October 29, 2011

Convention Advice: How to get the most out of your Convention Experience

Also Known As: How to keep yourself from getting burnt out and/or disappointed

Most conventions are big, noisy, full of people and chaotic.

Okay, well, maybe it's just the ones I've been to - but I'm okay with that kind of atmosphere. When you get a room full of nerds about anything, it's like an EXPLOSION of creativity, gushing, and the sudden realization of the fact that you are indeed NOT the only person who likes this stuff. 

It can cause you get EXTREMELY overwhelmed sometimes. Or excited. Or perhaps act in ways you didn't think you could or normally would.


Is that how you really want to remember your convention experience? HARDLY.

There are other things going on at the con that just running around like a kid in a candy store (despite the fact that at some conventions, you may actually BE in a candy store).

Most conventions will have: Panels, Entertainment, Dealer Hall, Artist's Alley, Autograph Signings, Contests, Photoshoots, and possibly more! I'll explain what these are later. probably in another post.


I gotta bring stuff for this? What? Really?

Yes. Really. You'll be glad you did! (and all your friends will probably want to borrow some of them to help them plan too!)

Things you'll want to have on hand:
  • Highlighter (preferably 2 or more colors)
  • Pencil (to write on your schedule/booklet)
  • Permanent Marker (if you want things signed - just in case the autographee's pen dies)


Let's be realistic in our expectations

There is so much to see and do at conventions, but only 3-4 days to do it in. 

The first thing you need to get your hands on is a schedule and a list of guests. Most conventions will have a website - check there first! If their website is lacking - it's time to delve into the forums. Sometimes they'll require you to sign up to see items, but most don't bother with that. Look for topics like "Guests" or "Events", or possibly a search feature.

...it shouldn't be that difficult to find a list of guests or events, but some conventions are not as diligent with their websites as we would like. This is usually because those running the convention also have real life 40 hour a week jobs.

ANYWAY, I digress! Check the list of guests. See if there are any of them you'd be particularly interested in meeting/seeing/etc. If not, don't worry! There's still a lot to do at the convention.

Next, get your hands on a schedule. This could be tricky. Depending on your convention, you may see a schedule out weeks in advance or you might see it two days before you leave. Regardless, you'll want to find a copy of it.

Now, take out your lightest color of highlighter (probably yellow), and start highlighting the titles of panels, shows, entertainment, photoshoots that interest you.

Don't highlight the ENTIRE schedule. It will defeat the point of the exercise.

There's a good chance that you'll have panels that overlap, or ones that are too close to each other to get to effectively, or perhaps fall at times you're not there. Now is when the hard part comes in: deciding which panels are the ones you REALLY want to go to.


At this point, you've chosen all the items on your "if I had a time turner in real life and could be in two places at once, what would I go to" list. Unfortunately some of them overlap, or are inconvenient to go to.

From this list, you need to figure out what are your ABSOLUTE must-sees. This is very hard to do. Because now you have to determine where you want to be when.

Here's some tips on determining what to do/see:

  • Give yourself at least half an hour before and after panels or events for traveling time, waiting time, getting lost time. (You will get lost. I still do!)
  • For bigger/more popular events - Masquerade, Rave, Autograph Signings, you'll need to allot even MORE time to travel and wait. Sometimes you have to wait in line multiple hours ahead of time - check the forums for advice, or if you're lucky they'll do ticket distribution for big events.
  • Double-check the location of all your events - are they near each other, or are they all the way across the convention center in another hotel? Make sure you're realistic in your walking ability. 

Use one of the other colors of highlighters if you have one - mark the ones you really want to see. This will illuminate them on your schedule and make it much easier to know where you'll be next!


You will not be able to do EVERYTHING you've ever desired at a convention. It's just a fact. These things happen, and the best you can do is to roll with the punches!

I like lists. So here's a list on how to keep yourself from dying/being disappointed/annoying your friends:

  1. Do NOT overschedule yourself. It's tempting to book yourself back to back to back of panels, workshops, events, and the like, but DON'T. You need "me" time. You need times to eat. You need to sleep, and you need to rest and clean up.

  2. If you do not make it into a panel or event you really wanted to - take mental notes on why. Did you arrive too late? Did you have the wrong time? Was it overly popular and you had no idea? Conventions are not out to get you, and they're certainly not out to exempt people because they "don't like them." or purposely put large panels in small rooms. Conventions will be just as surprised as you are when that upcoming fansub panel has 200 people trying to get into a 50 person room.

    Use this information when going to your next event/panel. Alter your schedule to react to the convention atmosphere. The convention will not change itself to match your schedule!

    You can also let the convention know on their feedback boards on what panels or events might need larger rooms! They should be able to take stock in that for next year, and alter themselves accordingly.

  3. Traveling in a group? Be aware of other's schedules. Let's say you're carpooling. Your ride needs to leave at 4 pm on Sunday to drop you off and make it home at a decent time. It's probably not a very good idea to plan on going to a panel that's at 3 pm, Sunday afternoon. Ask your carpool about attending said panel - see what they think (they might want to go to it too, so then BONUS for you!).

    Just be courteous to those you are traveling with. Besides - being courteous will ALWAYS get you bonus points in a group.

  4. Check the forums ahead of time. This is mainly for things like cosplay gatherings, meetings, finding new people and the like. You might find that there's a group going as "really obscure series XYZ" and you would have had no idea unless you checked there. It's not a requirement, but it's certainly helpful. You'll meet a lot of new people that way too!

I hope this has been helpful! Check back in case I add/change anything. Do you have any good advice on scheduling? POST IT HERE! I love feedback.

1 comment:

  1. As an expansion of your comment to "Alter your schedule to react to the convention atmosphere", I'd suggest:

    Expect to get distracted, and decide how you're going to handle it. On your way to a panel, you might walk past an unexpected photoshoot for a show you love/are cosplaying -- would you rather be spontaneous and join in, or are you going to stick to your schedule and go to your panel? Maybe you walk through AA on your way somewhere and get held up by the pretty art, or make a new friend who suggests a different activity than you had planned. Think in advance about how important it is to you that you get to the panels/events that you've picked, and be prepared for con awesomeness/randomness to waylay you in your attempts to get there.