I’ve been in the convention scene for 8 years now.
Which, wow, how did that happen, looking back it doesn’t feel like it at all. In a blur of celebrities, cosplays and art the conventions have been some of the best highlights of my life. I may also have my own tips narrowed down so my time there goes smoothly as possible.
My next one is this weekend and I went to 5 last year. So I thought I’d do a guide on how I organize conventions for any of you who are thinking about going to one and want a helping hand. Yes from the outside it doesn’t look to complicated but with schedules, lines and travel it does add up and you want to be more focused on not fangirling to your fave celebrity than missing out due to errors.
I’m a planner, I live for schedules and can’t resist going above and beyond to make sure life goes as smooth as possible. So, for events I go a little crazy. Conventions involve a lot of different sectors, you don’t want to miss out on what you want most. Once the schedules are released to the public I highlight everything I want to see and go from there.
Panels: Panels are great to chat with the cast, creators and any writers that you love. I usually narrow it down to a top three because the chance of getting into everything you want is slim depending how many attendees are going.
Autographs/photos: Not for everyone. I have friends who would never want to meet their favourites actors in case they are horrible people. That said this is the area you can usually find me in. I love being able to personally meet the people who have made my favourite characters to life. I usually get the photo first then an autograph so they can sign the photo of us together. This works for conventions like Supanova but for Comic Con and RTX they do both at once so bring something meaningful to sign. I’m a sucker for creating memorable and personal autographs.
Con Floor: Give yourself time to explore. I’ve sometimes made my schedule so jam packed of meeting actors and going to panels I haven’t even seen the con floor. Which I regret, the con floor is where you get to experience thousands of people all loving the same things you love. It’s a great community spirit. You see cosplayers, artists, creators and oh the shopping of geek dreams.
Once you have what you want to see and the timings, narrow down anything that clashes to what you want most and write it all out on excel. That’s right I make a full schedule for myself. Some cons have apps where you can set reminders every hour of what you’re doing next which helps if you can’t get to your schedule all times of the day.
Travel and Accommodation:
Always check how far away the convention is. Even though I live in Sydney I usually book accommodation close to the event so its a short walk to and from. This way you drop off merch, have a place to unwind in the middle of the day or touch up your cosplay. Narrow down the prices, share with friends as it makes it a lot cheaper. You don’t have to be in a fancy hotel. I usually go for the Ibis as it has the necessities without breaking your bank.
You can go further out as well and find places that are right next to the train station that will take you right to the convention centre. It’s all about research. I also aim to do this about 3-4 months before the convention so you get the best prices.
You’ll find different tiers of tickets. Ranging from a day, weekend up to VIP. I usually go with how many guests I am planning to see to know what ticket I want. If I’m not seeing any the general weekend suffices, if I’m seeing a few I get the tickets below VIP that let you skip queues. If there is an actor who I am desperate to see as much as possible I save for VIP. Saving is key here, you need to know what conventions you want to go to in the year and plan accordingly. Don’t think VIP tickets are the be all and end all. They’re not, you create your experience, choose to have a great time and you will.
What to Bring:
- First things first a backpack, that comfortable, because you are carrying it for the whole day and you don’t know how much Merch you might buy.
- Water, the amount of people I’ve seen pass out due to being dehydrated is too high. Hydrate yourself, look after your body, with that comes food, I find myself repeatedly not eating but I make sure I carry quick snacks and sugar lollies to keep my levels up in case I get to caught up to have lunch.
- Deodorant, obvious reasons but people seem to always forget, you get hot you sweat and with that many people around it can smell so PLEASE keep yourself smelling pretty.
- A folder for your prints, you’ll end up down that artists alley and wanting to buy everything, you’ll need to keep your prints safe from falling apart in your bag, also a great place to put any photos you’ve taken.
- Money and phone. Obviously.
- Tokens; most photos/autograph require tokens, these can be actual tokens you give back to the volunteers or a bar-code on your phone. Either way do not forget these! You’ll be disappointed when you reach the front of the line and can’t actually get in.
- Sharpies for any impromptu signings.
- Camera, you’ll want to take ALL THE PHOTOS. With all the cosplayers running around and the new friends you’ll make its worth snapping up all the memories.
- Comfy shoes and you have a winner. You’re walking for about 8+ hours for a whole weekend, your feet will love you a lot better if they have support.
- Check the weather and dress appropriately, just remember it gets hot surrounded by that many people so if it’s cold and you have a jacket make sure you have a shirt underneath so you can take it off.
Quick Tips for conventions:
- Be flexible; be quick to understand that you might not get into that panel. Friends might go home early, be able to change plans and be cool with going with the flow.
- Meet new people; this is the time to make new friends! Go out to the bar after wards, talk to people in line. I have met so many new people at cons, you already have things in common so it’s easy as pie!
- Get enough sleep; seriously, please sleep.
- Don’t be scared going solo; yes go with friends but be willing to do the con on your own. I go to majority of panels and photos alone. I make my plan then any gap I have I go to friends.
There is just a bit of what I have to offer. If you’ve never been to a convention I urge you to go to one. There is one for every interest just research! If you have been and have any more tips leave them below! Good luck convention goers, now I’m off to RTX!