C2E2 2011: Convention Organizer Lance Fensterman Discusses Year Two

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After this year's C2E2, Broken Frontier talked with convention organizer Lance Fensterman of ReedPOP, a division of Reed Exhibitions, about the second year of Chicago's newest comics and pop culture convention.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Overall, what were your thoughts on the second year of C2E2?

LANCE FENSTERMAN: I was very pleased. A 26% increase in attendance is impressive and to be frank, we needed to deliver a robust audience. The new building was a great fit for the show, the panels were mostly full, the entertainment related programming (Chuck, Walking Dead, Chris Hemsworth, Patton Oswalt) all went over very well.  In all, I am very proud of the show we delivered in year two.

BF: What, in your opinion, makes C2E2 stand out from other conventions?

FENSTERMAN: I think for starters, the way we approach the shows. ReedPOP invests heavily in the event in a way that not many organizations can. We also have a fan-first philosophy meaning we do meet-ups, focus groups, and surveys all year to really understand what the fans want and from there build the event they asked for.  I'm proud of the fact that we believe that this should be a fan-focused show and we are just the organization that runs it.

BF: Were you been pleased by the fan response and turn-out?

FENSTERMAN: I was thrilled this year. Again, a 26% increase in fans means we listened to them, delivered what they asked for, and the event was rewarded by the robust ticket sales.

BF: What has been the reaction from the various comics publishers? Are they
still as enthusiastic as in the show’s first year?

FENSTERMAN: I would argue, based on the initial feedback at the show that they are much more excited than the first year. The anecdotal commentary coming out of the event was very positive. We'll know more when we do our in-depth research, but I believe we delivered a show that our exhibiting customers were happy with.

BF: What have been some of the challenges in organizing the show?

FENSTERMAN: The fact that we created the event and the brand out of nowhere means it takes time for the Chicago community to recognize it and understand what C2E2 is all about. Marketing and public relations can help that to a point, but really, it takes time for the community to experience, read about, or hear from peers about the event so they understand it. That has been the biggest challenge in entering a new market with a brand-new concept.

BF: This year’s convention was held in a different building of McCormick
Place than last year’s. As a result, the panels were much more centrally
located. Was this a conscious choice during the planning stages of the
event or based on availability at the convention center?

FENSTERMAN: It was absolutely a conscious decision. We were not pleased with the layout of the building last year. It was massive, cavernous, and difficult to navigate. We actively sought out a new building for the show this year and I think it made a huge difference for the fans and the exhibitors in terms of ease of use, navigation, getting in and out, and just generally enjoying the show without having to think about and plot out your every move.

BF: In recent years, other comics conventions have begun to focus less
on the comics themselves, being dominated by Hollywood-centric panels or
shifting towards being autograph shows. Do you feel it is important for
C2E2 to maintain a balance between the various media that make up its

FENSTERMAN: We think that balance is incredibly critical and believe that comics should be at the center of all that we do. With comics firmly entrenched as the base we work from, our aim is to then branch out equally into all the corners of pop culture; film, TV, anime, video games, etc.

BF: Was it important to you for C2E2 to be held within Chicago itself, as
opposed to a neighboring suburb, as with other conventions?

FENSTERMAN: Being downtown is a critical element for C2E2 and one that our exhibiting customers (such as Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse) demanded. Simply put, they wanted a large scale, well-resourced, professionally run event in the city of Chicago and that's what we are working hard to deliver.

BF: Any exciting plans in the works for next year?

FENSTERMAN: Oh man, you are killing me! I've barely recovered from this year! After the con, we deploy very detailed research to fans, professionals, and exhibitors (if you get one, please fill it out. We are listening!) and those responses form the basis for our strategy for the coming year.

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