These are my 10 tips and rules for a comic convention, based on experience and common sense. Since all of these should be used the order has no big significance, but I will refer to number 1 occasionally. I decided to compile this little list after my experience at Wizard World Nashville and with Geek Media Expo coming up this weekend. (November 1-3) I learned most of these things by prepping for WonderCon ’11 and the others after making it through all three days of it. Whatever your next con may be, I hope you’ll remember these 10 things to make your experience memorable.
A comic convention (or anime convention) is a place you spend money to get in to so you can spend more money. Sure, you could go and not spend a dime once inside, but chances are you’ll probably spend a lot more money than you intended. If you’ll keep this rule in mind, you might set yourself a budget and walk away with some awesome souvenirs and still be able to pay rent this month.
Comfortable shoes. Not stylish shoes that you think are comfortable, instead try actual walking shoes like New Balance. Unless you’re going to cosplay you don’t need to worry if people are going to like your shoes. You’ll be spending most of the con on your feet, standing in line, walking around the show floor, or waiting in line for the bathroom, so make that time pleasant on your feet.
Bring your own snacks, if the convention allows it. Convention food is generally overpriced and not healthy or filling at all. Salty snacks that make you want soda or $3.00 bottles of water. Take your own snacks to keep you going longer and healthier. Nothing worse than having to hold it as you wait in the bathroom line after eating a questionable hotdog. Your version of healthy may vary based on your own diet or health conditions. Me, I have no allergies but do have diabetes. I usually take peanut butter and crackers, some mild beef jerky, and low sugar granola bars with water and/or Gatorade.
Planning ahead can be very important. Most conventions of a larger size will have a map you can download and schedules of signings, photo-ops, and panels you can print. Take advantage of these things. If it’s a three day event and you’re going all three days. Try to space some things out to allow for some show floor wandering. That’s when some of the random con magic happens, such as getting your picture taken with an amazing cosplay of your favorite character, or discovering a booth filled with trades you’ve been wanting to buy for only $5.00/each. (Rule number 1)
Speaking of cosplayers, let me lay out the con rules of cosplayers. You would think this would be a common sense thing, but common sense is one of the first things to go when you are suddenly plunged into a giant hall filled with all the things you love. If you want to take a picture of a cosplayer, please ask first. Unless they’re on their way to something amazing, or the bathroom, they will say yes. They didn’t spend all that time crafting that costume and putting it on for nothing. These people are artists, not exotic dancers at a questionable club, don’t grope them. If you do, a six foot six batman may just stay in character long enough to give you some Gotham justice to the face. By the way, you’ll totally deserve it.
A well-adjusted comfortable backpack is your friend. You need a place to put all the awesome things you’re going to pick up and/or purchase. It also serves as a great way to transport items you’re getting signed by your favorite artist or writer. Make sure to pack your snacks in this as well. My personal backpack has two water bottle pockets on the side and tons of pockets of varying size. It’s also worth mentioning that I always carry a BCW Storefolio for any comics I’m going to have signed or may purchase. You may want to bring a few extra bags and boards for comics purchased at a creators table, just in case they don’t have some for purchase (or free) there.
Make sure to dress in layers. This is probably more important for the fall to spring conventions. The show floor will eventually be about 90 degrees from all the warm bodies moving around, but the side rooms with panels and workshops and whatnot will be about 50 degrees. Layer up from Summer time wear to Autumn warmth. You may never need that light hoodie, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. You definitely want to at least be able to take some layers off for the humid heat of the show floor.
Set yourself an agenda. I’m not saying you should try to schedule every single minute of fun for the weekend, but give yourself some structure. Lay down the times you want to go to panels, which are a great way to get off your feet for a while without collapsing at the nearest wall on the floor. Schedule yourself a few times to snack. Those snacks won’t do you any good if you don’t eat them. If you’re part of a group and everybody wants to do their own thing, set a couple times to meet up and nerd out. You can even use the map you downloaded and printed out to pick a general meeting spot.
This a hard one, but try to be careful with your purchases. After all, these are things you have to lug around all day. Try to save large or heavy purchases until later in the day. I forgot this little tip at Wizard World Nashville and had to lug around a half dozen trades, in addition to the other things in my backpack, until it got too much and I walked all the way back to our car just to unload. It might be a good idea to avoid booths that have larger or heavier items until the second half of the convention, or if you have a group you could always distribute the weight.
Sketches almost have their own set of rules, so I saved them for last.
- It’s a good idea to bring your own paper just in case the artist doesn’t have any. I always take my 7 by 7 sketchbook, but my wife ran in to this situation at a smaller convention where the artist didn’t have paper on hand. So, she bought paper, against his will, from Ren and Stimpy’s Bob Camp.
- Whatever you do, don’t haggle with an artist over the price of their sketch or commission. If you’re getting a commission, make sure you understand the price and what you’re getting before you give the artist the go ahead to craft your very own art. (Refer to rule number 1)
- Some artists will only be available for signing or commissions. Don’t beg them into doing a sketch for you. They put their emotions and talents into their art, and you don’t really want a piece that says ” I resent this guy”.
- The best way to avoid all of these is to contact the artist, or their representative, ahead of time. Find out what they’ll be doing at this specific convention and maybe give them a heads up of what you want, in case it’s something unusual for them.