Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Convention Tips and Etiquette


Last week I had a chance to participate in a Seattle AntiFreeze Event at the Museum of History and Industry.  This fun monthly event features people from different Seattle communities sharing some of the things that makes Seattle special. I am on the Board of GeekGirlCon and I presented with Board President, Kristine Hassell.  We talked about what makes GGC special and how Seattle, with it's plethora of conventions, is a great place to be a geek!

Emerald City Comicon, is coming up soon and it kicks off the start of Seattle's Con Season.   Between now and November there is at least one con a month including SakuraCon, PAX. Norwescon, Jet City Comic Show as well as some smaller more specialized offerings (Supernatural Con, anyone?)

I am a seasoned con-goer at this point and one the most frequently asked questions ParentingGeeky gets is "What can I expect at my first con?"  So, whether you are new to cons or a seasoned pro, these tips will help you make the most of your con experience!

What to Wear

Deodorant - It may be a cliche that cons can get stinky, but with a lot of people crammed into relatively small spaces it’s bound to happen. Do your part by wearing deodorant! Conversely, many people are sensitive to strong smells, skip the body sprays and perfumes.
Comfortable shoes - This is not the time to try out your sweet new stilettos. You will be on your feet for hours, take care of them! Even if your cosplay requires fancy feet, bring something comfy to change into.
LayersGoing from a stuffy a exhibition hall to an overly air conditioned auditorium can make staying comfortable tricky. Dress in layers so you are prepared for any situation.
Sun Protection - At bigger cons like San Diego ComicCon and PAX, you will be traveling between multiple buildings and may even have to stand in line outside. Even at ECCC, which is mostly in one building, you may wish to venture out to a nearby restaurant or sit in the attached park. Sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses can be a lifesaver.

What to Bring:

Hand sanitizer/Disinfectant Wipes - Cons are germy places. Hand sanitizer can be used before and after shaking hands, though it isn't a substitute for frequent hand washing. Wipes can be used on communal game controllers, pens, etc.
Snacks and Water - Con food is expensive and sometimes hard to come by. Tidy snacks like jerky, granola bars, and trail mix can stave off low blood sugar. You can refill water bottles in sinks and water fountains for free.
Sharpies - Always good to have your own supply for signings.
Folder, backing board, poster tube - For keeping new purchases from getting rumpled.
Patience - Lines are long, sometimes even moving through the crowd in the expo halls can take a long time. Be patient and kind, even when everyone else isn’t.
Line Entertainment - Especially important if you have kids. Books, tablets, a Gameboy all help lines go faster.
WiFi Hotspot - If you have one, bring it. Con wifi is notoriously slow, if it’s even available. Even 4G data can get pretty clogged with so many users in one place, so keep expectations low and download entertainment before hand rather than counting on streaming while there.
Money (and a budget) - Cons are expensive! Make a loop around the whole vendor area before you spend. Otherwise you might blow your whole budget before you've even seen everything.
A backpack, but not a BACKPACK - I appreciate the convenience of toting my stuff around in a backpack, but can’t tell you how many times I've been hit in face by a tall person who swings around suddenly with a huge, fully extended pack on them. Try to take up as small a footprint as you can, and be mindful of the people around you.

How to approach guests, speakers, creators, etc.

Those you know and admire
If they are sitting at their table or another public area of the con where they are clearly working: say hi! Keep interactions short, especially if there is a line. Don’t get too personal. Respect personal space and any rules posted about autographs and photos; at many cons pictures are not allowed at tables because there is a professional photographer to buy photos from. If no rules or prices are posted, ask before taking photos. It is a surprise to many first time con-goers that media guests and celebrities frequently charge for an autograph.  These fees can range from $15 to hundreds of dollars (Sylvester Stallone notoriously charged $395 at NYCC in 2013)  - though prices usually cap off around $100 for event the biggest celebrities.

If you bump into them in a con area restaurant, shop or a bathroom, or roaming the con as an attendee: A simple smile and nod is appropriate. Notables need some downtime to recharge, be polite and let them have it.

People you are unfamiliar with: Ask them what they are working on! Most people are there to share their passion or a current project and will be happy to tell you all about it. No need to be shy! A simple “I’m unfamiliar with your work, what is your current project” will get the ball rolling!


As a parent who frequently has my geeklings in tow, I also wrote a guide to bringing them to conventions:  http://bit.ly/kidsatcons

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