By Wil Wright
Convention season is in full swing! July gave us San Diego Comicon and both Dragon Con and PAX West start next week. New York ComiCon is coming up fast in October with BlizzCon hot on its heels. These big festivals plus dozens of local conventions throughout the country happen over the summer and fall. Come spring, we can look forward to PAX South, WonderCon and more. With exciting franchises in comics, books, television and film, it’s a great time to be a fan and a convention goer. Before you head down to the event, make sure you read these tips for a successful convention experience.
Before You Go:
1- Plan your time out in advance. While it can be fun to aimlessly wander the event hall, having a few key activities and panels decided in advance will help make sure you don’t miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
2- Use the official and trusted unofficial sites to help sift through all the information. San Diego ComiCon, for example, has both a quality official blog and a well-respected unofficial blog full of insider tips like how to get some of the most coveted convention-exclusive merchandise. Reading up on this kind of info will save you headaches and heartaches in the long run. This information can also include panels or games that require sign-ups ahead of time!
3- Find a buddy. If you are going with friends, you’re all set! But if you’re heading to a con solo, there is no reason not to be social. Many groups post links for meet ups on their social media.
4- Pack smart, dress smart; comfort first, style second. Or dress for style first if you want, just recognize that ultimately it may keep you from doing all the things you want to do. Blisters aren’t fun, and a good pair of insoles no matter your foot attire will go a long way, even in normally less-than-comfortable costume boots.
While You’re There:
1- Absolute priority: stay hydrated. Most cons will allow you to bring water and small snacks in from outside, or will provide either concessions, a con suite, or free water in panel rooms. We all get engrossed in all the stuff at conventions and it can be easy to let drinking water slip to the bottom of the priority list. Don’t let it! You will lose energy before that midnight D&D panel and wish you had taken better care of yourself!
2- Make buddies in line. You can save spots while you go to the bathroom, help each other buy merchandise with purchase limits, and learn about cool goings-on you might have missed. Plus there is always a chance you make a friend for life!
3- Take lots of pictures. You think you are going to remember all the cool things you saw – and you may remember most – but if you take lots of pictures, you’ll have permanent, indelible mementos.
4- Be safe. If your Spidey Sense goes off, listen to it. Conventions are generally filled with really cool people that are into many of the same things as you, but bad things can happen at any big gathering. Stay safe, and be aware of your surroundings. Don’t be afraid to hurt someone’s feelings by saying “back off!” if you need to. Also, con staff are there to help; don’t hesitate to involve them.
5- Be respectful. You’ll see a lot of people wearing costumes, and that can be one of the great things about conventions! But they are people, too, and they are expressing their art; they are not there for ogling, and definitely not for touching. Ask before taking a picture them and be respectful! Also be aware of the area and try not to hinder foot traffic while you snap your shot.
When You’re Home:
1- Name and sort your pictures while they are fresh in your mind so years from now you will still remember that amazing Nebula costumer from NYCC 2017, or that off the wall indie game from PAX East 2025!
2- Realize that you may have some post-con blues. It is so immersive to be at a convention, and it can really feel like a homecoming to be with so many like-minded nerds. Sometimes coming back to reality can be a shock. That’s normal and it passes.
There are dozens of other tips you can find by doing a web search for convention tips, or looking on the websites of the con you’re going to, doing some research on the convention locale for restaurants or off-site activities to help recharge. These are just a few things that I hope will help you to have a memorable convention season in 2017 and beyond!