With 2011 in full effect, so has begun Con season. While so far it has been mainly industry and media events like Toy Fair or this week’s Game Developers Conference, the big boys like C2E2, San Diego Comic-Con and the New York Comic Con are all just around the corner. And while most of The Flickcast have earned our geek merit badges (as well as Foursquare badges) by surviving numerous conventions, we realize not everyone has had the chance to experience the Con world like we have.
The world of conventions can even be a little intimidating. While shows like Wizard World can be good day trips where someone can just go in and out, others like San Diego are week long vacations that take some actual time and planning. To help prepare Con goers, we have put together this post loaded with advice for both new and veteran geek adventurers.
Know Your Con
As mentioned before, some cons are large epic events while others can be treated as just quick day trips. When picking your Con, make sure you know which of these two categories it falls into. Don’t expect to see San Diego Comic-Con all in one day.
It will be damn near impossible to spend any decent amount of time at every booth that catches your interest if you are only there for one day. Plus, you won’t have any time for autograph signings, panels or other con events as you will just be rushing through to see a little of everything but not having enough time to really enjoy any of it.
On the same token, smaller shows like ComiCONN, a local level show with only a hundred or so booths, don’t have nearly as many special events going on, or fellow con goers to wade through. Planning a full weekend around the con alone might leave someone looking for more to do.
Along with knowing about the overall Con, it never hurts to do some research in advance about the specific events that will be happening there. Most cons will post a full schedule for autograph signings and panels in advance so people can plan out their day in advance.
This is a tremendous help if you go in knowing what celebrity you want to take a picture with or when Marvel’s Joe Quesada will be speaking instead of just arriving the day of and being overwhelmed by the number of options laid out in front of you. San Diego Comic-Con has done a great job of using technology to help aid in this process through both their website and iPhone app.
It is also a good idea to know the area your con is taking place in. There are often after parties within proximity to the convention that may be a hassle for someone to attend if their hotel is on the other side of town. And also, just because you go somewhere for a convention, it doesn’t mean your life has to revolve around it. Take some time to visit and enjoy local hot spots, especially if you are traveling to get to the Con to an area you don’t often get to visit.
This one cannot be understated. The bigger the con, the more important part pacing will take in your experience. Don’t try and cram in everything under the sun. It isn’t going to work. Panels get delayed. Autograph signing celebrities run late. Entire aisles get closed off so an army of Predators can march through. It’s just a fact of the con. Make sure to give yourself time to get from points A to B. If you don’t, you may not even get in to the panel you want or you’ll find yourself at the end of a four hour line to get Anthony Daniels autograph.
For the bigger cons, pace yourself with the afterhours partying as well. Everyone who has been to San Diego can give a story about one night early in the weekend that they pushed (and drank) too much and it made their next day miserable. As with any party, con or not, know your limits or be prepared to suffer the consequences.
Along with pacing yourself, make sure you try to eat properly. Sure, a pretzel dog sounds like a good idea at the time but after a weekend of nothing but those, Red Bull and ice cream, your body isn’t going to want to do you any more favors. Try to get at least two decent meals a day and keep a protein bar or two handy. Also, bring a bottle of water with you if you can. Food and drinks on the con floor are expensive and a weekend’s worth of food could be the difference between that first edition Amazing Spider-Man #299 you have been pining over.
Your con experience can be made or broken by the people you go with. If you go with a friend who shares your interest in the world of geekdom, you will most likely have a great time being able to be in awe of the spectacle together as opposed to going with your girlfriend who could care less about the con. Nothing can bring down someone’s excitement like someone else crushing it immediately with their own lack of enthusiasm.
If you don’t have someone to go with, try social networking groups like Meetup.com or attend events hosted by your favorite websites. The Flickcast does a yearly tweet-up at San Diego for all readers of the site to come and meet their favorite writers. These can be great places to meet likeminded individuals.
Don’t Stand Still
Just to make it clear, this doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to stop and take a breather, snap a picture or check out the big event taking place at one of the booths. What it does mean is get out of the way. The bigger the convention, the more people there will be. The more people there will be, the more congestion. And the more congestion, the more angry people. It’s kind of like how Yoda explains fear leading to suffering.
You do not want to be the cause of all of that, so pick your spots. If you can avoid it, try to stay out of the way of your fellow con goers. Between people carrying around expensive purchases and wearing big, over the top costumes, there is already little room to go around. Avoiding being in the way of other people will help improve the con experience for yourself and anyone around you as well.
At any major con, you are going to be surrounded by lots of other people with smart phones in venues that have terrible reception all why scanning websites and using apps to keep up to date on the latest news. As a result, your battery on your phone is going to be drained… fast. It is not unheard of for people to need to recharge a phone two to three times a day at San Diego. This is one of the times where the battery extender or instant charger can come in handy.
Also, make sure your camera is fully charged with room on the memory card. The last thing you want is to see something big revealed or walk past an amazing costume and not get to snap a picture or record video because your battery is flashing red.
One of the great things about conventions is that even though everything there has the same central geeky theme, there will still be new things there for anyone to experience. Whether its sitting in on a panel of editors from Marvel or DC discussing the latest event or a group of zombie enthusiasts talking about the latest zombie survival techniques, there is a little of everything at a con. Q & A’s are usually pretty entertaining depending on the personality leading them so those are highly recommended.
If You Cosplay…
This is coming from the perspective of someone who doesn’t dress up for cons. First off, we really do appreciate the time and effort cosplayers and costume contest participants put in to their gear. It gives us some great photos and memories of the con. All we ask is that you be courteous to those around you.
Sometimes your props are way too big and in the way. Do you really need the eight and a half foot tall scythe? Probably not. You also didn’t need to sharpen the edge so it nearly kills anyone you awkwardly bump into because it is so heavy it throws you off balance.
Take a lesson from Bucky Cap, Homeless Skeletor or Leisure Jacket Darth Vader and Boba Fett. The simple costumes are the best ones. People will appreciate your efforts more for something creative, rather than something that just gets in their way. Especially when it is all the anime stuff that most of us have no idea what the hell you actually are supposed to be.
And most importantly, no furries. (shudders)