Convention Report: Would You Pay To Attend A Panel?

Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America The First Avenger. Image from Flickr user Ronald Woan, Creative Commons.

Last week, MegaCon held in Orlando, Florida, announced a paid panel with celebrity guests from Doctor Who. The fans were screaming about the fact that there was a panel during convention hours charging a fee (and $25 per person at that). My first thought was that if a panel is going to be a ticketed event, it should be held after convention hours. Realizing that might not fit in the media guests’ schedule, I guess that can’t always work out.

On Monday, MegaCon released this statement on their Facebook page:

Good evening everyone. We would like to address the many comments that have been brought up in regards to the announcement of the Doctor Who Special Event for MegaCon 2015.

This event was requested on behalf of the media guests participating in this special event for the fans of Doctor Who. Like all the media guests that attend our show, we do not set or control the pricing for their autograph fee, photo ops, or any special programming outside of what we offer with the cost of admission into MegaCon.

Please remember, this is a special event outside of the many events that we offer to you with the cost of your admission into the show. We encourage you to check out our regular schedule of events, which will be available next week, which include panels from the media and comic book guests and other free activities such as card and tabletop gaming, video gaming and costume contest…”

I applaud MegaCon for answering their fans’ concerns with the reasoning behind the charge. And with that statement in mind, we can no longer be upset at the convention, but instead at the celebrities who want to charge us to bask in their glow. I guess they need to make up the money they are going to spend at Disney World while they are here.

After realizing that the convention is not the ones charging but instead it’s the guests themselves, I started to wonder… How long until this becomes standard? Are there circumstances when paying for a panel wouldn’t be a burden to fans, but instead, be helpful?

Thanks to a discussion with my husband on this subject, I realized there are times when a ticketed panel during con hours makes sense.

I’ll use MegaCon as an example.

The convention is open for around eight hours per day for three days. During that time, panels are running from open to close. Meanwhile, the vendors’ room is also open, gaming is happening, speed dating running, cosplayers are wondering the halls waiting for photographers to catch them in all their glory, the costume contest is going on, autograph signings, photography opportunities, and the list goes on.

Meanwhile, hundreds of convention-goers wait in lines for panels and miss out on all of the other fun that is happening. Why? Because there is no other system for guaranteeing them a seat in the room where their favorite celebrities are going to be.

While those hundreds of people are waiting in lines, the convention itself could be losing money because those people are not out spending money in the vendor room, getting autographs, or taking pictures with the cosplayers. Some of those waiting in line for panels probably had to make the choice between getting a scheduled photo-op or going to the panel.

For those like myself that already have high anxiety at conventions, I physically can’t sit in a crowded line to get into an even more crowded room (my heart is racing right now at that very thought). I would love to attend one, but because of this disability, it just can’t happen.

In short, both sides lose. Convention-goers don’t get to see everything because of having to wait and the convention loses because those people are not on the floor spending money or going to the other activities that the convention had to pay to have there.

There is a solution though.

Let’s say the more popular panels that are held in the higher capacity rooms, charge for the first 10 rows. $10 per person sounds reasonable. For that $10, you get a guaranteed seat and that frees you up to go about your business around the convention while you wait for the panel to start. If you don’t want to pay, you don’t have to, but you are also put in a position to wait for hours in a line.

If you want to go a step further, charge $20 to sit in the first five rows and give people the option to pay $10 to get a guaranteed spot in the room. Those with tickets are allowed in first and everyone who wanted to wait, goes in after. To give everyone a fighting chance to get in, don’t sell as many tickets as there are seats. That way, anyone that just can’t afford to pay, doesn’t have to worry about not getting a spot. They just go about business as usual, waiting in line.

I know this adds one more expense to an already expensive convention, but think about how much this would help conventions like DragonCon, San Diego Comic Con, and other big names out there.

It’s a borderline security hazard to have people sleeping in the halls waiting to get into a panel. On top of that, think of all the things people miss at those larger conventions by sitting for hours waiting for a panel.

I can already hear you yelling at the computer screen, “But Dakster! What if they get greedy and charge more every year?”

There’s a solution to that as well.

Instead of pocketing the money, I propose that the convention donates all of the panel ticket money to a charity. This way, everyone wins and a charity is helped in the process. To add to their press, at the end of the convention, they could announce how much money was raised for the chosen charity. (The Hero Initiative would be my pick.)

This won’t work for every convention or every panel, but it’s an idea that could grow into something that not only benefits the convention in terms of good press, but also helps the fans get more out of their ticket by not being held up in a line for a panel instead of enjoying the rest of the convention.

What do you think? Are there times when you would be willing to pay a small fee to get into a panel or would you rather just take your chances and wait in the line with everyone else?

Let me know in the comments!

This Saturday Is Ice Cream For Breakfast Day!

Ice Cream Cutie By Lilianna Maxwell

Celebrate Ice-Cream For Breakfast Day this Saturday, February 7th. What? You’ve never heard of this splendid holiday? Gasp! Well, now you do and there’s no excuse. And your kids will love you for it. Here are some resources.

For recipes and random love of the creamy stuff, The Ice Cream Geek has great ideas.

You know you tried this as a kid yourself. Astronaut ice-cream.

Did you know the ice-cream scoop was reinvented?

Go all out and get some Superhero Ice Cream Treat Tubs to make it even more fun.

The Hulk ice-cream sandwiches are cool. They use matcha (green tea) powder, so this tea geek gives them a big thumbs up!

Several ice-cream parlors around the country use this day to raise money for children’s charities. Check if there’s one near you: Make your kids happy and do good in your community. What’s not to like?

Enjoy your sweet holiday :)

Robert Downey Jr. Gets Even More Awesome, Is Doused In a Bucket of Ice for Charity [Video]

It’s a fair bet that many of you have already had a bucket of ice dumped on your head as part of the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS and that you also have a Facebook feed full of  videos of very chilly, wet friends. If you aren’t familiar with this challenge, then here’s the scoop.

If you’re challenged, then you have 24 hours to accept and donate $10 to an ALS Charity and dump a bucket of ice water over your head. There’s the option to decline, but if you’re too chicken for your ice shower, then you’re supposed to donate $100 as penance.

Lots of people have done it, including a fair number of celebrities, one of whom is Robert Downey Jr. who posted his video that includes the names of the three people he’s challenging to follow his example.

The #IceBucketChallenge has been running since July 29th and in that time over 70 million people have donated over $4 million to ALS charities. Watch Robert Downey Jr. take the challenge, shirtless in a pool no less, and check out who gets the honor of dumping the ice on his head.

7 Nonprofits to Support in 2014

By Photos public [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Photos public [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There are those who think New Year’s Resolutions are a waste of time, and there are those who diligently make them every year. I’m in the latter camp. I love New Year’s resolutions, and what’s a better resolution than supporting some great causes?

If you’re looking for a little altruism to start 2014, here are a handful of really great organizations to support:

Cure JM Foundation works to raise money and awareness for Juvenile Myositis, a collection of rare autoimmune conditions affecting children. Rare disorders are the hardest to raise funding for, and organizations like Cure JM provide invaluable support for families.

Curiosity Hacked (formerly Hacker Scouts), founded by our own Samantha Cook, is collecting donations to bring their outreach programs to Children’s Hospital and family centered homeless shelters, where children have no access to build their skills and create what they have only imagined.

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International continues the work of its namesake, who was murdered in 1985 while working to protect the endangered mountain gorillas of Africa. The African outpost of the organization is the Karisoke Research Center, founded by Fossey. The center works to protect the mountain gorillas of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but also works to educate and support the local communities. They smartly believe that educating and helping the people of these embattled areas is one of the best ways to keep the gorillas, a prime target for poaching, safe. encourages young people ages 13-25 to get out into their communities and take action on issues that matter to them. GeekMom Laura included them in her tips for fighting Mean World Syndrome. There is a donation link at the bottom of the site, but this organization is really about helping your older kids find their voice and make an impact. It’s their world.

Lupus Research Institute focuses on another devastating autoimmune disease. Lupus affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans, and according to the institute “Most are young women of childbearing age.” What sets LRI apart from other Lupus research organizations is its sole focus on the most innovative, “novel” research in the field.

One Simple Wish grants wishes to children in foster care. The founder, Danielle Gletow, was a Top Ten CNN Hero in 2013. Foster children receive the absolute basics through government funding, but they do not have access to the simple pleasures that many of us take for granted. Gletow’s organization lets you search wishlists that children have made through their social services agency and fund a specific child’s wish. It could be anything from an XBox to an outfit for job interviews. You can also purchase $40 “We Care” kits for children entering or aging out of foster care, with essentials like shampoo and a toothbrush.

Worldbuilders is running its annual fundraiser for Heifer International through February 2nd. Author Patrick Rothfuss runs a lottery with all kinds of glorious literary prizes. For every $10 you donate, your name is entered into the lottery. GeekMom Kelly wrote about last year’s fundraiser, and you can find all of the details on Patrick Rothfuss’s blog.

Cthulhu in a Coloring Book? Help John Kovalic Make It Happen

Cthulhu Coloring Page © Courtesy John Kovalic

John Kovalic, cartoonist and GeekDad extraordinaire, is currently raising funds for his Bike the Barns charity bike ride. The 7th annual Bike the Barns ride in Wisconsin supports the FairShare CSA Coalition’s Partner Shares program, which “brings fresh, organic food from local farms to low-income families in our community.”

If Kovalic reaches his fundraising goal, he’ll make a preschool coloring book he’s been working on free for download! Sample pages include classics like a mermaid, dinosaur, and pirate, and he promises more geekery will be included. He’s also released an adorable, trick-or-treating Cthulhu illustration that will be part of the book.

Where else will you find Cthulhu in a coloring book? Visit John Kovalic’s pledge page and consider supporting the cause.

Indiegogo Campaign: TinySuperheroes


I have to thank my mom for pointing this one out to me. Last summer Robyn Rosenberger made a cape for her two-year-old nephew’s birthday. She was also following the story of a little girl named Brenna, who was fighting a serious skin disease. The idea of the cape met the reality of children battling incredible obstacles, and her organization TinySuperheroes was born.

Since making their first cape in January of 2013, they have made 500 capes for sick and disabled children. This Indiegogo campaign (which ends on June 18th!) will help raise money to make and distribute 1,500 more capes in the next year. Their motto is “Empowering Extraordinary Kids – One Cape at a Time!”


Judge Us By Our Size Do Not–The Galactic Academy

Image Courtesy of the Galactic Academy
Image Courtesy of the Galactic Academy

The Galactic Academy is one of the best kept secrets of Star Wars costuming. Dedicated to the fans 17 and under, these costumers are a force to be reckoned with. Unlike their big brother and big sister organizations, The 501st and Rebel Legion, the Galactic Academy does not require screen accuracy to be welcomed in. The only requirement is the child must be under the age of 18 years and own a Star Wars costume of some kind.

Their website describes the life of a cadet as “hard, grueling work. Only the best can even hope to survive the process, but those lucky few will earn their Academy Medals and become the envy of the galaxy.”

Continue reading Judge Us By Our Size Do Not–The Galactic Academy

This Dragon*Con, the Fans Pick the Charities


Charity auctions and other fundraising events are a mainstay of many fan conventions, including Dragon*Con. In 2012, they raised more than $45,000 for the Georgia Chapter of the ALS Association. The year before, it was $40,000 for the National Inclusion Project, which helps children with disabilities. And the con’s annual blood drive is a popular event, donating thousands of units of blood over the weekend. This year the con decided to approach charity a little differently by asking the fans where they’d like their donations to go in 2013.

The event asked people to participate in a poll between April 15th and April 28th, during which more than 39,000 votes were cast for one of five pre-selected organizations. The top three vote-getters were named as the official charities of Dragon*Con 2013.

Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, which shelters injured, abused, and unwanted exotic animals, won 66% of the vote and thus will receive 50% of the money raised during the con. The second-place charity, Georgia Conservancy, will receive 30%, and third-place Marcus Autism Center will receive 20% of the funds raised.

Over the last eight years, Dragon*Con has raised almost $224,000 for charity. This year it will add a matching contribution from the con itself of up to $50,000. In addition to that official charity fundraising during the con, they’ve donated $265,000 to The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta (where Dragon*Con is held) and other organizations.

Don’t Make Hulk Wanna Smash The Internet

She-Hulk by kazamatsuro – Photo via Creative Commons

I hate New Year’s resolutions. Especially the part where the internet is flooded with copycat articles full of tips, tricks, top-ten lists, and celebrity declarations. The changing of the calendar doesn’t make the date special, and broadcasting their intent doesn’t necessarily help people achieve personal goals. Every year at this time, I compulsively dodge those posts and articles and vlogs because exposure to New Year’s resolutions tends to cause an Incredible Hulk-like transformation in me. And I don’t really want to be the person who leaves a path of ALL-CAPS destruction in the comments of every other new post on the internet during most of January.

There’s probably no hope of reversing the resolution trend, especially not with the entire weight of the weight-loss industry backing what I snarkily refer to as the season of shrinky self-destruction. However, resistance is not futile. This year, I’m encouraging people to break with the tradition, and if they won’t, to at least consider alternatives to the set of boring, doomed cure-alls that most people resolve to pursue.

Many of the common New Year’s resolutions focus on accomplishing more, acquiring more stuff, and doing everything faster. Those are exhausting, largely foolhardy endeavors, especially for anyone trying to become a healthier and happier person. For a fun, easy change of pace, try doing less, getting rid of stuff, and slowing down. That last one is the best, I think. Just imagine how much stress we could ditch simply by taking our time. Resolving to slow down will probably improve the quality – if not the quantity – of our work and our relationships, two goals that may not be on everyone’s list, but probably should be.

If oppositional resolutions aren’t your cuppa, but you can’t resist the impulse to make resolutions altogether, try just sticking with the good things you already do. And if you must share your resolutions with the world, the least you can do is resolve to work on something more important to the world than your weight. 2012 is the International Year of Cooperatives and the International Year of Sustainable Energy For All. If those causes don’t motivate you, try browsing the Project For Awesome for a charity that does, then put your back into supporting it. It’s probably as good for your heart as going to the gym, albeit in a different way, and selfless deeds are far more interesting for others to read about on your blog.

People who are happy in their New Year’s resolution ruts? I beg you, please, to attend the science about habit formation and will power’s limitations. Confine your resolutions to small, specific actions you can easily add to your existing routine. This should improve your likelihood of success, and hopefully diminish the flood of woeful posts about failed New Year’s resolutions that also make Hulk wanna smash the internet.