June 23, 2010

Surviving Conventions - A List of Tips

Whether it's your first, fifth, or bajillionth time attending a convention, you will probably learn something that will make your con experience a little better the next time around.  I continue to figure things out and pick up tips from others to make life easier at conventions.  If it's your first time going to a con, don't be dumb like I was and not read any of these kind of posts before hand.  I would have saved myself a lot of frustrated moments at my first SDCC if I would have done some research and realized important things like the food at the San Diego convention center sucks.  There are lots of posts and articles out there about this, I encourage you to look those up too.

Some of these tips are convention specific, but most of them are applicable to all and any kind of conventions.  I am sure you guys have awesome tips to share, please add yours in the comments and I will tack them on to this post (with your name/link of course).  I would love to have a gigantic list to share with the world. 

- Wear comfortable shoes.  No, really.  You'll be walking a lot.  If you're cosplaying in stilettos, carry a pair of flip flops for when your feet start aching.

- Pick a comfy bag/backpack for the con.  Even if you don't intend to, you'll probably end up buying things.  If you're like me, several things that are usually books.  If it's a new bag, test it out before you leave.  Put a handful of books in it and do a few laps around your house.  Your shoulders and back will thank you later.

- Get organized. Look at the panels and check out the list of artists and exhibitors. Pick first and second choices for panels, don't forget to set aside time for lines. Print an exhibit hall map and highlight the booths you want to visit most. It's easy to fall into a zombie shuffle in the hall and miss your favorites. If you want to commission an artist, go do that first before his or her schedule for the con is full. Realize that you are not going to be able to do everything you want, and that's okay.

- Pack protein bars and bottled water. San Diego convention center concessions are worthless (they make a bad soft pretzel). You'll be thankful for the snacks in the fourth hour of waiting in line for Kevin Smith.  Phoenix Comicon actually had decent concessions on site, but I was still grateful for granola bars in my purse.

- Drink said water.  I had one of the worst headaches of my life after a day of dehydration at SDCC.  The only time when a ton of water may not be appropriate is if you are wearing a costume that doesn't make bathroom breaks a fun time.


- Keep a plastic folder and sheet protectors in the giant messenger bag you take to the convention hall. You'll want to keep business cards, flyers, comics, and prints in good shape.  These poly file jackets are my favorites.

- Bring cash. The line for the ATM is sometimes long or at some conventions, it's just not super close.  A lot of vendors will take cards, but not as many as you would think in Small Press and Artist's Alley.

- Don't be a zombie.  At multi-day conventions, it's so easy to push yourself because you feel like you have to see it all.  You're not going to.  Let it go.  It's not worth it if you are walking around like a zombie not even absorbing any of it.  It's also not worth it if you are a grumpy, angry mess.  Cons are sensory overload, and your body and brain are not forgiving of it.  It's okay to miss stuff, I promise.

- Figure out the available parking and transportation before hand.  Some conventions may have ample, affordable, and close parking but not all of them.  If you're not staying at a nearby hotel, go to the convention site and read about the options - trolleys, light rail, etc.  I know, research sucks, but it will get you to the exhibit call that much faster.

- If you're cosplaying, pack a small bag for fixes.  It will depend on the costume(s) you're wearing, but bobby pins, a sewing kit, super glue, safety pins, elastic, and a mini stapler would not be amiss in addition to extra make-up if needed.

- Have pens, a Sharpie, and a sketchbook in your bag if possible.

- Hand sanitizer is your friend. Use it frequently. If I remember, I carry lotion too because sanitizer dries out my hands.

From readers

- Wear deodorant, bring wet wipes, and keep breath mints / gum. You actually will talk to other people while at the con. - Ana

- If you want to see a panel, get in line when the panel before the one you want to see starts. Jim Brooks

- Follow the 6/2/1 rule.  At least try for 6 hours of sleep. Eat 2 very good meals, and get 1 shower a day (the shower is the most important thing on the list cause, and this is from someone who has been on staff at a large convention and attended large conventions...really other folks can smell the BO) - T.R.

- Medicine. If you have prescription medicine that you are taking, make sure you have enough to last you through the convention, if not get a refill before you leave home. - T.R.

- LINES: Just deal with them! Don't complain. I meet the nicest people just waiting in lines. I bring cards and books and portable game devices to keep the kids entertained. Nanny Trish

- Find a good pocket backup battery solution for your device and have it fully charged and ready to use when needed. I can guarantee (personal experience) you'll kill an iPhone during a good day at a convention.
If you do find an empty socket, hang on to it until you are fully charged and don't let go until you check with all your friends. Shawn

- Take more than one Memory Card for your Camera. It'll fill up when you least expect it and that is the moment Murphy and Fate will team up to have your most favorite celebrity walk up and present a photo op. Shawn

- If you can get/afford a room then do so. Even if you live only 20mi away the drive back and forth late at night and early in the morning will drain you and waste precious recharge time (sleep). Shawn

Tell me your tips!

26 comments:

  1. Amy I reposted this awesome post over at my site. Great tips I really enjoyed the read. Wish I had read something like this BEFORE I went to my first con years ago.

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  2. deodorant and/or wet wipes...seriously.
    And breath mints. I realized after having an achingly bad fangirl moment that I also had wasabi pea breath. Oh, the shame.

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  3. More people need to remember to take a BATH and put on deodorant. Bad enough I put up with peeps like THAT in the Comic Book Store every Wednesday...much less at a convention.

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  4. My most important convention tip is this:

    If you want to see a panel, get in line when the panel before the one you want to see starts.

    Example: If you need to see the Venture Brothers panel, and it starts at 3:00pm, you should get in line for it at 1:00pm, when the Robot Chicken panel starts.

    At big conventions, like SDCC, NYCC and even PAX, there's going to be 60,000 people there, and the largest panel rooms hold maybe 5,000 people. If seeing a panel is a priority for you, expect to spend a while waiting in line. Bring your kindle, DS, some snacks and a drink.

    Also, not all conventions clear panel rooms after a panel ends. If that's the case, and you really want to see Venture Bros at 3:00, you might just be able to go to Robot Chicken at 1:00, and hang out all afternoon. Check with the staff/volunteer stationed close to the panel room in question.

    @nerdsherpa

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  6. Edited I forgot one thing.

    Follow the 6/2/1 rule.

    At least try for 6 hours of sleep. Eat 2 very good meals, and get 1 shower a day (the shower is the most important thing on the list cause, and this is from someone who has been on staff at a large convention and attended large conventions...really other folks can smell the BO)

    Sorry I know its crude but you would be surprised at what sleep, food and hot water can do to your outlook.

    The other thing that should be on the survival guide list. Medicine. If you have prescription medicine that you are taking, make sure you have enough to last you through the convention, if not get a refill before you leave home. Working on ConOps one year I was surprised by the number of folks who wandered in asking if "Anyone had (fill in the blank on the name of the med)".

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  7. This will be my 7th SDCC and I bring my 3 kids with me every year. Parking: We like the Cruise Ship Terminal Lot because it's easily accessible from the Freeway and you don't get stuck in the downtown traffic. The Shuttle comes every 5-10 minutes.
    FOOD: We bring our own. I bring a backpack and stuff it full of snacks and water. The food at the Convention Center is "blah" and it is expensive. Save your money for the good stuff!
    LINES: Just deal with them! Don't complain. I meet the nicest people just waiting in lines. I bring cards and books and portable game devices to keep the kids entertained.
    EXHIBIT HALL: We print our the map before hand and circle the things we want to make sure we see. This has helped tremendously!
    PANELS: We check out the schedule and pick the ones we really want to see.
    CHILD CARE: It is excellent. I've left my kids there in the past, when they are getting too tired or bored. They do a great job and are worth the price. But now that they are older, they do a whole day w/ no complaining and love it!

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    Replies
    1. WOW! You're organized. Next week's SDCC is my first con. I'm going alone, & am nervous, so I'm soaking up as many tips as I can. Yours are great.

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    2. My first year I was on overload. If you are only doing one day I highly suggest doing the trade floor and forgetting about the panels, you have to wait forever to get in and they are long. If you are going the entire weekend I still suggest doing this for atleast one day. Mine will be Thursday because there issnt much I'm interested in going on that day.

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    3. My first year I was on overload. If you are only doing one day I highly suggest doing the trade floor and forgetting about the panels, you have to wait forever to get in and they are long. If you are going the entire weekend I still suggest doing this for atleast one day. Mine will be Thursday because there issnt much I'm interested in going on that day.

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  8. The Mythbusters Rule:
    If the Panel, Autograph Session, Book Signing, etc.. has anything to do with Adam Savage or the Mythbusters you better get in line 2-3 HOURS (minimum) before it starts.
    I left the Fark party last year at DragonCon to go to the Adam Savage talk an hour before the talk started. The line was already out of the Sheraton Hotel, down the side of the building, around and down the other side of the building, and around and down the 3rd side of the building. An entire city block was surrounded by this line waiting for his talk. The ballroom it was hosted in would maybe hold 1/3 of those waiting so get in line early or miss out.

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  9. Check out early. It saves you from having to fight your way down an elevator and rush to get to the front desk

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  10. The Recharging Rule:
    Don't assume you'll find an empty socket anywhere. Groups find them and camp them taking turns feeding their iPhones, Blackberries, and Laptops. Find a good pocket backup battery solution for your device and have it fully charged and ready to use when needed. I can guarantee (personal experience) you'll kill an iPhone during a good day at a convention.
    If you do find an empty socket, hang on to it until you are fully charged and don't let go until you check with all your friends. :)

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  11. The Memory Card Full Rule:
    Take more than one Memory Card for your Camera. It'll fill up when you least expect it and that is the moment Murphy and Fate will team up to have your most favorite celebrity walk up and present a photo op.

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  12. The Get A Room Rule:
    If you can get/afford a room then do so. Even if you live only 20mi away the drive back and forth late at night and early in the morning will drain you and waste precious recharge time (sleep). Pay attention to the Convention site and be aware of when the rooms go on sale for the next convention. Don't hesitate! Reserve as soon as they go live or you'll miss out. The main convention hotels often sell out within minutes of going on sale leaving you to the overflow hotels, often for the same rate as the main hotel.

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  13. I did a series of articles last year, just before GenCon. Some of the information is specifically focused towards those who want to try to use the convention to get their foot in the door of the gaming industry, but most of it is general "con advice" that's applicable to anyone. Feel free to check it out. The original articles are here: http://www.jesshartley.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=170:gencon-for-the-aspiring-professional&catid=1:latest-news&Itemid=73

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  14. Thank you guys so much for sharing your tips, I've updated the post with the new ones. :D

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  15. Use a good antibacterial hand spray soap, "convention flu" spreads in those places so fast so having something like that would help, you'll be amazed howany handshakes, hugs etc.. You can get

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  16. This will be my 10th SDCC, and every year is different. Try to make sure you enjoy the experience as it is happening and not have it just be something you can say you were at. So here are three tips/suggestions I can offer to help you with your experience.

    First, bring one of those hard accordion folders the sell at office supply stores. If you intend to get comics and you don't want them to bend then your backpack won't be enough. This is a great way to protect your investment.

    Second, this is too late for this years SDCC, but two years ago they set up a prepay system for parking. I pay $10 a day to park under the convention center and it is the thing I have ever done to improve my con experience. This way I don't have to get overloaded carrying things, or worried that my new way too expensive toy gets damaged. I just go down stairs and dump everything into my car. I also keep a cooler there which I refill with ice each day full of water and food. This saves me a lot of money, because everything is at a premium price during the con.

    Third, leave the building. There is so much outside of the Convention Center itself, much of which doesn't even require a con pass, so if you have friends in the area who don't have a con pass then this is a great way to meet up with them and still share part of the con experience. From Trickster, Nerd HQ, and there are always exhibitors who set up outside for more exposure giving away swag that you would not be able to get in the convention center itself.

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  17. There are great outlets in the restrooms! In a pinch you can plug in there. Especially the one by the exit :)

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  18. I think a scavenger hunt involving outlets should be an organized event at the next SDCC. ;)

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  19. If I plan to do a lot of panels and will be waiting in lines, i usually bring a book or my DS if no one wants to talk to me and a small but social card game (like we didn't playtest this at all) for keeping me busy and making friends in line. If you just sit there on your phone the whole time, you'll just kill your battery by 2pm.

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  20. If you smoke, spend a few extra bucks on nicotine gum, or patches, or some non-smoking way of getting nicotine in your system. I don't think E-cigarettes will be allowed, although they might (I'd at least triple-check with the con organizers and security beforehand). Definitely no chewing tobacco. Gum or patches will work best, so spend the money and stock up. The last thing you want is to wait 3 hours for a panel and be unable to pay attention because you're bugging out.

    Speaking of bugging out, if you're like me and have an anxiety disorder, particularly one that's set off by large groups of people, keep some emergency medicine in your bag (in the prescription bottle!) and prepare to step outside to cool down after 30 minutes or so. Large crowds set off my panic attacks, so I usually make sure I can get outside after a half hour or so to get some space and calm down.

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  21. This is my first time going. Thank you so much for all the tips!!!

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  22. Thank you very much for the tutorial.

    Visit my website: NicotineResources

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