When hordes of Deadpools, Harley Quinns, and Jon Snows descend on New York Comic Con (NYCC), event organizers need some serious logistics to keep NYCC running smoothly.
“Geek culture” is becoming increasingly mainstream, and as a result, the number of fans attending comic and pop culture conventions continues to rise. New York Comic Con (NYCC) — an annual event held during the first weekend of October — has seen particularly rapid growth. In fact, NYCC has surpassed its predecessor, San Diego Comic Con, as the largest event of its type in North America.
For its inaugural edition in 2006, NYCC rented one hall in the Javits Center to accommodate the 12,000 attendees who had come to enjoy panels, screenings, and photo ops with their favorite artists. By last year’s edition, NYCC was selling some 250,000 tickets for the four-day event.
With over 400 panel discussions, the largest Artists’ Alley in the country, and hundreds of thousands of passionate fans, New York Comic Con is a massive, high-energy event. It takes careful logistics planning to ensure that all vendors, attendees, and entertainers have everything they need, from the right promotional materials to an array of lunch options.
Accommodating Massive Crowds
NYCC’s first edition generated such a positive response from fans that fire marshals had to shut down the main hall in the Javits Center due to overcrowding. Fortunately, ReedPOP, the organization that runs the convention, took this as a sign of encouragement. The organizers learned from the experience and decided to expand their capacity. In 2007, they made plans to accommodate a larger number of guests by doubling their rental space.
While NYCC is still anchored in the Javits Center, convention events are now also hosted in venues throughout Midtown Manhattan. In fact, some of the largest panels take place in iconic locations like Madison Square Garden and the Hammerstein Ballroom. As Comic Con expands, there is increasing pressure to make sure that the right resources reach all site locations at the right time. This means anticipating the flow of attendees and meeting fluctuating demands for food, merchandise, and promotional materials.
For instance, many panels located at the Javits Center and beyond offer exciting giveaways like limited-edition merchandise and fun memorabilia. It’s important for event organizers to manage these giveaways and ensure the right volume reaches each panel. Should all event attendees receive Daredevil t-shirts or just a select few winners? Having the right balance and distribution of promotional materials keeps the excitement high while preventing a Black Friday-style stampede.
Keeping Things Running Smoothly
As a burgeoning New York City institution, NYCC has become a massive source of revenue for the Big Apple. From ticket sales to transportation, the convention is estimated to bring the $100 million for the city each year. There are many opportunities for ReedPOP to further expand the convention’s reach, provided that carefully coordinating event logistics remains a top priority. This includes everything from monitoring inventory to making sure that panels start on time.
“We always say logistics are the framework that fun hangs on,” ReedPOP President Lance Fensterman told International Business Times in 2015. “If you don’t get the framework right then people don’t have as much fun. So, getting people in, getting people out safely, getting them around, making sure people are where they need to be to do what they want to do, all facilitates [the fans’] enjoyment.”
In particular, event organizers need to be able to meet attendees’ expectations by offering quality vendors, brand partnerships, and giveaways. With the complex logistics of NYCC, ReedPOP should anticipate fans’ needs as much as possible, and respond accordingly. This requires an agile, well-organized supply chain that can adapt to fluctuating demand.
Feeding the Fans
ReedPOP knows how important it is to never let the Hulk — or anyone cosplaying as a green, rage-filled monster — go hungry. Food options at NYCC include a cafeteria in the Javits Center, vendors sprinkled throughout the facility, and food trucks located outside the venue. The convention’s website also offers a guide to restaurants in the area.
For the past few years, ReedPOP has partnered with the New York Food Truck Association to bring several food trucks to the Javits Center. Parked right outside the venue, these trucks serve thousands of hungry fans every day of the event. The average food truck is able to feed between 100 and 125 people per hour, so ReedPOP must conduct careful capacity planning in order to book the right number of food vendors.
Putting all these details together requires careful coordination of transportation logistics, as well as a mature understanding of the food supply chain. It’s important to for NYCC to meet fans’ expectations of freshness and convenience, and ensure that food options are appropriately distributed throughout the venue. When it comes to food and beverage logistics, event organizers should be able to properly track perishable goods to confirm that they meet quality standards.
Building a Connection
The success of NYCC hinges on organizers’ ability to make such a massive event as personal as possible for each fan. This means representing the many diverse aspects of geek culture, from mainstream Marvel movies to the most obscure, out-of-print comics. It also means collecting comprehensive fan feedback and using this information to improve the next year’s convention.
As Fensterman explains, “There’s two things we do immediately, about three weeks after the show. We survey all of our fans and it’s fairly lengthy...We get a ton of detailed data and we combine that with our staff’s observations in a giant fix-it list. Out of that list comes strategy and new things we want to do and then we just start building it.”
In order for events like New York Comic Con to keep growing and creating memorable experiences for fans, a great deal of in-depth organization and planning needs to happen behind the scenes. It’s also essential to have a well-coordinated supply chain, and technology solutions agile enough to address any challenges that may arise.