The moment you step in front of a convention building, you will be overwhelmed. There’s a woman in amazing full body paint you have to talk to. There’s a man dressed like Thor whose picture you need to get. You need to talk to that vendor, and this actor, and that cosplayer, and by the time you’ve caught your breath, you realize you’ve missed the panel you wanted to see, and if anyone gets between you and food, you will shred their costume.
Here are a few good rules to put into practice before attending a convention:
- Know where you’re going.
There will be panels you want to see and actors you want pictures with. Learn the map. Know how long it will take you to get from A to B and double the time. There will be thousands of people between you and Felicia Day, so prepare yourself. Know where the food is. Know where bathrooms are.
Know where parking is and have a backup.
- Know who you want to see.
Good conventions boast amazing guest stars. If you want a picture or autograph of one, I highly suggest purchasing one before you go. They sell out. Don’t break your heart. Lining up for meet-and-greets usually start an hour beforehand. The popularity of the talent will directly affect the length of the line, so get there BEFORE they start lining up so you can jump in as soon as they call it. Be prepared to stand in line a few hours, as well. Get snacks or bathroom breaks first. Stan Lee doesn’t want to see your pee-pee dance.
Know which panels you want to see before you go, too. You would hate to miss the Summer Glau panel because you’re getting your picture with a Captain America lookalike. Panels are a GREAT place to get off your feet for a while as well, which brings us to point 3.
- Know what you’re wearing.
Most people wear costumes or supportive fandom apparel to a convention. It’s highly encouraged. This is a great place to see the incredible costumers you had no idea lived around you. If you chose to wear a costume, consider the following:
Test the costume out before you wear it out. Spend half the day in it. See how it moves when you sit.
Can you get out of it to use the bathroom? Do you have to add a hidden satchel to carry things? Will the footwear leave you crippled after a few hours? (Yeah, that one’s from experience.) Will a wing-span or back-rig get hung up in the crowds? Can you carry 20+lbs on your back for 8 hours? Can you bring in that sword without a sheath? Do you have a backup costuming piece if something fails? Did you bring backup batteries, or are they in the car and your feet are crippled and you don’t want to walk that far and you stuffed the wrong kind in your bra? (That one might be from experience too…) Will the convention allow your suit to light on fire?
Some conventions have a costuming first aid station where you can make quick alterations. If your costume does not allow for a satchel or bag, see if a friend will carry your things. I always build pockets in to carry a wallet, phone, and keys, just in case.
If you’re not on your feet all day every day, then chances are your body going to enjoy it. Good footwear is essential. Understand that regardless of the precautions you take, you’re going to be sore and worn out by the end of the day. I don’t want to be a drug pusher, but consider bringing pain killers or anti-inflammatories.
If costumes aren’t your thing, go comfortably. Now is that chance to wear that Wolverine hoodie or those sneakers with the wings in the laces. It is an unwritten rule that costumers don’t make fun of other costumers, and at a convention, we’re all family. We appreciate the effort you make, and even if you think you look ridiculous with your face painted to look like Mystique, we think you look amazing and appreciate the effort.
This is the one place you can go and not get made fun of. Go be that person you want!
- Eat, drink.
It is SO easy to go through a con forgetting the essentials. If you haven’t peed in the last eight hours, go drink something. I know. You’re sneering at me. So gross. But I’m serious. Keeping hydrated is paramount if you’re going to survive, and it will make recovering the next day much less painful.
Don’t wait until the last minute to get food, because remember, that food is on the other side of the hall between you and all God’s people. Or is it? Did you memorize the map? Now you’re hangry and that cute little Ariel is going to die. THIS is why they won’t let us carry weapons…
- Carry cash.
Most vendors will have electronic strips on their tablets and phones, but it’s so much easier to hand over a fiver for that beer you need. (I told you to drink. I don’t care what it is.) Plus, do you really want six $5 transactions for beer on your credit statement? It might raise questions from significant others…
- Be nice.
That vendor soliciting you has already been snapped at. Politely answer. That girl’s crown is crooked and she can’t tell. Offer to fix it. That boy was up all night hot-gluing his cardboard armor together, and he feels amazing about it. Don’t give him any reason to think otherwise. That overweight woman with the cellulite should have reconsidered a unitard, but you don’t get to tell her that. If you see someone in need, offer assistance. At a convention, we’re all family. Everyone has stepped outside their comfort zone to come to a place they can be accepted. Plus, you want all these people back next year. No people means no convention and no fun for you.
To summarize, know the lay of the convention and where essential things you need and will want to see are. Eat, drink, and pee (DO IT!). Know costume regulations, and how your costume will wear through the day. Be courteous to all. Adhere to these rules, and you’ll have a great time. If you don’t then go find that Thor lookalike you first saw and make him sweep you off your feet.