What to Know Before Your First Comic/Anime/Gaming Convention
Tips to Make Your First-Ever Convention Experience the Best
I have attended over 20 comic/anime/gaming conventions all over the US. Each one has its own unique style, offerings, and experiences. There are not many how-to convention guides out there and sometimes attending your first one can be a little daunting. I thought I would share some tips on making your first-ever convention experience much more rewarding.
Plan What Panels and Events You Would Like to Attend
Many of the conventions have set schedules for panels and activities. These are often found in guides offered directly from the convention websites or social media handles. Some events even offer apps for your smartphone and allow you to schedule what panels and events you would like to attend and will notify you beforehand what is coming up. Many convention venues are very large and spread out, you want enough time to navigate through heavy foot traffic and locating the specific room that your panel or activity is at. The more popular ones will require you to wait in long lines for better seating so you may need to head there early to give yourself a guaranteed spot in the room.
Bring Something to Carry All of Your Stuff
There are lots of freebies at these events. Even more things you can purchase there. Unless you are just dead set on not getting anything there it is likely you are going to accumulate a fair amount of items.
Many anime/comic conventions have a huge amount of booths selling crafts, drawings, sketches, clothing, toys, and merchandise. Many of the gaming conventions will give out freebies such as shirts, hats, scarves, pens, lanyards, bags, and in some instances hardware and games.
Conventions also offer opportunities to signings of your favorite artists, actors, celebrities, and developers. It's much safer to put a signed picture/poster you cherish into your backpack. Many people wandering the convention have drinks, food, and objects that could ruin your signed item.
Take Drinks and Snacks With You
Many people who attend the convention will spend the better part of the day there, attending many panels and events and leisurely walking around the showroom floor. This means you are likely to get thirsty and hungry while there. Most of the events I have attended that do have food and drinks available near the showroom floor are outrageously expensive (think sport stadium costs for water, soda, hotdog, etc.).
While there are some venues that are near food courts or eating establishments this will take time away from the time you spend in the venue. Even a restaurant across the street can take a considerable amount of time to get to and from a large venue. Meaning that you could be sacrificing a panel or activity you have been waiting for all year to attend.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
You will be walking lots. Walking to and from the venue. Walking around the showroom floor. Walking to and from panels. Walking around trying to figure out where you are and where you need to go. Walking to and from restaurants.
Many of the venues are very large, and very spread out to accommodate all of the attendees. Many of the venues also have a lack of seating, meaning if you are not ok with sitting on the ground (which most people do) then you are going to have to walk a considerable distance to find an open seat somewhere (I would recommend just finding an open panel and sitting in there).
Bring Your Nice Camera
One of the best things about the conventions is the cosplay. Many local artists come out to show off the costumes they have been working on for months. It is a very friendly atmosphere at conventions to ask for pictures of the cosplayer, or selfies with them. Many professional photographers and media outlets now attend the larger conventions so they have cosplay coverage too. You will for sure be taking many pictures of the awesome cosplay so you want the very best camera you have on hand to capture the amazing talent.
Showroom floor lighting in certain events is lowered (especially gaming conventions) so it would be better to take your nicer DSLR or point and shoot camera even if you have a top of the line smartphone, as the larger sensor in the camera will provide cleaner images in lower light.
Bring a Portable Phone Charger
Invest in a portable battery pack. Many of the venues do not have the most convenient outlet locations, forcing you to charge from a wall outlet in risky areas (I have seen people get tripped over and phones getting walked on while charging in high traffic areas).
If you plan on being at the event for most of the day, and using your phone for most of the day, then it's a sure bet you're going to need to charge it at least once during the day. My normal routine is going into a panel and plugging the phone in from a battery pack inside my backpack. This usually allows for an almost one-hour charge, assuming you are planning on staying for the entire panel (typical panels are about 45-50 mins with time in-between for clearing out and moving in).
Make Sure to Bring Cash
Many venues offer WiFi for the exhibitors, but it comes at a cost and sometimes that cost is too much. It is difficult to get good data signals inside certain venues so although many exhibitors allow you to purchase items via card sometimes it is not reliable. I have had many situations where I tried to purchase things via card and it would not go through because of the unreliable data signals, resorting in me having to pay cash.
There are venues that offer ATM machines, but these of course are not likely to be affiliated with your bank and you will pay hefty fees for withdrawing money from them. So it's always best to show up with some cash if you are planning on making a purchase.
Be Considerate of Others
For many people it is also their first experience. Sometimes this can be daunting especially if you are by yourself attending the event (which I have also done many times and so do others).
Some things to be aware of to not be "that person" while at a convention would be:
- Don't stand in high traffic areas. Some of the larger events will actually have voulenteers forcing people out of the more congested areas but there are always people blocking isles on the showroom floors and hallways within the venue. If you are not traveling from one place to another it's always best to stand to the side or out of the way of traffic.
- Be mindful of your smartphone/camera. Too often I see attendees holding up devices to record the moment. While I do this as well at times I am always mindful of blocking someones view of the same subject. When you AND your device takes precedence over another individuals viewpoint then it becomes a problem, and when this is multiplied by 100 other people then it creates a negative prejudice towards any smartphone user in the crowd as a jerk.
- Ask to take a cosplayer photo. Many events now have rules for cosplay photography and taking a photo without the cosplayer consent is generally frowned upon, in some venues it could be grounds for ejection from the event.
- Be mindful of your drinks. I have seen far to many people have their cosplay ruined by someone not watching their beer or energy drink. In a place with tons of other people the least I think one could do is be mindful of their drink not going all over someone else.
- Throw your garbage in the trash, and recycle. Many venues offer tons of trash receptacles and recycle bins. I still see so much littering everywhere. There's no excuse to leave an empty bottle or wrapper on a chair or bench when you will pass by a trashcan on your way out of the room.
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