Attending an anime convention is exciting and a great time to celebrate something we’ve loved. But behind every convention, there is a dedicated team working to make sure the show runs smoothly. We had the opportunity to interview Crunchyroll Event Manager Lauren Stevens at Anime Central in Chicago.
Anime Trending: Can you introduce yourself and what you do?
Lauren: Sure! My name is Lauren Stevens and I’m Crunchyroll’s Events Manager. I make booths.
AT: Alright, so what brought you into the position that you’re currently in?
Lauren: So a while back, Funimation actually had a volunteer program and I volunteered for them and knew that I wanted to get into anime somehow. But, voice acting was not for me. Voice acting requires not only to act, but to be able to act without your body. It’s very hard. So that wasn’t the avenue for me. I asked a bunch of the different staff there, “Hey, what do you do in the company? What did you go to school for? How did you get into this industry?” And there’s no one true path. There wasn’t one way to get into the anime industry.
Adam Sheehan, who’s actually the Director of Events, was my mentor at the time, and he said, “Go out and do events. If you want to do events, go do all events. Anything you can get your hands on, you know, don’t just do anime conventions. Go do a little bit of everything.” And that’s actually what I went and did. I went and did a bunch of different events.
I decided to go to college for business administration because I knew I wanted a business background somehow, and that’s actually the overarching one that gets you a little bit of everything. You get marketing. You get ethics and accounting, and you literally touch everything. So, I went and did that.
I went and got myself involved with a group called Sypher Arts Studio — they actually put on the Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade Ball down in Southern California. It’s the biggest masquerade ball in North America. I started doing events with them, and an opportunity opened at Crunchyroll. I applied, and I got the job!
AT: Sounds like a lot of stuff leading up to where you are now.
Lauren: I really enjoy events.
AT: I can tell.
Lauren: That’s something where I figured out what I wanted to do, and I started pursuing that avenue. Anime is almost an ancillary though. It’s something where- if you narrow your focus to only getting into anime, it is really hard. If you look in North America, there are very few anime companies, but if you look at entertainment as a whole, it’s a lot easier to get into that sort of an avenue in terms of events.
AT: I see. So a lot of con attendees only ever see the finished product of what you put together.
Lauren: They do.
AT: What goes into putting together these kinds of booths?
Lauren: Months. Months of time. If I’m lucky, more than months of time. We have a giant to-do list. If you knew nothing about how to do a convention, it will tell you everything you need to do.
We have a really great relationship with our brand management team, so we talk with them about what shows they are looking to promote, and then we start to build activations off of that. We know we have a lot of awesome fans, so we like to do 30-day free trials and try to learn more about our fans. We’re interested in finding out, “Hey, do you engage with any of our activations? What did you like? What didn’t you like?” That way we can start shaping things further down the line.
My favorite thing is that people will be like, “Oh yeah, it seems really easy to do events.” And I say, “Do you know how electrical gets to your booth?” They go, “What?” And I reply, “Yeah, it doesn’t just show up. You have to order things and you have to get these it in advance.”
Signage takes time. Design takes time. If there’s anything that we want, we have to work with our internal teams with much longer timelines than you would think. This does not pop up overnight, I promise. It does have a lot of anxiety-induced nights for all of us because we go, “Oh no, what about this one thing that I didn’t think about before and that’ll impact this? How does that work?”
AT: Oh wow! That’s quite a lot. How do you endure the conventions?
L: It’s a lot. Definitely, one of the things that help us out a lot is we staff as best as we can. Here’s a good example, we have a tower of slimes activation. Ideally, I’d like to have three staff. If I have three staff there, it’s not really a stressful pain point and it makes it better for everyone involved working on it. It’s not a relaxed day for sure, but it’s not as grueling as you would think it is when you’re staffed properly.
We actually bring out some elite staffers to help us out at our booths. They’re all wearing shirts like mine. And that really helps a lot to keep everything going, especially when it’s something along the lines of, “Oh I have to run and go do a panel, but it’s during exhibit hall hours, who’s going to take care of the booth?” I have a team for that now.
AT: Excellent. What is the most rewarding part of the job for you?
L: I think that the most rewarding thing is fan feedback. When you hear someone say, “Oh I’ve always wanted to do something like this! This is the best part of my convention.” That really makes me feel good because I’m the one that goes months in advance and goes, “Hey, hear me out, I have a crazy idea. What if, we build a tower of slimes?” Or, “Hey, I have an idea. There are rage rooms out there, but what if we do something a bit more family-friendly and we do it with Shield Hero because I love the show.” I actually am a fan, a lot of us at the company are fans. I’ve watched all of these shows that are at our booths today.
So, I’m asking, “Hey look, it’s Shield Hero. He has to grind at level one with a shield, and he tries to fight balloon monsters, and it doesn’t go so great for him. What if we bring that experience to our fans? What if they get a chance to do it on their own? That would be something I’d want to do. Maybe can we kinda do it? Please?”
Then, I have to go through a lot in order to get these things approved. We have to work with their licensors, and these things do cost money, so I have to make full budget breakdowns. But when people tell me that it made a difference to them, like with the Bananya Pool or something that we have right now, that’s really touching for us.
One of my favorite moments actually was with Nagano-san, who’s the creator of Bananya. She was able to go to Crunchyroll Expo last year, which is where we launched the Banaya Pool, which was another one of my weird, crazy ideas, and she brought her parents with her. They all got to go into the pool together and she was so happy, and she had this moment where her parents could see what she created. And that was really touching to me, that I could bring something so great to her. She actually follows the Bananya Pool everywhere it goes and posts it on her blog. She takes pictures and reposts everybody’s photos there and it’s so impactful for her that it’s like, “Oh, I did something that meant something to somebody.”
I can’t draw, and I can kinda sew, but I can do something other people don’t get to do. I get to build fun things.
AT: That’s awesome. Well thank you so much.
L: Thank you!
AT: It was great to learn about all the work that you do.
L: Do you want to see some of them?
AT: I would love to see some of the stuff, yeah.
L: Alright, perfect! Let’s do a tour.