Hey folks, Ambush Bug here. I’ll be heading out to the 2012 San Diego Comic Con this week with fellow @$$holes Sleazy G, SJimbrowski, and superhero. We’ll be there all week starting on Tuesday. But before I go, I want to heed the wise words of fellow convention-goer expert, Russ Sheath!
The Convention Survival Guide: Part 1
Russ Sheath here. With the megalithic San Diego Comic-Con just around the corner I thought it was worth re-visiting the words of advice that I penned and AICN published for experience convention goers and newbies alike.
First off, please don’t assume that by attending a convention, comic related or otherwise, your survival instinct will be called upon and you will find yourself fighting for your life.
That said, if you become too amorous with a Klingon cosplayer, you sell an Adam Hughes sketch on eBay, or the zombie apocalypse comes about, then you deserve what’s coming to you. In general, however, you should be able to attend the show of your choosing without the need to fight to the death or utter the words:
‘If it bleeds…..we can kill it’!
Attending a convention isn’t just about turning up!
Successful convention going is about getting the most from your experience and it doesn’t matter whether it’s one of the ‘new kids on the block’ such as London’s Kapow! Or the Deathstar scaled devourer of fandom, Comic-Con International, it goes without saying that if you want the best experience, you need to plan!
Over the coming days AICN will give you the ‘insiders view’ to convention going so that you can get the most from your convention experience. From essential kit to do’s and don’ts, this is your ‘cut out and keep’ must have guide to all things convention going.
I Love it when a plan comes together.
Hannibal Smith does indeed ‘love it when a plan comes together’ and so should you, because those cliché’s became cliché’s for a reason.
Whether planning to defeat a corrupt local sheriff armed only with a tool kit and some mechanical knowhow or to tackle the convention floor, you need to plan your trip, not least so you get to experience everything the convention offers and so you don’t miss out.
Some folk out there will plan their trip to the nth degree, with coordination and logistics to shame Operation Desert Storm. These are the people who, by the time you have got through the door, already have their arms full of limited edition Optimus Prime statues and will know, to the minute, which panels they want to attend and the shortest route between two signings. Some of these folk are genuine collectors and don’t want to miss out on some of the excellent exclusives available and some are speculators looking to sell the exclusives online via auction sites.
As a convention goer I cannot think of anything more disappointing than missing the opportunity to meet one of my pop culture idols, especially if I had traveled a long way to attend the show and it was due to poor planning on my part.
Attendees will be immensely disappointed because they have not planned and will either miss events because they didn’t plan or because they didn’t work out ‘their plan of attack’.
So my first piece of advice on the convention quest is…
Get yourself the schedule.
Applying Vulcan (or even Jar Jar Binks) logic, before you can plan your own personal D-Day, you need to know what events are happening, where they are happening and when.
To achieve this you need to obtain the convention’s published schedule.
SDCC Attendees: For those of you attending San Diego, I will helpfully link the schedule and program infomation, here…
The SDCC organizers have even provided a scheduling tool, here to help you plan, here…
Check it out! SDCC really flies the flag on helping you prepare for the show and have included everything you could possibly need to help plan your trip.
SDCC and most major conventions will all enjoy some form of online presence in the build up to the show whether via their own website or via coverage during the convention itself. You should find a rough schedule online at the convention’s official site while some conventions will publish a program which you can collect at the door, outlining the events of the show, the timings and locations.
Now, there will be attendees who will color code and laminate a meticulous schedule, accommodating queuing times and factoring in allowances for transit. Personally, a small note book did the trick for me, but in an age of tablets and IPhones, you can keep ‘real time’ track of events on the convention floor, so if you have the technology, why not use it?
Even the back of an envelope is ok, but to coin another cliché, ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’--you have been warned!
Along with planning we could go into a whole other chapter all about accommodation, ensuring you have your tickets well in advance (a lesson this writer learnt the hard way as I am currently sitting at home and not on a flight to sunny San Diego), where to stay and things to do when not in the convention. What we will discuss is what you will need to take with you for a successful trip.
I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle: The logistics guide to SDCC.
Let’s assume that you have meticulously planned your trip, you have your laminated plan at the ready and you are off to the hallowed convention hall, be it SDCC or elsewhere: let’s now discuss what you are going to need to take.
Seeing as this is all about not just survival but also enjoying the event, let’s look at your basic survival needs: food, water, shelter. To put this into comic convention speak, clothes, snacks and drinks.
Unless you are purposely dressed as Slave Leia or Emma Frost, a must for your convention experience is sensible clothing. Take a ton of fan boys (and girls) and put them in one giant Galactica sized room and its GONNA GET HOT! Everyone has their own idea of comfortable clothing (and personal hygiene) so I am not going to dwell on the specifics too much, other than to say you are going to be in close confines with thousands if not tens of thousands of people for up to 8 hours at a time, so dress appropriately and comfortably.
Footwear gets a special mention! You are going to be on your feet and walking for several hours a day in a very busy, crowded building, so think about comfort and equally importantly protection from the stampede of people all eager to get from point A to point B. Feet will be trampled on, so think twice about wearing open toed sandals, heels or ninja slippers.
Bring a Bag!
Comic conventions have an uncanny ability to make you part with your hard earned cash and there is nothing more painful than having to haul a pile of comics, sketchbooks and action figures around with you for the day and trying to keep them in reasonable condition. There will most likely be nowhere to leave your haul as you roam the show, so remember, whatever you buy is going to be with you for the duration of the day.
If you rush to buy that limited 1:1 scale Optimus Prime bust, beware!
I’d recommend a small rucksack or courier bag, and keep the security of your possessions in mind, make sure you can secure the bag and keep your purchases safe. ‘Carrier’ bags from the supermarket won’t last the day and will do little to protect and secure your purchases; likewise give some mind to other convention goers who will have to negotiate past your 120 litre mountaineering pack.
One thing you might want to consider is a poster tube! This can be of the cardboard variety or the type that artists will use to carry their wares in. One thing’s for sure, you will leave the convention centre with arms full of exclusive prints, posters and give aways that you will want to keep safe. You can get poster tubes with slings and attachment points for your rucksack, too, and most likely find vendors selling them at the show itself. Again, be mindful of the poor suckers you are ‘taking out‘ with your poster tube. Also, no matter your skill level, you aren’t Darth Maul and the poster tube isn’t your lightsaber. Cool?
Food and Water.
Here’s my recommendation: take food and water with you and make sure you have enough! Vendors inside any convention will charge over the odds for whatever they are selling, assuming you manage to get to them before they sell out. Besides, what better time to snack than when you are standing in line for a panel or signing? Why waste precious convention time sitting around in the food court?
Likewise, every other convention goer will have the same idea as you and pop across the street to the sandwich shop when they feel hungry, so plan ahead, grab your lunch, drinks and snacks ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it later. Again, water and liquid gets a special mention: it will be hot in any enclosed space with tens of thousands of people in close confines, so make sure you take plenty of water, you won’t regret it.
Some conventions will allow vendors to use card readers, but take it from me, those vendors want to be ‘holdin’ the foldin’, so don’t be caught short because you didn’t go to the ATM before heading into the convention.
ATM queues at the convention site will be long, may charge for withdrawals or even run out of cash, so plan ahead and make sure you have enough cash for your day.
It goes without saying that I should warn you to be wary when carrying cash in a crowded space. Keep your common sense about you, bags closed and pockets done up. Don’t carry around a ton of currency and flash it around and if there is something specific and pricey you are looking to buy, try to contact the seller in advance or arrange a reserve so you are not walking around with thousands of dollars in your wallet. Most of all, be discreet--it’s just common sense folks, ok?
SDCC Attendees: There are ATM’s in the lobby of the convention centre, but heed my words above. You can also find an ATM at the Bank of America at 455 Island Ave, near the corner with 5th Ave.
Gadgets and Gizmos
Bring a phone and camera.
Not only is your phone a great way of tracking down your lost buddy who was distracted by the cosplayers, with a smartphone it’s a great way to keep on top of what’s going on in the convention center.
With live updates from websites covering the event, Facebook and especially Twitter you can expect to keep on top of events by using your phone.
The other advantage of taking your phone is that most of us who are living in the modern age will have a camera attached and unless you are shooting for prosperity, a camera phone will be plenty for you to capture the day’s events and update your blog or social network site. Remember however, batteries don’t last forever on smartphones and if you are reliant on the phone to keep in touch with friends, be mindful of how quickly the battery drains when shooting video and photos.
As with money, please be careful with your phone or other gadget; I’d cry for a year if I lost or had my IPhone stolen, so keep your wits about you and if you and look after your expensive toys.
So, let’s summarize:
Get yourself the schedule.
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
Clothing and footwear: think sensible.
Autograph book, comics for signing