Dallas Ft. Worth - Washington D.C. - Seattle - New Orleans
PARAWORLD CANCELLED AND OTHER CONVENTION CAVEATS
Yes, it's true. One of the largest and most ambitious paranormal conferences ever has been officially cancelled with no warning whatsoever. While I was a more than a little skeptical about the 250,000 expected attendance, it still sounded interesting and I was willing to promote it and give them a chance. However, ParaWorld consistently disappointed us in this and several other areas of client relations.
I am certain that ParaWorld has many sincere individuals who wished for this to go off smoothly and I know the rest of us did too. I don't have the full story of what happened, but regardless I am concerned with a few salient points.
1) Repeated broken promises on their part
2) Not submitting some form of explanation on the website instead of leaving us to guess as to the true status of the event or their intentions.
3) A general lack of apology about the whole affair
Addressing the first part, let me clarify my feelings on link exchanges. SPI prides itself on building relationships rather than just trying to "shotgun" our name all over then net. We have groups approach us all the time to add their banner or text link to our site which we are almost always happy to do. On occasion, we make friends with an organization and we always add their link, though sometimes absentmindedness does come into play and someone forgets.
I am fine with this, as we always cut our friends slack, right? But for those who approach us with the sole intent of commercial promotion, I hold to a higher standard. I see this scenario again and again - someone plans an event or starts a ghost group and then "spams" every other ghost organization in existence with the message: " Will you link with us?" "Will you link with us?"
There is nothing wrong with promoting your site as long as it is a two way street, you have something of value to offer to the community, and you pay a little bit of individual attention to the site owner that you are writing. At least compliment them on their graphics design or information (and if they have nothing notable - why do you wish to link with them in the first place?) and above all, do not write more than one group at a time if you can help it. It is considered rude to lump dozens of ghost groups in a "Dear Occupant" style of letter all at once, as if you couldn't be bothered to write them individually.
Which brings me to the salient point of holding up the other end of the link exchange. I became very exasperated with ParaWorld as they still had not put up our link months after they had initially approached us and we had put theirs up. They got a lot of traffic from all of the sites they contacted because those sites went to the trouble of posting the ParaWorld link, but when it came time for ParaWorld to follow through on their responsibility, the ball was totally dropped even after I contacted them again and again.
Whether or not it was their intention, the underlying message I got from them was: "We got ours, so to hell with the rest of you." Given this sort of unprofessional behavior, I am not surprised that the conference collapsed. I do not point this out as a type of whining or acting as if we are unfairly persecuted, but it is a SYMPTOM to watch out for if you are dealing with an unknown organization and you need to gauge their intentions and/or competence.
Above all, I take some responsibility for letting SPI get taken advantage of. In the future, I will require all such commercial interests to post our link first before we reciprocate. I highly resent having to waste my time checking on a site repeatedly and emailing them to see why our link isn't up yet. Again, this does not apply to friends of SPI or those whom we approach first. I am fine with my pals being a little forgetful as long as it gets taken care of eventually.
Also, I find the lack of explanation on the website (there is only an error message) to be fairly inconsiderate given the suddenness of the decision. Many people probably made travel plans, bought tickets, etc. though I understand those who pre-registered are supposed to get their money back. Let this be a cautionary tale for those who are thinking about investing themselves too heavily in a conference.
In the past two weeks, I have seen three out of four events in this area that were planned for this autumn get cancelled.
My advice is to talk to those who are hosting the event - if you don't get clear, satisfactory answers in fairly short order, then don't bank on it happening. It's okay to think about going, but be very cautious about buying airline tickets or plunking down any other kind of money. It is generally safer to go with events that have run successfully more than once, rather than a brand new startup. Try finding others that have attended and get their feedback. I'm not trying to kill off interest in a fresh, creative effort, but I also want to be fair to those who might stumble over the logistics.
In what was probably a response to my final complaint on September 6th, it appears that ParaWorld is finally sending out emails notifying the ghost community about the cancellation. While I am glad to see that they will refund everyone, there is a general lack of apology about the entire affair. Notice the phrase below "We are sorry to hear about YOUR situation" and in the cancellation they only mention they regret that they had to cancel. (as in "we regret we couldn't make any money at this") No "We are sorry for the inconvenience" or anything like that.
So as for ParaWorld Expo, I am truly sorry to hear things didn't work out, but henceforward I will have to treat them with a healthy measure of skepticism until they have earned our trust and goodwill back.
By way of documentation, below is a copy of the final email exchange between us.
ParaWorld's response to below: We are very sorry about
your situation. The Board of Directors have canceled this event.
Hello ParaWorld Expo,