With the tag-line “the coolest events in the world” Showmasters are committed to making visitor experience top of the agenda for London Comic Con.
Marketing director Jill Ubdegrove told Emily Wallin how they make their exhibitions extra special, and made a extra special exclusive announcement to Exhibition News – that Back to the Future star Christopher Lloyd is set to appear at their summer event.
The worlds of Star Wars and Back to the Future are about to collide as 83-year-old Lloyd, who played Doctor Emmet Brown in the 1980s film franchise, is set to appear in the third series of Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian later this year.
Signing the actor up London Film and Comic Con in July will be a huge draw for Showmasters.
Headline heroes Jodie Whittaker and Richard E Grant pulled in the crowds at London ComicCon Spring.
Whilst not quite back to pre-pandemic levels the event was a “return to abnormal” for the Showmasters team.
Centre stage this year was an enormous tyrannosaurus rex dominating the centre of the Olympia’s Grand Hall on 26-27 February, promoting upcoming Universal Pictures release Jurassic World Dominion.
Thousands of Doctor Who and Star Wars fans came to meet the actors – as well as fans of all shapes and sizes celebrating their favourite comics, films and TV shows.
Ubdegrove told us how important visitor experience is to their customers.
How important is visitor experience?
Jill Ubdegrove: With Comic Cons it’s all about experience. It’s all about meeting celebrities and fellow fans. Our events have always been very socially based. We get fan groups meeting up, we get cosplayers meeting up. It’s a great day out for like minded people.
The geeks used to be the minority, and comic cons serve that purpose.
Is there a pressure to try new ideas to keep visitors interested?
We always try to evolve. There’s been new innovations we’ve brought to market over the years. We introduced photoshoots. It used to be all about signings. It took off.
We brought in virtual queuing. We’d see people were queuing up for hours because they didn’t want to miss that one guest. But while they’re queuing they’re not walking around the stalls or meeting other guests. That meant they can get their place in line and still interact with the event.
We’re currently looking at VR and 3D experiences – we want to make the green screen better. We brought in the green screen a few years ago to place people in their favourite TV shows or films with the actor, and that was a big hit. Now were looking to take that one step further.
We’re always looking at how geeky we can get with things.
We introduced a Lego zone and realised it’s a thing people would like to see.
How do you assess whether you have the right experiences for visitors at your shows?
We are very fortunate that our community like to talk so we get a fairly quick idea how we have done. Even before the event. From the announcement of guest appearances we get good feedback.
Our visitors wear their hearts on their sleeves. It goes both ways but that’s a good thing.
Showmasters’ managing director Jason Joiner always says “we make mistakes but never make them twice” but that’s what drives us on. If we do make a misjudgment we quickly fix it.
We are very fluid on how we operate, ready to adapt.
How do safety measures affect the experience?
We gave our guests the options of protective screens if they wanted them. But it’s also just as important to make sure our customers are feeling safe.
What is coming up next for Showmasters?
We have London Film and Comic Con (8-10 July) at Olympia.
And hopefully going back to the normal size with our summer event – we are hoping to bring some really fun and exciting things to the show. Christopher Lloyd in appearing and there will be a Scalextric feature.
That will be a big draw and Back to the Future always does well. Scalextric will also be launching a Back to the Future set.
Universal Pictures will be back promoting the Minions.
It’s good to see the brands confident about coming back. Knowing we’re going into summer with two big brands is great. We just need to get that confidence fully back up and bring the normal back – which is strange for a geek event. Maybe we need to get the abnormal back.