Aaah! Your first-ever convention! What a nerve-racking, thrilling time! Here are some thoughts that might come in handy.
- If your con has an app, download it. This is the best and most convenient way to organize your schedule, plus you’ll get the fastest updates on panel changes, room swaps, and cancellations.
- After check in, take a moment to go through the provided schedule. I highlight or circle everything I want to hit so I can figure out meal breaks as advance. As someone prone to fainting with low blood sugar, food is very important to me. Speaking of…
- Figure out what food is nearby. Some cons have deals with local restaurants- use this to your advantage. And some hotels do free snack and drink hours, or free breakfast. Definitely hit those up, and stuff a banana or bagel in your pocket for a snack later.
- Read the con’s harassment policy. 98% of con-goers are fantastic people but every con, particularly the big ones, has an asshole and knowing how to get help can be empowering.
- Sunday is shopping day! No one wants to haul all their merch home at the end of the weekend, so almost everyone has some sort of sale or bargain on the last day. If you really, really want something that seems rare or one of a kind you might want to buy it earlier in the weekend, but if its more mass-produced or there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest in it, you might want to wait to see what kind of deal you can get on Sunday.
- It might be obvious, but cons will always have drugs. It’s a mass of people, of course there are going to be stoners somewhere as well as drug deals going down in the corner- just like high school. (Or college.) Unlike all those “Just say no” campaigns’ warnings, I’ve never experienced someone trying to pressure me into taking anything, but sometimes you do get idiots, and I went to one con rave where someone spiked the water. So just use your common sense.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers. You’re at a giant party where everyone loves the same things you do- that’s why you’re there! Chat with people in line, ask for directions from a cosplayer, make best friends with a kandi kid. If you’re feeling shy, try a panel where interaction in encouraged, like a LARP or round-table. But of course, be respectful of body language. Not everyone wants to talk all the time- not even you!
- Definitely cosplay! If you don’t want to at first, don’t worry. I went for years before I worked up the courage to slip on that Leafeon costume you see up there. Having friends who want to do a group cosplay really helps, because then all the attention isn’t on you and there isn’t as much pressure.
- Volunteer! The people who work a con make or break it, and volunteering is a great way to give back. And you can get a job tailored to your comfort zone! I’ve been the five-minute girl (“Hey! You! Panelist! You’ve got five minutes, so wrap it up!” Alternately, *cracks open door and waves five fingers in the direction of the stage*) and check in. (“Hello! Here’s your badge! I don’t know the answer to that, but it’ll be in your schedule.”)
Welcome to the world of fandom conventions! You’re going to have a fantastic time!
Do you have any advice for convention newbies? What was the first time that helped you feel comfortable at a con? Have you made any life-long con friends? Let me know!
P.S. My manuscript is still being edited, because this is my life.