I tried something new in my wig panels at Animuc this year (April 26–28, 2019). For the first time ever, I polled my audience to learn who they are, and what they like or don’t like about my panel.
Both wig panels – Perücken 1×1 (Wigs 101) and Perücken hoch² (Wigs² – Level Up) – have been developed and tested at multiple cons over the years, but I believe there’s always room for improvement. I was curious to learn more, so I came up with a questionnaire that people could fill in during the panels. It was well received, and I’m excited to share my insights with you!
- How I conducted the poll
- Audience, who are you?
- What’s so good about my panels
- What I can do better
- Future developments
To give you the highlights: close to 100% of participants gave me a positive review, confirming that my wig panels are easy to understand, with clear demonstrations and just the right mix of interesting topics.
The majority of my audience are between 18 and 24 years old and they have little to no wig-styling experience, but they do shop for cosplay wigs online. For most I am the first person to teach them about wigs at a live panel.
Next, I’ll talk about how I approached this little research project before we dive into my findings.
How I conducted the poll
I designed a questionnaire with a total of 18 items: 14 multiple-choice questions as well as 4 free-text “bonus” questions allowing people to leave comments.
The questionnaire is on paper and completely anonymous. I handed it out at the end, or close to the end of my presentation and allowed about 3–5 minutes for people to fill it in quietly. They were free to take more time since my panels end with an open Q&A and book sale. (Note: Although the questionnaire is short with easy questions, polling still takes valuable time that I can’t use to teach. It went more smoothly in the second panel because I was more organized, and the panel is 1.5 hours long so I wasn’t pressed for time. This is something I can’t do at every con though.)
Participation in the poll was voluntary, of course! I’m very happy with the turnout. As an incentive, everyone who handed in the questionnaire at the end of the panel would receive a signed cosplay print of their choice, and almost every attendee took me up on the offer. (Note: this caused quite a commotion at my table, so when I repeat this poll, I’ll come up with a more simple goodie or drastically reduce the number of prints to choose from!)
In my two wig panels at Animuc, I received a total of 45 completed questionnaires. All of them were analyzed by typing the results into a simple Excel spreadsheet. The graphs you see below are created directly from this data in Excel, no specialized apps were used.
Audience, who are you?
The first questions aimed at getting to know my audience better. How old are they, where do they buy their wigs and how much experience do they bring to the table?
An overwhelming majority is in their late teens or early twenties. On average, they’re younger than my Facebook audience (where the 18–24 and 25–34 cohorts equally take up nearly 40%). That isn’t too surprising since FB is less popular with teens these days.
I’m happy to say that my live panels reach more young people, who may be new to the hobby but are already old enough to spend their own money on wigs and cosplay supplies!
I kept the demographics to a minimum and focused on wig-related questions instead. An interesting finding is that for most participants, this was their first ever panel about wigs. In my 1×1 (Wigs 101) panel, a whopping 94% said this was their first!
Even in my second panel that weekend (Wigs²) 58% said they had never attended another wig panel before.
That doesn’t mean they don’t wear wigs: only 7% of participants said they’d never bought a wig before. Most could name two or more online shops where they buy their wigs, with amazon and eBay being the most popular platforms. I see a lot of untapped potential here as cosplayers begin to look for higher quality wigs and hairpieces that they can style according to their needs.
Although I’ve seen some seasoned cosplay veterans sit in my panels and enjoy them, the poll at Animuc showed that overall, people came to me with little to no wig-styling experience. 27% had never styled a single wig, 40% had styled one or two. And that includes both the basic and advanced styling panels!
To me, this means two things:
- Never mind that I’ve been teaching wig-styling panels for over 10 years, they’re still an important part of every cosplay-oriented convention – and for many cosplayers, I could be the first person to talk to them about wigs.
- It’s been a good idea to tailor my panels to a broad audience, and make sure to include basic wig facts and easy-to-follow instructions even in my more advanced tutorials. I can’t stress enough how important it is to not assume “well I don’t have to say/show/explain that, they’ll already know for sure!”
What’s so good about my panels
Of course, the main purpose of this poll was to get feedback on my panels. I came up with 8 simple questions about my teaching style, quality of the presentation, choice of content and the value I provide to my audience. I presented my audience with short statements that they were asked to rate on a scale from 1 to 4 (1=do not agree at all, 4=fully agree).
I’m listing only the highlights and main critique point here, but overall there is very little room for improvement.
98.5% said that my panel had taught them something they could use for their own projects.
100% felt that audience questions had been answered. I think I can always do better to engage the audience while I teach, but at least I make sure to encourage questions in-between chapters or topics, rather than saving them all for the Q&A at the end.
100% found my explanations easy or relatively easy to understand, 98% said the demonstrations were clear. I’m so happy about this feedback because I constantly strive to make my panels more straightforward, streamlined and visual!
I combine live demonstrations of basic techniques with step-by-step photos in a powerpoint presentation, complete with examples of styled wigs from my portfolio. I can’t bring all of these wigs with me to conventions, but I try to make up for it with clear pictures (many of them taken for my books) and by handing out material samples or prototypes that people can touch with their own hands.
The comments I received on my bonus questions include suggestions on what else to show or bring to the con. I’ll scan the list and see what else I can fit in my toolbox!
What I can do better
The topic where I did least well is the entertainment factor. People were gentle with me but the numbers show that this is the area where I can improve the most.
Yes, the main purpose of my panels is education, not entertainment. Still, it’s important to sustain people’s attention, and I know that we remember facts much better if we are emotionally engaged and use all of our senses.
Alas! I’m a painfully rational person, so my best bet to make my panels more engaging is to structure the presentation accordingly: make room for audience questions; force myself to interact with the audience by asking them a question, their opinion, or encouraging them to share their own experience with a topic; find out which topics are the most useful to them, and which live demonstrations catch their attention, in order to fine-tune the learning schedule and get rid of boring stuff.
The open bonus questions in my poll helped me gain insights on this: which topic or tip was the most interesting to you, and what bored you? Which topics did you miss? Any tips on how I can do better?
I have yet to analyze the various comments in this section, but I’ve already seen some valid criticism and ideas for future tutorials. Stay tuned!
The comments in particular will help me prioritize ideas for new panel and tutorial topics. I also got a few ideas which topics I might shorten, drop entirely or on the contrary, expand upon! This is something I often do when I come home from a con and I feel that the panel could have gone more smoothly. My presentations are a work in progress.
The big challenge is to find the right mix of topics that will neither bore you to death, nor overwhelm the beginners. Polling data suggests that I’m already very good at this, but I do have my blind spots. For example, I focus on female styles, and while the basic techniques are useful for pretty much any style, I understand that people focussing on male characters would love to learn more about things like spiking, creating very short wigs or realistic hairlines.
Here’s another challenge: how to speak to different interests in a limited amount of time. I already have a specialized panel about ponytail wigs and foam core styles, but should I make another about techniques I’m not as comfortable with? Or encourage other cosplayers to offer these panels instead? I would sit down and watch a good spiking or ventilating workshop any day!
As for the poll itself, I will definitely repeat it at future conventions. I have quite a full schedule this year so there will be more opportunities to ask people for their opinion. Due to time constraints, I won’t be doing it at every con though.
I am fully aware that the data I gathered speaks for one convention only and can’t represent my target audience as a whole. Although cosplayers travel from all over Germany and neighboring countries to visit big conventions like Animuc, a large percentage of the visitors were probably from the Southern Bavarian region, and for some this is the only con they visit all year. It would be interesting to compare data from multiple cons and to see if my conclusions hold up when I poll a larger number of people.
Curious to attend my wig panels? Check out my convention schedule for 2019 to see if I’ll be coming to a con near you!