C2E2 2011 Convention Preview | Lance Fensterman

ReedPOP’s Group Vice President offers a sneak peek at this years Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, kicking off March 18th.

It’s that time of year: Chicago’s newest con on the block, the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo is just around the corner and, I won’t lie, I am so excited! I can’t even pretend that I’m playin’ it cool. The event will be held at McCormick Place just south of fabulous downtown Chicago on March 18th-20thand is organized by ReedPOP, the pop culture offshoot of Reed Exhibitions. True believers may recognize ReedPOP as the company behind fan favorite events including New York Comic Con and the PAX shows.
Recently, Lance Fensterman, Group Vice President of ReedPOP, was kind enough to have a brief chat with PLAYBACK:stl about this little slice of nerd heaven. Lance racked up enough frequent flyer miles to travel around the globe five and a half times last year, is an aspiring mixed media Lego artist, and has a cat named Bob who thinks he’s a high school janitor. Personally, I can’t imagine our convention experience being in better hands.
PLAYBACK:stl: NYCC has been a raging success for years. What made ReedPOP decide to expand to Chicago as well?
Lance Fensterman: The idea really came from our big exhibiting customers—Marvel, DC, etc. They wanted and needed a big, professionally run, well organized event in downtown Chicago. They came to us with the idea and we ran with it.
Can you tell me something about the scope of the eventhow many attendees you’re expecting, on-site staff, exhibitor counts as of now? Just some general numbers to wow us. We all go to these things and we have no idea just what it takes to put an event like this on. It’s all "Oooh" and "Eek! A TARDIS!" and "SHINY!" but how many hours, how much work on your end, how many frequent flyer miles does it take for us to have three awesome days?
I wish I could give you some fun stats like “If C2E2 was laid end to end it would be taller than the Sears tower” but, alas, I just have wonky trade show stats. The total space of our building is about 400,000 square feet, we’ll have 45,000 square feet of paid booths, 126 panels and special events, about 50 ReedPOP staffers and another 200 volunteers. As for attendance, we don’t really do estimates, but let’s just say we expect a busy show. As for frequent flyer miles, I did the math and last year I logged 140,000 actual miles in the air. When I look at that number, it’s pretty crazy!
How do you decide what the event is going to feature? Your website indicates that ReedPOP is very nerd-friendlydo you mostly try to have people there that you’d be interested in seeing? Is there anything in particular that you’re really excited about that’s taking place at this year’s C2E2?
It’s really a full community effort. We have staff favorites, of course, that we go after in terms of guests and programming, but our exhibiting customers help us program a lot and bring a ton of guests. We also do a lot of focus groups with fans and meet-ups at local Chicago bars, so we do our best to listen to what the fans want. Do I have a favorite? I don’t know if I’m allowed to answer that. Let’s just say we have a big event we have not announced yet and it is my favorite. We’ve been working on this particular guest for a few years.
What’s your favorite part of your job? Least favorite?
The people are by far my favorite. I’ve gotten the chance to hang out with fans and creators in cities all over the world and I never get tired of talking to the fans. It blows my mind that I can be in Singapore, Hong Kong, São Paulo or Minneapolis and fans are fans: they are passionate, diehard and amazing people. It really is an honor to build events for them. My least favorite are probably the duties and responsibilities that come with the job. This is a business, too, so I have a lot of reports to write, budgets to balance, strategy plans to create, etc. All important, but not nearly as much fun as touring the Lego headquarters before a meeting.
Are there any funny con stories you can share with me? I know that’s a fairly general question, but any good disaster stories? Mishaps where you swooped in and saved the day?
We have a strict code of silence on such issues. I’d love to tell you some stories, but the con code says those stay with me, not for publication [smiles]
That is strangely reassuring, actually.
Lance Fensterman is a man with a plan and that plan, my nerdlings, is to show us a good time. New guests are still being announced and vendors are gearing up for what’s looking to be a great show. Jason Green, Fearless Editor, will be previewing the show and I’ll be tweeting as PBstl_lovefool during the actual event so make sure you check back for updates. See you in Chicago! | Erin Jameson
For more information, visit www.c2e2.com!

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