We’re barrelling into convention season, and I’ve had a few friends ask me my tips for going to cons. If you hadn’t noticed, I go to a lot of them. here in Oz and in the US. I’ve been going for a long time, and I have learned a lot from them. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and please feel free to add things in the comments! Also please keep in mind that I go to cons to cosplay and stalk comic book professionals mostly, but a lot of these tips hold true across the board.
1) Cons are expensive, bring cash. No, really, bring cash. A lot of people won’t have eftpos (especially not comic artists) and lines for ATM machines will be long – and usually the machines will run out. Food is expensive. Water is expensive. Prints from artists cost around $20 or so. Commissions cost (a lot) more. You will see things you want to buy. Are there stars you want autographs or pictures from? Those cost money too. There are toys and collectibles you may not be able to find elsewhere. Consider all of this before you go.
2) That being said, know your budget and do your research. If you only have $100 to spend over the weekend, you can survive! If you have $1000 there’s no reason to just throw it away on everything shiny. Look on websites, the cons, the artists, etc. Find out if people are pre-booking commissions or taking them on the day. Is getting that girl from Battlestar’s signature the most important thing? Then check how much that is and build the rest of your weekend around the signing times. Will you die if you don’t get Amanda Conner’s sketchbook or a sketch from Adam Hughes? Check out how they manage things, and make plans ahead of time.
3) Everything at a con takes longer than you think it would. Getting from one end of the hall to the other. Waiting in line for a signature. Waiting in line for a panel. Waiting for food. If you think you’re going to get from Hall H to Room 2A in 10 minutes between panels… Well, you’re wrong. This is of course exacerbated by the size of the show. The larger the show, the longer it takes. It’s taken me almost an hour to get from one end of the SDCC site to the other on a Saturday. At Armageddon it usually takes me 10-15 minutes but that can still be frustrating.
4) Food will suck. Seriously, most cons are held at convention centres. That means most food is provided by the convention centre vendors. It will be fried, expensive and unhealthy. (Plus, see above for lines). Bring a sandwich, a piece of fruit, some pretzels or cookies and a bottle of water. PLEASE bring a bottle of water. Drink it. Refill it. Do not pass out.
5) Check if the venue has a bag check or lockers. Don’t expect to have a place to stow all your stuff. Keep this in mind before you decide to bring your hardcover Wednesday comics or Absolute Edition whatever to be signed. You may be lugging it all day.
6) A central meeting place. I know this brings you back to the whole being a teenager and going somewhere with your parents, but you likely will get separated and having somewhere to meet is a GOOD thing. And don’t be afraid of splitting up! So what if your friend wants to see a panel on Fullmetal Alchemist and you’ve never even heard of it. Let them go. It’s likely they don’t want to see the retrospective on Joe Kubert either (though why they wouldn’t…)
7) If you’re cosplaying everything will take you three times longer. People will want photos, you will have to navigate wearing a costume, your shoes likely won’t be as comfortable, there will be costume malfunctions or makeup reapplications… I could go on!
8) PLAN THINGS! This is the most important thing and I know I sort of mentioned it before, but it’s key. Look up signing times (are they published before hand or each day?), who’s in artists alley, what booths you are interested in visiting and make a list. Prioritise it. Do you NEED to meet someone? Is getting Darwyn Cooke’s signature on your hardcover (and insanely HUGE) New Frontier the thing that will make your life? Do you need Gail Simone to sign your Birds of Prey trades more than anything else? Do you want to meet Jimmy Palmiotti and tell him he’s a goof? (Ahem, that may just be me). Then make a point of doing those things, and letting everything else fall by the wayside. As to panels, make a list of EVERY panel you want ot go to, and then throw 90% of them out. Pick the 1-2 a day you MUST see and make a point of getting there. Honestly, you will drive yourself crazy trying to do everything, and that’s a bad thing. Also, your weekend will vanish. No, really, it will! I got to NYCC on Friday during setup and the next thing I knew it was Sunday, I was exhausted and I hadn’t done half of what I wanted to. Even at smaller conventions I find I just run out of time. The best way to not be disappointed is to have two or three things each day you want to do and let everything else fall where it may.
9) Most importantly, be polite and considerant. The comic pros, the actors, anyone you meet, they’re all just people. They want to be treated with decency and respect same as us. Smile, be nice, don’t push through lines, don’t be rude and OH! Be extra nice to the volunteers. They’re giving up their time to make the con run. We loves them, my precious.
There you go. Nine tips to having fun at a con!