hallway only to see a sign at the bottom saying that the event had been moved. Private Dining Room, Big Bar on 2, Hyatt.
I should mention that the Beer Garden area is on one end of the convention center and the Private Dining Room off the Big Bar on 2 is the exact opposite end of the convention center. It’s a good 10 minute walk. Imagine if you will, rushing all the way to the event only to find out you have to turn around and run all the way back because you’re already late to be at the other location. Do you run when it’s a free event? Yeah, I didn’t think you would. I wouldn’t either, mostly because I hate being late AND out of breath.
The Private Dining off the Big Bar on 2 in the Hyatt is a beautiful room. It’s pictured at the top of this post.
But it’s not a seminar room. So I guess it’s a good thing that nobody ran across the convention center to attend my seminar. I used the time to write up a long and apologetic note to the three folks who were going to show up at 7 or 10 pm looking for speed dating. It was either that or sit out there alone for 3+ hours waiting to meet them. Since I think I would have broke down in tears doing that, I decided to leave the note and go try to find something fun to do.
Oh, to add insult to injury: the beautiful Private Dining Room would have been PERFECT for speed dating… except that it only had 15 tables and 30 chairs. For 40 people. And of course, there were no Origins volunteers or staff anywhere near that location. So if I had gotten full capacity, I would have had to find more tables and chairs myself. Super.
So I’m upset.
Compared to GenCon, where my events are smoothly scheduled and go off without a hitch, Origins was a disaster.
Compared to PAX East, where I see friendly, helpful, and competent volunteers everywhere I look, Origins was a disaster.
I was not the only person upset with the events schedule this year. Game designer Jared Sorensen arrived to no badge, no record of his registration, and both of his events canceled. He had to resort to recruiting for his events via Twitter. I was watching the #origins2011 and #origins hashtags on Tweetdeck and saw plenty of other people frustrated with canceled events, moved events, no-show GMs, and all sorts of other problems. And not once did I see @originsgames reply. Compare this to PAX East, where there are multiple Twitter accounts informing con participants about lines, event changes, and other important announcements.
With Origins moving to an earlier weekend, and my friends at Looney Labs no longer able to run The Big Experiment due to the date change, I was already iffy on coming back in 2012. Then John Ward & GAMA broke their promise to me. My events were wrong, and no matter how many times I emailed to get them changed, they remained wrong all the way up until the minute the event started.
No matter what reply I receive from GAMA (if any), I don’t plan on running Geek’s Dream Girl events at Origins in the future. I know this will upset the folks who asked me to run speed dating in Columbus, but I can’t do two months of work only to have my events be messed up for a third year in a row.
I gave John Ward his second chance. There will not be a third.
The Good News
I am running the full gamut of geek love events at GenCon as well as a meetup/recruiting session for the +5 CHA geek fitness forum. Just this week, I received an invitation to run a geek dating event at InterventionCon in Rockville, MD.
Since I just bought a house, I probably can’t do any far-away cons after GenCon. Travel is pretty pricey. But I’m looking for opportunities in 2012. What conventions do you love? Do they need some geek love events?