I just spent 4 days volunteering with Wizard World for the 2012 Comic Con in Austin. I really wish I could say what an amazing experience it was again this year, but that is not the case. Here is a review of my 4 days of volunteering.
Day One: We showed up early (around 9ish) and saw several of the returning volunteers. Everything seemed like it was going to be great, but there was this odd "vibe" in the air. We primarily sat around most of the day waiting for things to do. The volunteer coordinator didn't really seem ready for the number of people who showed up - even though we all registered online in advance and she confirmed we would all be there. During day one, the weather outside was warm (in the high 80's to low 90's) and they had no air on inside the convention center, so we were all sweating a great deal. Unfortunately, no one from Wizard World thought to provide the volunteers with water, so we were all scrambling to stay hydrated. In addition, they provided pizza for lunch and didn't even buy enough pizza so everyone could have 1 slice. After stuffing approximately12,000 goodie bags, we called it a day at approximately 7:30pm. Overall, a something disorganized and disappointing day, but I decided to come back for another day.
Day Two: We started at 8am this day and did a few items to get ready for the show to begin at noon that day. Mostly we were continuing to help set things up and vendors were being checked in so they could set up their booths. Unfortunately, the organization was about the same as the day before, but at least we now had an understanding as to why the "vibe" seemed so odd...Wizard World has a new CEO. The new CEO is all about the business and not so much about making the experience fun. As it would turn out, over the course of the four days, I would experience his temperament and attitude several times. Once the doors opened, it just got more chaotic. The people manning the vendor check in booth seemed unprepared for how busy it was going to be, so they were causing lines to back up unnecessarily. It was a very busy day, but again, not very fun. They at least had water for the volunteers today, but they did get enough so you had to make sure you kept ahold of your bottle so you could refill in the bathrooms. But unfortunately, they didn't bother to let anyone know when food arrived, so many of us had to do with the snack bars we had brought or go to a restaurant near by to get food. Some people never even got breaks. The show closed at 8 that day, so we spent a full 12 hours of going full speed ahead. That day, I never even got to see the showroom floor - the new CEO didn't want us there unless we were working on the floor or taking a break (which we didn't get).
Day Three: Hubby got really bad blisters on both of his feet from standing and walking for 12 straight hours, so he wasn't able to return with me for day three. It was probably for the best. Day three was the really busy day. We were again there at 8am and the show would go until 7pm. Today I was determined to take breaks and get away from my assigned desk - one way or another. I took a quick break to go find food and drink, only to learn that the line was so long that I could not get through it on my allotted break time. As for food, supposedly they provided food for the volunteers, but I never saw any. I tried to go to the snack bar to at least get nachos or something, only to find out they were sold out of food. Today, I heard a LOT of complaints about how the shows was being run this year. Most of the complaints were coming from the vendors. They were allowed to bring in food and drink for themselves (and again, the snack bar line was either too long or they were sold out). They complained that the staff wasn't very nice or helpful. The number of complaints just supported the vibe I was getting. I left on day two promptly at 7. I had no desire to hang around for the after show events.
Day Four: I again arrived at 8 and the mood in the air was really bad on day four. Several of the staff members were from New York and they were all getting notice that their flights home were getting cancelled due to the hurricane. I witnessed to CEO jump all over another staff member because of the way the held a piece of paper. All in all, it was a horrible day. I decided I was not going to stay the whole day, so I left at 1. I signed out and decided to walk the showroom floor and see the event. I got to meet Lou Ferrigno and Paul McGillion. I picked up a couple of other items from some of the artists there and then headed home. I also managed to snap a few pictures with my phone. Some of the artists that I wanted to go back and visit on day four, were not there. They had left the show early. One of them that did not come back for the last day was one who had complained to me the day before about how they were not happy about the changes the new CEO had made.
All in all, the four day experience was not pleasant. So much so, that I won't volunteer with them again. I love volunteering with various events, but this one has changed so much that I won't be coming back as long as they have the same CEO in place.