2014 Chicago Walker Stalker Con Reaction

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As I sit here a few days removed, sipping a beer and reflecting on the 2014 Chicago Walker Stalker Con I come to the realization, that when it comes to all things nerd, the little guys get it right. 

This convention was started via crowdsourcing.  The con was started by podcasters.  Podcasters with a love of ONE television show.  It was financed by fans through Kickstarter.  It was built by YOU.  By “you”, I of course mean the global you:  Nerd culture at its finest. 

The Walker Stalkers (Eric and James)

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...started their podcast from a basement (Sounds familiar, right?) based on a shared love of a segment of popular culture (Sounds eerily familiar.).  These cats made a trip to the set of The Walking Dead, met some folks and turned all of that into a juggernaut of a podcast that allowed them to interview the people who brought them the entertainment they love.   (OK, this is getting down right spooky.)

Jokes about the similarities between our trajectories aside, James and Eric have done what every jerk with a microphone in their basement dreams of doing.  They turned their love of The Walking Dead into something they could share with thousands of people…and they did it the right way.

I’ve been to quite a few conventions, most of them as press.  I have experienced the gamut of treatments from the bigger cons (in the interest of a continued media presence, I won’t name names) ranging from open arms, all access availability to having volunteers tell me that I couldn’t stand in the back of the room behind twenty empty rows of chairs because, “Everyone must be seated.”  I’ve seen young conventions warmly welcome podcasters as press in order to spread the word about their fledgling gatherings only to quickly excise their involvement once the conventions perceive their attendance to be large enough to not need media exposure unless it’s “legitimate.”  I feel these experiences give me enough credibility to evaluate Walker Stalker Con objectively and fairly.  I will admit, it’s going to seem a bit like a stroke off though…

I loved this convention.  Sure, it wasn’t the biggest convention and there was a pretty narrow (some would say, laser) focus.  There might not have been a very broad array of venders.  There may have only been one panel available at a time.  But, honestly, I felt a lot of these things added to the family atmosphere of this convention.  The entire weekend felt like we were all in a big secret meeting that no one else knew about...

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…no one except the few thousand of us in attendance.

I attended 90% of the panels.  There was not a bad seat in the house...

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...and due to the set up (the panels were held directly in the middle of the show floor) even if there wasn’t a seat available, you could easily stand outside the seating area and view the panel.  The panel set up was not without its flaws.  The audio often struggled to find that sweet spot between mics that were too hot and sound that was far too soft.  That is the danger of attempting to push out sound in to a giant convention area with 20 foot ceilings and concrete floors. 

The convention staff went out of their way to fill seats to the front in the cases where there were not enough VIP attendees to fill their reserved section.  You don’t see this at other conventions.  I’ve seen rows of seats go empty because a convention wants you to remember to buy the more expensive packages next time.  For some conventions, the almighty dollar is the ruling class.  At Walker Stalker, the enjoyment of those attending is paramount.  They are there to make sure YOU have fun.  Amazing.

The volunteer staff was friendly, attentive, and very helpful.  There were several times on the convention floor when a volunteer would approach us and we would automatically assume the worst (You can’t stand here.  You need to move.  I see you have a camera, you can’t have that here.  Keep traffic moving.) but, I can honestly say that was never the case.  The volunteers would often approach us just to chat.  They wanted to know how our experience was going; if we were having a good time.  Holy shit, that’s amazing.  Alex, we’re talking about you.  You were doing your job perfectly and we hope that every convention we attend going forward has a couple hundred of you working the lines.

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Finally, the guests; holy crap, the guests.  I have never, and I mean EEEEEEEVER, been to a convention where the guests are so attentive, so gracious and so willing to chat with their fans.  They’re willing, attentive and gracious…even if you’re not buying anything.  The organizers and guests at Walker Stalker Con realize that you can’t possibly afford to buy something from every person we would like to tell that we enjoy their work, so they have a solution:  “Just stop by and say hello.”  God damn amazing.  And simple.

There will be more details and retrospective about the convention experience on the next episode, but I thought it was important to get my initial reaction on “paper” before some of the finer points escaped me.  We’ll also have an interview with James and Eric coming in the next few weeks, as well as our MisInterview with The Comic Book Men.

Thanks for taking the time to read up, keep checking back for added content/coverage from our trip to Chicago Walker Stalker Con 2014, please take an opportunity to catch a Walker Stalker Con near you, and as always, thanks for listening.

Love you.

-Z     

 

  



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