Anthony Daniels

My First Convention Experience as a Publicist

By Nikki Darling, TrizCom PR

This past spring, TrizCom PR signed Fan Expo Dallas as a new client. Fan Expo Dallas was formerly known as Dallas comic con – the largest convention for lovers of comics, sci-fi, horror, anime, gaming and more in the state of Texas. They were in need of a PR team, and we were there to offer our expertise and team of creative individuals to get the job done and exceed expectations.

My not-so-inner nerd was nothing less than stoked to work on this account. However, I knew it was going to be a learning experience, because I had not previously done PR for a big event or convention. This was going to be a first for me.

The weeks and months leading up to the convention were full of observing and learning from my superiors. I worked with them while they guided me on strategies in order to fulfill the objectives established for the event. I learned a lot about promoting a major event: I learned how different it was from a regular brand management client or PR retainer client. By the end of the convention, my head physically hurt from all of the information I took in – either that or from sleep deprivation.

However, nothing could compare to how exhilarating working the actual convention would be. I basically lived at the convention center that weekend. Seriously, I should have brought a sleeping bag and pillow for how much I was there. But I loved every minute of it.

Our team was responsible for signing in the media, giving them credentials, taking them on tours of the convention center and, of course, arranging for any onsite interviews. Not only did it feel nice to stand behind the check-in table and help dictate protocol, but it was really neat to be able to connect with the members of the media I have been pitching and idolizing for so long. Making those connections was extremely beneficial and having the opportunity to arrange interviews and make their lives easier was an added bonus

Fun fact: I also got to meet Anthony Daniels, the actor that plays C3PO in all Star Wars movies. He was a gem and even had his own mini C3PO to hold up in pictures. We took him around Dallas for different interviews and he was so willing to take a picture with anyone who walked past! 

I ran around that convention center for three days, making sure I always knew what was going on at all times while constantly scouting for media opportunities. Any time a reporter said thanks or had a look of relief come across their face when they secured an interview, I had a little adrenaline rush. I was able to do what I did every day in an office at one of the coolest conventions in Texas while interacting face to face with media. I had many moments where I felt very proud to be a part of my company and very thankful for these kinds of opportunities. Talk about rewarding.

The real fun (and nerves) came the last day of the convention when the internet-famous Chewbacca Mom was making an appearance. We anticipated the morning to be rather slow in terms of media attendance simply because it was the very last day and most of the media had already checked in. However, our previous pitching efforts paid off and, before I knew it, we were hosting four local television crews – ABC, CBS, CW and Fox. They were all there to catch Chewbacca Mom meeting the real Chewbacca, Peter Mayhew, for the first time on camera.

Before this weekend, I had not worked directly with camera crews, so working with four was a bit overwhelming at first but quickly became almost second nature. I was able to guide their shots during Chewbacca Mom’s meeting with Peter Mayhew and direct their coverage with knowledge of the event’s programming. Preparation, in this case, was key. Knowing the timing of the event, layout of the space and technical capabilities of the venue allowed me to deliver the need-to-know info quickly to the TV crews. No time was wasted.

Following the Chewbacca event, I made my way backstage where I sat down with Chewbacca Mom, Candace Payne, to prepare her for one-on-one interviews with local media stations. She was the sweetest lady, and I was so glad to meet her.

We led the cameras over to a table behind which stood a step and repeat with Fan Expo Dallas’ logo plastered all over it. There was no way we were going to have four cameras interview someone without the Fan Expo Dallas logo in sight. Our team manned the area, ensuring no fans somehow made their way back or no passerby ruined our shot. We were in the backstage celebrity area of the convention center. So it felt ironic to me that while the news crews were interviewing Chewbacca Mom, celebrities like Lucy Hale (my favorite), the Phelps twins, Jack Gleeson and Rob Schneider all walked past – some even whispering in wonderment that they were seeing Chewbacca Mom in real life.

Chewbacca Mom finished up her interviews, and we led the press into the main convention area for b-roll coverage and interviews with attendees. When all was said and done and the news crews packed up their tech gear, I made my way back to the press room – out of breath the whole time. I sat down behind the check-in table shaking and panting after my 2-hour long adrenaline rush from which we secured four television spots.

My public relations career has been a short one. I graduated from college about a year ago, so almost every opportunity thus far has turned into a learning moment for me. Hosting media, coordinating interviews and securing four television spots for my client was definitely the highlight so far. I even called my mom to tout my accomplishments of the weekend. All in all, the one thing I had to say to everyone who asked was “working that convention was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.” The experience was like nothing else, and the lessons I learned are far beyond any I could have prepared myself for.

Conventions are exhausting, I’ll be honest. But my goodness are they exciting.

Nikki Darling is a graduate of the University of North Texas where she received a B.A. in journalism with a concentration in public relations and a double minor in English and marketing. Her involvement with nonprofits in the community, mixed with her writing and design abilities, contribute greatly to her communication skills in the PR world. She is constantly striving to improve her knowledge of the industry by making the most out of every opportunity.