Conventions 101

Convention season is starting up again and somewhere out there, hundreds of people are thinking about attending their very first convention.  Let’s face it: walking into a moderate to large con for the first time can be totally overwhelming.  That’s why we’ve put together today’s post with some tips and suggestions for con goers both new and old!  I’ve been attending conventions since Dragon*Con 2008 and every year since, I’ve heard a good tip that I then proceed to integrate into my own convention routine.  So that said, let’s begin!

Before The Con: Do Your Homework
This covers so many things but it’s the best and pithiest tip I can give you.  If you do a little bit of googling before the convention, it’ll make your life a ton easier.  Even knowing roughly how big the con is can do wonders for you once you actually arrive especially if you can find a map of the convention.  For example, there are some conventions where you need to buy a badge in advanced or else you won’t be able to get in.  A quick google search can be incredibly useful here.  Of course, there are likely to be plenty of volunteers on the ground who can clarify things for you but it’s always helpful to do some homework first.

Conventions tend to release their final schedule of panels a week or two before the show.  It’s worth taking a look at before hand so you can see what panels are must-attends for you.  You have to be realistic here though.  It’s unlikely you’ll be able to make 4 Celebrity Q+As in a row if the convention is the sort to clear the room between each panel.  If there’s a high profile guest that you’re dying to see, plan to get in line for them at least an hour before hand.  Some won’t let you even start a line before a certain time but you can always mill around the area.  (It’s a completely different game if it’s a convention where you can stay in the room from panel to panel.)  Be willing to be flexible as something will inevitably pop up during the con.  I usually mark 2 panels as must-sees and then make a ‘These would be nice’ list to supplement it but I also tend to not do tons of panels at cons.

Media Guests tend to be a huge draw for people.  If you want to get either a Photo Op or an autograph, do your homework before so you can budget appropriately.  In my experience, most media guests charge between $20-$60 per autographed item.  Many have also started offering to take more casual pictures with fans at their tables for $10 which is a far cheaper option than the often more awkwardly posed photo op.  Every guest is different though and you should definitely ask on site if the convention didn’t post the information beforehand.  Literary and comic guests will often sign their work for free or for a small donation to a charity.  In these situations, try and be courteous and don’t bring your entire collection with you regardless of whether or not the guest has an item maximum.  At the very least, split up your collection and cycle through the line if you’re going to have lots of items signed.

Be Prepared

Dress In Layers
Cons often end up heating up really quickly and aren’t the place to bundle up.  If you do get cold easily, maybe bring a sweatshirt or a light sweater for panel rooms.  You should also wear, if at all possible, comfortable shoes.  You’ll be on your feet a ton and walking a lot.  No one wants blisters.

Bring Stuff With You
This is possibly the one piece of advice I wish I could give everyone who attends conventions.  If you pack a bag with some essentials, you’ll be so much happier in the long run.  Amongst my must haves? Water bottle, snacks, CASH, phone charger, and a camera.  Just like in a ballpark, food that’s conveniently located in a convention center will usually be priced higher.  Bringing water and snacks will help you save money and keep you going throughout the day.  For snacks, my preference tends to be a granola bar, fruit snacks, or some nuts.  They’ll also come in handy if you’re stuck in a long line.  Credit cards may make the world go around but nothing can beat cold hard cash on the convention floor.  I’ve got a few reasons why I tend to prefer it.  First, it can help you stick to your budget.  Second, internet isn’t always completely reliable in dealer halls and vendors may find that there are times when they can only take cash.  This leads to point three.  ATMs always run out towards the end of a 3 or 4-day con and it’s best to not rely upon them if you can help it.  Also, in the age of smart phones, your phone is likely to get drained faster than you’d like so it’s great to bring a charger with you so you can find an outlet if it starts to die on you.  Bringing a camera is probably an obvious hint but you’ll inevitable want to take pictures of something at the con.

At the Convention

Be Patient and Expect to Queue
There will be lines at a con.  There will be long lines at a con.  It’s simply a part of the experience.  Getting impatient with them won’t help things.

Stay Hydrated
This is key for all conventions but especially so for the summer ones.  Drink water.  Drink a lot of water.  You don’t want to pass out and/or feel bad because you’re not staying hydrated.

Be Respectful
This covers sooooo many things and really, it’s just something you should try for regardless.

If you’re asking a question of a celebrity guest, DO NOT ask for a hug or a kiss or marriage or whatever.  Those sorts of things usually end up making everyone in the room feel uncomfortable.  Also, be cognizant of who you’re talking to.  Here at Tosche Station, we used to lament every time someone would ask in an Expanded Universe panel whether or not we were getting Battlefront 3.

Also, please be sure to be respectful of your fellow con goers and especially so of cosplayers.  Remember that Cosplay is not Consent.  Always ask before taking a cosplayer’s picture.  Do not touch him or her in appropriately.

You get the point here: be polite and respectful to all of those around you at the con.


And, for the most part, that’s it!  This is likely not a guide that will cover everything you need to know but it should hopefully come in useful for at least some of you.  In short, do your homework, come prepared, and bring plenty of excitement for an awesome convention experience!