Tips for your First Convention
Article by: Rogue Benjamin|
Geek Girl Northern Belle wrote this list of wonderful tips for first time con-goers...
Discovering my first convention was like finding all the dragon balls. It was as if Iíd somehow managed to fall through the gate at Platform 9 and ĺ and entered a whole new world. It was absolutely incredible, and lead to me being bitten by the convention bug. Iíve gone from attending one con a year starting in 2010 to one or two a month now! However there is a part of me that wished I had a better understanding of what I was getting myself into those first couple of years. So I decided to compile a list of tips and tricks for your first, or really, any convention thereafter.
1) Understand Why You Are Going.
Did you buy a ticket to this convention or are you working it? If you are working it are you invited as a guest of the con, guest of an exhibitor or did you purchase your own Artistís Alley/Exhibition table? This should be pretty simple, but it is something a lot of people forget to think about. If you have purchased a ticket and are simply there to have fun and show off a new costume, but your friend is there working at someoneís table - you may not be able to spend all your time together. Remember that everyone goes to conventions for different reasons: to socialize, to shop, to attend workshops, to make moneyÖ the motivation behind your attendance and the attendance of people you are going with, can affect how much you enjoy a particular convention.
2) Bring Cash
While we live in a day and age of p̶l̶a̶s̶t̶i̶c̶ ̶m̶o̶n̶e̶y̶ (err... guess that term doesnít work now that our bills in Canada are also plastic) credit and debit cards, they are dependent on machinery and technology to process. Many booths while they may accept cards, no longer use the old processing imprint, but rather have the ďnew and improvedĒ machines. These can be great, but a lot of times due to the vast populace there and the amount of people tapping into signals, the machines are slow at best and often simply cannot connect. This means now youíll have to go in that forty person line up for the ATM, waste a good half hour of your time to pull out money, and the rush back and hope someone else hasnít already taken what you were trying to purchase. Do yourself a favour, save the headache and bring cash to the event.
3) Bring sustenance
Make sure to bring a bottle of water, and possibly a snack. Food at conventions tends to be extremely expensive, lacking in diversity and at the end of a really long line. Do yourself a favour and pick up breakfast on the way into the con, or pack a granola bar or two. Youíll thank yourself later when your hangry.
4) Cosplay as Much or as Little as you Like!
If it is your first time going donít feel pressured to cosplay, show up in jeans and T-shirt and youíll be more than fine. If you want to spice it up, make it a Batman or Superman Tee or something. By that same token however, if it is your first time going donít be afraid go big and try something bold, new and out of your element. If sewing isnít your thing try crafting it some other way. Iíve seen incredible cosplays made of duct tape or cardboard boxes, its all about creativity and showing your passion. No true fellow fan/geek will judge you, and those that do are not worth your time.
5) Go With Friends
While some people might prefer to go alone, I personally think conventions are better when spent in good company. The only caveat to this is make sure you remember rule number 1 Ė remember why you are going. If you plan to go with a friend who is working the convention you might end up spending a lot of time either at their table or by yourself. Find a comrade who will join you in your adventures, find a fandom the two or more of you enjoy, or just spend the day exploring.
6) Take a look at the event schedule well before the event
This one very much depends on when the conventions actually release the schedule. Unfortunately sometimes its not until days before, but even still, keep tabs on the conís social media page and when the schedule is released take a good long look at it before you go. See what workshops, panels, booths, guests will be there etc. There is nothing worse than finding out after a con that your favourite artist was there and you missed the chance to see them. Also be careful not to over plan yourself, with crowds and chance things always change slightly or opportunities come up and you may want to take advantage of that.
7) Donít be afraid to ask for pictures, but also have respect.
If you see your favourite character on the con floor donít be afraid to ask for their picture. Firstly, because the worst they can do is say no, but secondly most people will not only say yes, but be hugely complimented that you like their costume so much. However to that end, my general rule is a bum on the floor means photos no more. Basically, if you see a cosplayer sitting and taking a break, or eating, let them have a moment. ITís wonderful and flattering to have your picture taken, but it is also exhausting, costumes can be difficult and uncomfortable and most cosplayers arenít paid to be there but rather also coming to enjoy themselves, so have respect.
8) Make sure to visit Artistís Alley
In my opinion Artistís Alley is always one of the best parts of the whole con! This is a chance for new and emerging artists of all kinds to show of their work. From prints to accessories youíd be amazed at the hidden gemís you can find in here. There also tends to be a lot of one of a kind things which make for great and unique birthday/Christmas gifts. Itís never to early to plan ahead.
9) Collect cards like its your job, but take pictures of them with products/people so you know who they are later
When you are at a convention you will be handed so many flyers, business cards and thensome. I personally think it is a great idea to keep them because you never know when theyíll come in handy. Particularly the business cards. However to that end if you pick one up for a specific reason (you loved something they had, want a commission, etc.) take a picture of the card and what it is you like on your phone, so you remember exactly why you picked this card.
10) Get your picture taken
Even if itís only on your cell phone, get a photo of yourself at the convention. It can be at a booth you like, with a cosplayer etc. For those who are cosplaying to event definitely make sure to get your picture taken, if you find other cosplayers form the same fandom get your picture together, you never know, you could be meeting your best friends Ė thatís how I met mine.
These last three rules are fairly specific to people choosing to cosplay, but can be applied to your regular con-goer as well.
11) Be careful on purchasing photoshoots
When you are at a convention there are generally three ways you can get your pictures taken
- By yourself and your friends
- This is pretty basic and sometimes the best option, particularly if you are a student. Remember what the point of the picture is to you.
- At a photobooth
- These can be great because there are often a number of charity photo booths like Cosplay For A Cure that will take your picture and give you either prints or a CD for a donation Ė all of which goes to a great cause.
- Photobooths run by photographers, be careful with these. Most of them are great, but if they donít offer you the images up front or you arenít familiar with their work, be wary, Iíve been handed cards and had my picture taken by a fake studio before.
- By photographers at the convention
- There is generally a congregation of photographers from amateur to professional near the entrance of a con. If you do not give or get a business card, you may never see these images again.
- Be wary some photographers may use and even sell your image without your knowledge or consent. It isnít right and it isnít legal, but it does happen. So try and establish some sort of report and exchange contact information.
- In this category I will focus on photographers that you have a few minutes or more with one-on-one. Youíve exchanged information and expect to see the photos again.
- These kind of shoots can allow for different backdrops or shooting outside of the convention unlike photo booths which tend to have a standard backdrop. (usually black)
- This is probably the trickiest of the list. So Iím going to break it down into two further sub categories
- I cannot stress this enough, if you do not pay a photographer or sign a contract you have no guarantee of seeing these images ever again. Some photographers are wonderful and true to their word, not all are so be careful.
- Photography is an art and a skill. It takes time and effort and if the person isnít being paid they may have more pressing concerns (i.e. school, work ) so be patient.
- It is generally better to plan ahead in this instance and look up photographers in the community that will be there are offering shoots for a few reasons. One that youíll be able to see their work, two that slots can fill up fast, and three if you contact them in advance particularly by email or facebook you have a written record or what has been decided. This gives you a chance to go over things like how long the shoot will be, where you will meet, find each other etc.
- When you pay for a service you can generally expect a quality product especially if youíve done your research. These photos will help preserve memories when times fade and cosplays fall apart.
12) Careful what you bring/get stuck carrying
Remember that unless your hotel is connected to the convention center or you live really close by, everything you bring you are stuck carrying through out the day. Some Conís have lockers or a coat check which is great, but double check before you go and donít depend on these. Sometimes there is nothing more frustrating that having to drop a coat, a bag etc. to constantly pose for pictures. If you can try and find a clever way to incorporate either a bag, purse, pockets or something into your cosplay.
13) If your cosplay is extremely intricate and large (i.e. has a wing span, on stilts or made of machinery) expect not to move.
This comes for two reasons. One the more extensive the cosplay the more attention it attracts and the more people who will want your photo. The other is that conventions tend to be packed with people and aisles narrow, so navigating your way through the convention will be difficult. Expect that, embrace it and be one with it. Thereís nothing worse than being the Debbie downer of the group because your costume is hindering you. Remember you chose the costume.
The last rule that goes for absolutely everyone and is the most imperative rule of all:
Seriously, there is no point in going to a convention if you arenít going to have a blast. So go with a positive attitude and go meet some fellow fans of who knows what. Find something new to fall in love with and be inspired to put more amazing work out there!
Article by: Geek Girl Northern Belle
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May 17 2014