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Late on the second day, after I had written most of that first page, I sat down with Justin Brookhart, Mondo’s vice president of operations, to discuss the logistics of running a convention like MondoCon. I’m in bold and he is not.

Is attendance higher or lower than last year?

It’s more. About two hundred more attendees on Saturday and our Sunday attendance was way up. We had way more attendees on Sunday. I imagine that’s because we offered a discounted two-day ticket in the past, which we haven’t in the past. It’s just been the same price. We also offered an early bird discounted ticket, which I think helped get more people out. A lot of people did new releases on Sunday and I think that helped, too.

Assuming you knew you’d have bigger crowds this year compared to last year, how did you approach to organizing the con to handle crowding and lines?

We have a general idea based on fire codes and things like that, what our hard-cap for each venue is, things like that. What we can’t ever estimate is what people will choose to make their priority in line. Are they going to go line up at the Holiday Inn convention center first or are they going to the Mondo booth or the AFS cinema? Which booth are they going in? Which hall are they going in? There’s a lot of contingency plans and options we talked through on how to make adjustments real quick, like if a particular artist has a long line all of a sudden or if this guy does a release at noon. A lot of logistics planning goes into it. Luckily, we’ve been at this venue, the AFS cinema, for a few years now, so we definitely know how it works. So we generally have a good idea of the general flow of traffic and things like that. It makes it a little easier each year.

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The thing that has been in common each year I’ve been here is that the moment you enter his hall in the first minute of the first day, you see a line at Jason Edmiston’s booth. He’s been everyone’s first stop every time I’ve been here! I imagine you can plan around knowing stuff like that.

[Laughs] Absolutely. Always. Jason had that spot in that hall the very first year, the first corner spot whenever you walk in on the right-hand side. It was a random placement in first year, but after that year, he came up to me and said “Please put me here every single year that you guys have this convention” I agreed right there on the spot. He’s there every year so his line kind of snakes out. He brings a ton of stuff each year and always make sure he brings a ton of new exclusive stuff. It draws a crowd for sure.

And then when Jason Edmiston’s line died down, the layout of the hall just sent everyone straight to Kevin Tong’s line. As a spectator, it felt like his line is the one that you guys kept on battling all day. Everyone was constantly working to keep it organized and out of the way. Did the volunteers undergo training to react on the fly to reorganize lines? They seemed to be on top of things.

That’s basically it. We have volunteer leads in every single hall and they have the authority to make decisions and decide if they need to add more extensions to this hall or do I need more volunteers to help queue people up single file or more people holding beginning of line and end of line signs. We prepare like that. But there’s also the x-factor of the artists running their own booths. We can’t really control how quickly they check people out, how much they want to stop and engage with the fans and talk with them, which is something we want to encourage. But the more they’re talking with each individual fan, the longer it’s going to take to check people out and the longer it’s going to be based on speed. Those are the factors we can’t always plan for. We don’t want to dictate too much for how the artists handle their own booth. We want to set them up for success and let them go. We just try to be really fluid with our decision-making on that sort of stuff.

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MondoCon isn’t nearly as big as something like San Diego Comic-Con, but I feel like all conventions share the same issues.

100%.

Lines, crowds…

Lines, people, limited space. What I found to be true, no matter what convention you’re going to, people don’t mind waiting in line if they know they’re in the right line and the line is moving at a steady pace, even if it’s not fast and they feel like the line’s being treated fairly. No cutting in line, no one’s getting special treatment or anything. If you abide by those rules, I feel like people are relatively patient. But I’ve gone to events… I went to a concert recently and they had no line management whatsoever. I was standing in line for 45 minutes before I could get anyone to confirm that I was in the correct line. That’s crazy to me. You need people telling you “Yep, you’re in the right spot. Don’t worry. Just wait.” You have to value your time at a thing like this. There are a lot of limited products being sold at this convention. You have to make decisions. It’s a tough thing for some of our fans where they come in here and if they don’t get something at this booth and if they don’t get over to the next booth in the other hall, it could sell out. It’s stressful for them, so we try to eliminate that stress as much as possible. Just by over-communicating information, really. That’s a thing we say often. Over-communicate, over-communicate, over-communicate. We try to do that. I feel like it’s worked out this year. A few hiccups, but nothing too crazy.

Attending MondoCon is easy for me. I live twenty minutes away. So I’m curious about the make-up of the crowd. How many people are traveling from around the country and the world to attend?

I’d say about 80% travel here for the convention. We have a large fan base here in Austin, our core fans we’ve grown with over the years, but we have a wide international base. We’re seeing more and more of those people every year. People from all over the U.S., international people. It’s a pretty good mix. We can see it when we partner up with the neighboring hotels and they can tell us how many rooms they’re booking. It’s a pretty high number. The international guys are really impressive to me. We have this one fan who has come over here every year from Japan. It’s the only convention he goes to. It just blows me away that this small thing we just made up a couple years ago that is really just all of our favorite people and companies coming together for one weekend, that he’s found such a connection to that and wants to travel and take time out of his schedule and spend a lot of money to come here and just experience it for the weekend. That blows me away. We want to show those guys a good time and show them the full experience. We want to make sure everyone is leaving with a positive note.

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