Things to Expect at a Con

As a follow-up to my previous post of convention-related advice, here’s another article for first-time con-goers to read and experienced con-goers to add to in the comments.  There are some things at a con that may be unpleasant if they catch you by surprise, but read this and you’ll be prepared.

There will be lineups, possibly huge ones, but don’t worry.  For one thing, it’s not like a lineup at the grocery store.  You’re at a con, surrounded by like-minded nerds, so you’ll have people to talk to.  That said, make sure you plan accordingly.  Major events will have limited seating and autograph lineups can take ages.  The bigger the event, the earlier you should get there.

Tons of Choices
When you get your pass/badge from the registration, they also give you a booklet that contains the con schedule.  Read the schedule over, making note of what events you want to go to.  You don’t have to have every hour of the day accounted for, but you should know when and where an event is if it’s something you really want to attend.  Also, have a backup choice in case the event is full when you get there.

Expensive Stuff
It is very easy to spend money at a con, but there are things you can do to prevent overspending.  Before the con, make up a budget and factor everything into it.  Remember your admission to the con, your hotel, food, travel expenses, and so on.  Then, keep it separate from your spending money (so you won’t accidentally spend the cash that you owe your friend for your share of the hotel room).

You can cut down on the costs of your hotel room by buddying up.  A room for four people costs little more than a room for two, so convince more friends to join you.  The more people you have chipping in, the less money each person pays (but, uh, respect the fire and safety regulations, okay?)  Also, when booking your room, check if the hotel offers a special rate for the con.

Food costs can be decreased by going to the local grocery store and/or convenience store.  The food sold at the con tends to be ridiculously overpriced.  The restaurants in hotels and convention centres are also kind of expensive.  You’re better off bringing food with you.

And then, there’s the Dealers’ Room…
It helps to decide beforehand what items you’re hoping to find so you’ll be less likely to blow money on impulse buys.  The Dealers’ Room will have many shops that often sell the same merchandise, so I recommend walking around the whole room first and comparing prices.

If the things you’re looking to buy are in good supply (for example, a well-known manga title), then wait until the end of the con.  The dealers drop their prices on Sunday afternoon, so that’s the best time to go.

One last thing?  Make sure you have cash, because most dealers don’t have those card-swiper thingies for debit and credit.

It will be VERY crowded.  Leave yourself enough time to get from Point A to Point B through high-traffic hallways.

Splitting Up
If you come in a big group, don’t worry if you break off into smaller groups or if you end up lone wolfing it.  That’s totally normal.  It’s hard for large groups to stick together in a crowded space.  It’s easier to ninja around the place if you’re alone or with one buddy.  Besides, you’ve probably got varied interests in your group, so not everyone is going to want to do the same things.  It’s considered perfectly fine to split up, go to your respective events of choice, and then meet up later.  Decide on a meeting place and time, and keep in touch by cell phone if need be.

Cosplay and Photos
There’s an etiquette to taking photos of cosplayers.  Namely, ask permission first and respect their answer.  If you’re cosplaying and someone wants to take a picture of you, only agree to it if you’re okay with it.  Common sense, but it needs to be said so no one feels awkward about “no”s.

Now, I certainly hope I haven’t painted conventions as daunting experiences.  They are a lot of fun.  Go, have a good time with your friends, and treat it like any group outing to a popular event.  Take care, and everything will be awesome.


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