Fan Convention Creates Virtual VIP Solution

Author: Curt Wagner       

After an actor canceled his appearance at a popular comic convention near Chicago, organizers are improvising with a digital solution to satisfy attendees.

Sam Heughan

“Outlander” actor Sam Heughan will appear at Wizard World Chicago Comic Con on August 24—but virtually instead of in person — because he is shooting a film in South Africa. The Scottish actor was scheduled to sign autographs and pose for photos with fans over two days at the event, which is expected to attract “tens of thousands of fans” to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois from August 23—26.

Knowing the popularity of the actor and his Starz series, Wizard World Inc. worked with Heughan to set up Skype sessions with fans who had paid for a face-to-face VIP experience. They can either sign up for a brief Skype session that matches as closely as possible an autograph/photo opportunity, or they will get a refund.

“We’re trying to replicate to some degree what they would experience if Sam was at the event,” Milani told PCMA. “They can come up to the screen, say hello and he will say hello and they can have a brief chat.”

Milani said that VIP experience is more personal than a second virtual option for fans. Wizard World and Heughan also plan to do short mini-panels with groups of up to 100 fans, where the actor will answer questions from some people in those groups. All fans will be allowed to record the sessions with their own phones.

Wizard World, which organizes 16 to 20 such fan conventions a year, has done virtual components at past events. Actors not attending have Skyped in during panels featuring their fellow cast members, for example. But this is the first time Wizard World has set up individual Skype sessions for fans after a star has had to cancel an appearance, Milani said.

“It’s not ideal for Sam’s fans, but we wanted to come up with something more than just a refund and signed photo,” he said.

The situation isn’t ideal for Wizard World, either. The company would consider the virtual solution again if the situation warranted, Milani said, but Wizard World was built on the idea of fans meeting their favorites in person as well as meeting other fans.

He said feedback concerning the virtual solution has been good so far, especially since many other “Outlander” cast members still plan to appear at the event so fans still plan to attend. “This is different than fans expected, but it will still be a great experience for them,” Milani said. “The virtual meeting was a good solution this time.”

Photos courtesy of Wizard World

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