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Dashcon 2014: Interview with Organizers
Posted on Jul 21, 2014 Login Register Reset

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Dreux Blalock:
Alright, let’s get this thing started then, shall we? We’ll

start off with the easy ones. Password:

Question One, What was the process for planning this


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event?
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Cain Hopkins:

Well, I will allow Megg to address this question, as I


came in as an owner after she did. That way she can

explain the beginning, middle, and end all in one.

Dreux Blalock:
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I can understand that
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Megg Eli:
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Well, it isn’t quite that straightforward. The process developed as time went on, getting slightly better with each
Anime
evolution. In the very beginning, as best I know (since it was before I was involved), it was really just a large group

of people sort of think-tanking about this thing they thought would be cool. There were fandom committees whose
Declassified
job was… still unclear. There was a fundraising effort there, but I do know it went fairly poorly. A lot of them ended Podcast
up dropping out or being weeded out as planning continued because, to be quite honest, despite their best

intentions and hard work, most of them had no idea how to go from concept to reality. Slowly, the large group was
on Apple Podcasts
distilled down to fewer and fewer people, but most of them shared a really strong desire to see this happen and

had the work ethic we needed. I implemented as much structure as I could, despite often running into roadblocks.

After all, at the time, I was in a 50/50 partnership that didn’t have the luxury of a majority. But, that aside, we brought
on Android
in a company called Experient in the fairly early days, and they helped us reach out to venues and hotels, event

services companies, etc. They were incredibly integral in getting us as far as we got (if that makes sense).

Contracts were signed and, maybe surprisingly, a lot of payments were made. In the process of dividing up labor via RSS
internally, though, it was difficult to get everyone on the same page sometimes. We had to trust one another (from
about 8 hours away) to be doing everything right, and obviously, somewhere along the line, that stopped working.

Regardless, I spent most of my time staffing volunteers and panelists, making schedules, writing a murder More Subscribe Options

mystery game, and an assortment of other random duties. I worked very closely with our admins and support staff,
and that took up the vast majority of my planning time. Contracts were handled elsewhere, and I’ve never so

desperately regretted a decision. I don’t know if that answered your question, unfortunately, but the “process” was

a bit more convoluted than I would have liked from the very start.
Toku Secrets
Megg Eli:
Podcast
If you want a more specific answer about planning, you might have to rephrase the question itself to be more
specific. This was a very long, arduous process that started in early 2013.

on Apple Podcasts
Dreux Blalock:

As a Convention Organizer myself, I can understand the process. It pains me to say that the team always starts off

huge, and ends up with just a handful running the event


on Android

Megg Eli:

Exactly that. Yes. But, during the event, we have picked up several people who we can’t wait to add to staff. They’re
tried and true workers who can definitely handle stress. And having an already stress-tested team is awesome. via RSS

Dreux Blalock:
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The company Experient, are they considered a PR Firm, or just a firm that makes connections for things like
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conventions?

Megg Eli:
Experient is a meeting planning and event management company, and leads the industry as one of the best-

Affiliates
known and most respected brands in the world.

You can read more about them here: http://www.experient-inc.com/. I don’t believe we used them to the best of our
ability, and we’ll be employing more of their services in future years.

Dreux Blalock:
That is what first year conventions have to learn: how to use their assets to the best that they can.

Megg Eli:
Agreed

Dreux Blalock:

Now, as for the next question, it ties in a little with why I asked about Experient. With the recent situation with all of
the bad press, is DashCon looking into getting a PR representative, if it did not already have one?
Official
Megg Eli:
We didn’t have one for 2014, and I’m going to let Cain speak to the future of that sort of newly developing
Facebook
department.
Anime Secrets
Cain Hopkins: 9.9K likes

Actually Dreux, we already have added one to staff and we are also in talks with another PR representative that we

are looking to bring on for future events as well. With an entity as big as ours, and especially with how many
people we reached over the course of the weekend, Megg and I both agreed that a PR team, if you will, will be Like Page

more appropriate than a single representative. These individuals are coming into this situation with full knowledge

of what has transpired and are more than equipped to handle situations like ours. Furthermore, they are people Be the first of your friends to like this

we know and trust.

Dreux Blalock:

That is a beautiful explanation. Thank you, Cain.


Twitter
Dreux Blalock:
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If you would allow me to backtrack a little, Megg, you had stated that over the course of the planning, committees
My Tweets
were formed, then just fell off the face of the earth. You also spoke of how you already have many people who are
interested in helping with staff in 2015. Now, without naming names, could you give a rough estimate of how many

staffers were let go during the planning stages, and if any at all were let go after the convention?

Megg Eli:
Instagram
We started with roughly 22 committees of 5-7 people, plus an admin team of 7 or so. Sorry for the lack of specific Instagram did not return a 200.
numbers, as much of this was before my time. Once I was brought in, we began asking that committees proved Official Instagram

their use via a few fairly simple tasks, and those that didn’t were cut. In the end, there were probably only about 5 or

6 committees left, and most of them only had 1-3 members in total. Some of that group still didn’t make it to the
actual event for one reason or another. The admin team went through multiple turnovers, losing an estimated ten
or so people along the way. When our event went live, our upper management consisted of three owners and
Links
three admins. Post-event, there are now two owners, Cain and myself, and one admin, Angela. The others were
Anime Mag-a-zine
either let go or stepped down when the stress of the event proved to be too much. I can tell you that the third owner
was explicitly terminated. Anime Nano

Dreux Blalock:
Would you both agree that the weeding out of the committees and of the upper staff management, thus

streamlining the process, will produce a good working environment, and thus a good product for DashCon 2015?

Megg Eli:
Absolutely. Distilling our group down to those who are willing, ready, and capable of working under high stress
situations is the key to making our event a success in future years. Those of us who remain are looking forward to
a much more open, honest, and transparent environment, where information is shared freely and we are all
accountable to one another.

Dreux Blalock:

Let’s move to the event on Friday night, which is one of the big elephants in the room. Can you tell me just what
you were feeling when you found out about what the hotel was demanding? Also, after this experience, will you be
looking over the contract with your hotel for 2015, to make sure there will be no “amendments” made by the host
hotel?

Megg Eli:

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As for me, I won’t say I never looked at the contract. However, I only looked over it at signing (well over a year
previously) and wasn’t in charge of handling it from there on out. What the hotel was demanding was, as we’ve
come to learn, well within their contractual rights. There were a number of oral changes made, and I deeply regret
the lack of documentation there. However, we’ve already been in touch with our 2015 venue, which is actually the
Indianapolis Convention Center rather than a hotel, and re-read over that contract as well. The payment structure is

very accommodating and easy to follow with 100% of the rental paid for a full 30 days prior to the event. We’re all
on the same page, with a chain of invoices that clearly outline when and how to pay them, with all ‘at event
services’ being due after the event closes.

Regarding how we felt in the moment on Friday night, I personally felt betrayed and upset. I was given
misinformation about the reasons the demands were being made, and that misinformation was deeply unsettling.

Both Cain and I were led to believe that the hotel had made certain remarks about the type of clientele we brought
in– very judgmental things about our attendees –and that was the reason they were trying to ‘force us out.’ Of
course, I’ve since learned that none of that was true, and I’ve apologized to the hotel endlessly, both privately and
publicly. I’m happy to report that we still have a great working relationship with the Renaissance Schaumburg,
including their staff and management, and no one is harboring hard feelings about the things that were said
during the panic. In fact, we’ve since learned that they consider our group one of the most fun, energetic, and

respectful groups they’ve ever had the pleasure of hosting. The only reason they were so accommodating from the
start is because they loved having us there and, despite everything, we loved being there. Cain has a different
scope on the Friday night situation, though, as he was otherwise engaged during part of the debacle. I’ll let him
explain that, though.

Cain Hopkins:

For me personally, I was actually getting ready for a panel. I was set to be playing “Gamzee Makara” in the “Let me
tell you about Homestuck” panel. (You know, grey paint takes time to do by yourself.) That’s when I received a call
from our former partner informing me that I needed to report to the staff office immediately. When I asked what was
going on, she stated that it was an emergency that could not be discussed over the phone. Obviously, upon
hearing this, I dialed up Megg and asked what was going on, to which I was told roughly the same thing with the
exception of being informed it was a situation pertaining to the hotel. It was then I asked if it would be better for me

to forgo the panel and help address the issue, or if I was to still do the panel. I was told to continue getting ready
for the panel and that my doing the panel was not going to make things any worse than they were.

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I then proceeded to make my way rather quickly downstairs to the staff office only to be told that the hotel, “did not
like our attendees” so had basically redacted on their oral arrangement they established with our former business
partner, and were fixing to kick us out unless we were able to come up with the rest of the money in order to pay

them the $20,000. We later found out that the hotel had made no such claim towards our attendees, and in fact,
were delighted to have them there as guests. At the time, though, I was devastated and heartbroken. I know first
hand what it is like to be judged primarily upon your appearance, so the thought that this was because our
attendees were not in formal attire or did not look “professional” enough devastated me. I was angry and
confused, but had to go and perform my panel regardless of my emotional state.

After the the panel ended, I made my way back to the staff office only to then be told that staff members were being
kicked out of their rooms. Quickly, we made our way upstairs; I jumped in the shower to remove what paint I could
and changed into proper attire. I then proposed to Megg that we gather everyone in the ballroom to inform our
attendees of the situation. I felt as though they had a right to know, and if anyone was going to help us out of this
crisis, it would be the people who cared and had supported us all along. She gave me the green light and I went
about gathering volunteers to go and clear out panel rooms and direct everyone into the ballroom for an

emergency announcement.

Distraught would be the closest word I could say as to how I was feeling at that point in time. That, and furious. I
have spent nearly every waking moment since February with Megg, working on things for DashCon and the idea of
all our hard work going to waste was nothing short of heart-wrenching. After everyone was gathered, I made the
announcement to our attendees, based on the information I had been supplied. I was astonished to see the

amount of support and concern that came from those who were there. Within 45 minutes of the announcement we
had the money, just in the nick of time. We are still astonished by the outpouring of support for us, and in times like
these they are the only things that keep us going.

As for moving forward, I can already tell you we are in a far better position for 2015 than 2014. We have addressed
and removed the issues that made 2014 so difficult and we are not looking back. We have learned so much from

our mistakes and are carrying that information into planning our future events.

Dreux Blalock:
Okay, still on the same topic – there were promises of reimbursement for those who donated. There are also
reports of those donations not being reimbursed from people on the internet. Can you go into a little detail on how
the reimbursements will commence?
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Megg Eli:
We have an email address set up and dedicated solely to requests for donation refunds. PayPal donations, since
they’re easily tracked, should be no problem to refund. Cash donation refund requests, however, will close in a few
short hours, and then we’ll be tasked with weeding through those requests in coordination with both legal and
accounting. There are no guarantees on whether or not we’ll be able to verify the validity of those requests,and we
won’t know much more until a time at which we can sit down and pore over everything we’ve received. If more

money is requested than we received, it’ll be more than obvious that someone isn’t being truthful. At this point, we
can only hope that there aren’t going to be a few dishonest people who choose to ruin the chance at
reimbursement for everyone else.

Dreux Blalock:
Can you please give me the email address for the article?

Megg Eli:
Of course. The email address is dashcondonations@gmail.com, and refund requests close at 11:59pm EST
tonight (Saturday, July 19). (ED: donations have since been closed, so please do not email asking for a refund)

Dreux Blalock:
Okay Megg, Cain. You both stated that there were rumors of the hotel not caring for the attendees of the convention.

Has there been any investigation or proof of where these rumors started?

Cain Hopkins:
I am going to let Megg address this question

Megg Eli:
As best I can tell, since I’m now 100% certain that this didn’t come from the hotel itself, the rumors started and

were perpetuated by someone who is no longer with DashCon. The most unfortunate thing here is that those
rumors were so easily believable. We wouldn’t have been the first convention to see its attendees face
discrimination. Rather, it happens quite often from what I’ve read online– not that I’m encouraging anyone to
believe everything they read on the internet. But, in a state of panic, it wasn’t difficult to convince us that such things
could have been said, and we didn’t have the luxury of time to investigate those claims right then. This is one of the

many reasons that certain parties are no longer with the company.

Furthermore, Cain and I were not the ones communicating directly with the hotel during that time. Everything we
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were told was via a DashCon representative whom we felt we could trust at that time. We’ve since learned
otherwise.

Dreux Blalock:

Very well. Moving along to the next little topic that everyone is chewing at: Welcome to Night Vale.

Megg Eli:
Ah, Night Vale. Alright. Do you have specific questions?

Dreux Blalock:
The first question I have to ask about them is this: Where the hell were they staying that they had a $2300 hotel
bill?

Megg Eli:
I literally have no idea. We were only told that it was in downtown Chicago. The exact location was never divulged,
and we never asked.

Dreux Blalock:
Understandable. Using this little hotel bill experience, do you think DashCon will be booking hotel rooms in the
host hotel from here on out in relation to media guests?

Megg Eli:
If I could go back in time and change how I handled the situation, I would have told them that there would be the
contractually agreed upon hotel rooms waiting for them at our host hotel, and if they chose not to use those hotel
rooms, that would be on them. It was absolutely my mistake that we tried to be so accommodating. Of course,
that’s also taught me that we’ll never work with anyone who doesn’t have a manager again. We had five groups of
guests throughout the planning process (one was cancelled well before the event), two with managers and three
without. The two with professional management were very happy with their DashCon experience and, as last I
heard, would be more than happy to return. The three (including the group that was cancelled early on) without
professional management… well, that’s a very different story, as you probably already know.

Dreux Blalock:
I can completely understand the idea of needing to deal with management; does this mean that DashCon will be

looking at going through a talent agency to book their media guests in the future?

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Megg Eli:
We actually got Doug Jones from a talent agency, and we would have loved to get everyone else from one as well.
Unfortunately, some of the guests we wanted simply weren’t part of any talent agency, which meant we had to
contact them privately. We will definitely be sticking strictly to guests who use talent agencies (or at least dedicated
managers) from this point forward.

Dreux Blalock: Very well. There are many in the community who stay silent in public forums that can feel your pain
in relation to dealing with guests akin to WTNV. Would you think that WTNV decided on their actions Saturday in
reaction to the previous night’s debacle?

Megg Eli:
I think the previous night’s debacle played a huge part in their reaction. The situation certainly wasn’t helped by the

email response I begrudgingly posted in our press release, though. Upon finding that particular bit of
communication, Cain and I were horrified by the level of unprofessionalism displayed by a member of DashCon
staff, only furthered by that person’s lack of information sharing so that Cain and I could have potentially made sure
their payment was both complete and in the requested form. Sadly, we were more than capable of having their
payment in the proper format if we’d been told about the email from the night before, but we weren’t given enough
notice to pull it together. Worse yet, we didn’t find out until a couple of days after the event’s close that they did ask
in a timely enough manner that we could have saved the situation if we’d known.

Dreux Blalock:
Moving past WTNV, lets get to some more fun questions. The first and foremost being: will there be a much bigger
ball pit in 2015?

Megg Eli:
Actually, there is quite a lot of news regarding that ridiculous travesty of a ball pit, which now has its own Twitter
account: https://twitter.com/travelinballpit. First and foremost, though, YES! There will be a much bigger and better
ball pit at DashCon 2015. In addition to this, we’ve been invited to take up residence in GenCon’s Anime and
Animation Track venue with a traveling “DashCon Ball Pit.” We’re still sorting through the final details, but it looks
like you’ll be able to find us and the new ‘traveling ball pit’ in the Indianapolis Westin from August 14-17.

Dreux Blalock:
That is completely and totally awesome! I am glad to see that there will be a much bigger ball pit for 2015. I must
say, that in light of the debacles that this first year has brought into the light, you two, as owners, seem very
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enthusiastic looking forward to 2015.

Megg Eli:

We are. This is what we love to do, and we’re prepared to prove we’re actually good at it, too.

Cain Hopkins
We are very excited for 2015 and its improvements not only for ourselves, but for our attendees as well.

Dreux Blalock:
My final question has a couple of parts, if you allow it. The first is do you feel that the criticism of this past year’s
event is getting out of hand? The second is that had the closing ceremonies not been taken up with explanations
of the conventions problems, what would you have said as a closing address? And finally, do you, the DashCon
2015 Event Organizers, have anything to say to your past and future attendees?

Megg Eli:
I think I’ll ask that we both answer this one separately and without one another’s input.

Dreux Blalock:
That is perfectly fine with me.

Megg Eli:
Do I feel that the criticism on the internet is getting out of hand?

Absolutely. 99% of the people who are criticizing the event weren’t in attendance. They’re simply jumping on a hate
bandwagon and giving into the sensationalism of all of it. Our attendees, by and large, had a good time. They
tearfully thanked us and asked that we stop apologizing. I’ve had very understanding and enthusiastic parents
contact us with words of encouragement, saying that they can’t wait to bring their children back. We had cosplayers
state that this was the first convention where they felt safe and didn’t get harassed. Our panels were well attended,
and we’ve received numerous compliments on the content of them. Out of hundreds of hours of programming, I

think we only lost about 10 total– some of which was due to panelists who didn’t end up showing up for reasons
still unknown. The couple of failures we faced were monumental, but everything else went really well, and anyone
who says otherwise wasn’t actually there. Those aren’t delusions or denials, either. We had a room full of people
cheering us on and asking for more when we closed down Sunday, and I take that applause and joy with me as I
move forward. I’ve had bad moments– times when everything feels beyond insurmountable –but then I remember

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having people tearfully telling me that, despite everything, they considered DashCon their favorite convention and
can’t wait to buy a badge for 2015.

If there had been no need for a Q&A, what would I have said?

I would have thanked everyone for coming and making the weekend one that I would never forget. I would have
thanked them for their love and support and told them that I couldn’t wait to see them next year. I would have

expressed that we couldn’t have done any of this without them, and that they had our endless gratitude. Basically, I
would have told them exactly what I did tell them, it just wouldn’t have taken nearly as long to say it. None of that is
untrue in light of what actually happened, and I mean every word of it. I just hope that sentiment didn’t get lost in the
shuffle of all the questions that needed answering.

Anything to say to our past and/or future attendees?

Thank you! We wouldn’t have had any event at all without your support and faith in us. You were the reason we did
this, and you’re the reason we’ll keep doing it. Yes, we know we’ve lost the trust of some of you right now, but we’re
more than willing to work to get it back. There were plenty of doubters when I came into this organization, and we
slowly showed them that we were serious. Post-event, plenty of people are back to doubting us, and that’s fine. It’s
not undeserved. All we’re asking for is the chance to prove ourselves again. Keep following. Keep asking
questions. Keep watching us. We’re now accountable to all of you online, and we consider that a very good thing.

So long as you’re watching us, you’ve giving us the necessary audience to once again show that we are well-
intentioned and above board. To those who volunteered or sat as panelists, our gratitude isn’t nearly enough. You
all went well above and beyond the call of duty, and you took a lot of the stress out of an otherwise unmanageably
stressful situation. It is all of you who will bring us back from this. I can talk all day long about what’s happening
behind the scenes, but that means very little at the moment. It will take the testament of those who attended and
want to attend again to combat most of the allegations being made. While my words are meaningless right now,
yours are golden. If you enjoyed DashCon and are willing to say so, please do. If not, I understand. I know the hate
mail some of you have received, and I’m sickened by it. I’m so sorry that participating in DashCon has made you a
target, especially since you only wanted to go and have a good time. You deserve better than the hate you’re
receiving, and you deserve a better event than the one we were able to give you in the end. However, we plan to
spend the rest of our lives making this up to you by improving your experience every single year that you give us the

chance to do so. You were the most amazing, kind, generous, and polite group that I’ve ever seen at a convention,
and everyone took notice. Please know that you were the highlight of my weekend, and I’d be ecstatic to host any of

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you again and again.

Cain Hopkins:
I mean, freedom of speech is something I will choose to support for my entire life. It is a privilege that I hold near
and dear to my heart because I was fortunate enough to be born in a country that allows such things. That being
said, I cannot stop what people say about us. Critiques, comments, etc; most things that are negative are from
people who were not even present. So in short, yes, I think it is a bit out of hand. However, there isn’t anything I can
do about what people say. What I can do, however, is prove them so wrong by making next year one of the best
conventions they have ever attended if they choose to attend.

If none of the problems had transpired and closing ceremonies had taken place as they should have originally
gone, we would have thanked all our attendees for making this possible. We would addressed the
volunteers/panelists that worked their butts off, and it would have literally been a fond farewell, thanking everyone
for the outpouring of support. Finally that we would hope to see them back again for next year.

I personally have this to say to our attendees: thank you for everything. Attendees of old, you are veterans of
Dashcon 2014, and although we experienced some hiccups, people managed to make friends for a lifetime and
enjoy themselves. We hope that you can forgive us for the mistakes we made and bear with us as we correct
them. We want you to come back and have the time of your life. We want you to be in a safe environment where you
feel as though you can meet those you have interacted with online securely. We want to give you the best
experience yet and I assure you, 2015 will go off without a hitch.

For new attendees, the internet has made things seem like a disaster, however, I encourage you to go and speak

to people who were actually in attendance. There are so many wonderful people who were there who will be happy
to tell you their personal experience. The joys they had, the panels they attended. We admit to making mistakes –
we are not dismissing that, in fact we are taking blame for it head on. We are/have fixed a good majority of
problems already and are taking what we learned from this year by full force. Mistakes made will not be repeated,
and we will do whatever we can to rectify the damage that has been done to your trust in us.

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