By the time this blog is posted I will be in Las Vegas getting ready for the inaugural LeviosaCon and two weeks later I will be attending my hometown convention, the little-known San Diego Comic-Con. In this spirit, I thought I would impart my hard-earned wisdom of how to survive any convention but a comic/fandom convention, in particular. If you have never attended a convention you may find yourself dreaming of all the panels you’ll attend, all the great merch you’ll buy and all the celebrities you’ll meet; well I’m here to help ensure that all your convention expectations are met.
Have zero expectations
You will not get to do everything you want to, understand that now. If you want to see two panels scheduled within twenty minutes of each other, the only way that’s happening is if those panels are in the same room and isn’t also scheduled against another panel you want to see. Convention schedules are always packed to the brim and if there is any downtime rest assured it will be spent in a line for another thing.
Have a budget
If you’re going to a convention - it’s because you love stuff and you want to be surrounded by people who love the same stuff, right? Well, not only do those people love the same stuff but those people also MAKE stuff about the stuff you love and because you love that stuff you’re going to want to buy the stuff they make. Make a budget of what you're able to spend and make a list of the things you're hoping to buy. Every convention I’ve ever gone to, I have proclaimed that I would not be poor by the end of it. I'm still waiting for that day to come, inevitably your budget is blown and you'll spend too much money. But it's good to have goals.
Have comfy shoes
Packing efficiently has never been easy for me, but packing efficiently is crucial to the convention experience. Most of your convention time will be spent on your feet, there is no escaping it, you'll wait in lines for panels and walk the convention floor (in order to blow your budget). You'll get some reprieve from being on your feet when you attend panels and sit in convention chairs soaked in the bitterness, disappointment and sweat of generations of nerds before you. Depending on the convention you can count on at least 10 hours of standing and waiting so do not forget the comfy shoes.
Have a buddy
This may be the most important tip I can give you. Every time I attend a convention I'm always shocked by how overwhelming it is and having someone there with you really helps to keep those nerves at bay. There will be a lot of crowds and a lot of waiting in lines and having someone to talk to about what you want to see and what you just saw is necessary to help really soak in all the programming you'll see. Most importantly, it is nice to have support, beyond someone to wait in line with or watch your bag while you go to the bathroom, having a buddy will help you feel less alone in a sea full of strangers. However, you don't need to be with your buddy all the time, I have met some very cool people waiting to see programming that my buddy didn't want to see. Conventions also make social interaction easier because there is obvious common ground, you came to a specific place at a specific time to be surrounded by things you love, so you obviously have things in common with them. You also need a buddy to remind you to bring comfy shoes, not to buy yet another art print and to comfort you when all of your expectations aren't met.
Attending conventions are terrible, the crowds are too big and the costs too high, but they are also the best time you'll have. It's impossible to really explain why they're so great, but all of the elements that are so terrible individually make up a wonderful whole. I hope you attend a conference and if you have let me know what tips you have for your survival.