Attending a convention in seven easy to follow tips

The most common question I get from  authors and fans alike is: so what’s a convention like anyway?

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Your convention experience depends on what you do and enjoy. There’s always differences due to size, regional laws, convention’s focus, and like/dislikes of the organizers. Everyone does things a little differently, so I wrote these tips for anyone thinking about going to a convention.
Many conventions will have:

  • Art show, Artist Alley, or Artist Demo
  • Exhibit Hall/Dealer’s Room
  • Panels, Workshops, Readings, and other programming
  • Hospitality suite (A place to relax often with snacks 🙂 )
  • Cosplay and Costuming
  • Gaming
  • Music: Sometimes known as Filk
  • Media Guests: Actors and Directors
  • Visiting Pros of the convention’s focus
  • My favorite: Movie Screenings. There’s usually at least an attempt to mix classic, obscure to the new. However, unless it’s a big convention, do not expect a big budget movies. Expect weird indie shorts and full length movies you have never seen before: I love them.

At Night, there’s even more stuff

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This is the Thursday room party board at Sasquan
  • Room parties
  • Bid parties (Some conventions move to a different location each year and groups bid for the next spot.)
  • Offsite Events
  • “Adult” Programing and rated R readings
  • A masquerade or costume contest.
  • And my second favorite: Star Parties and Astronomy Events

Tip 1)

Research the con you’re considering attending as much as you can.

Tip 2)
Don’t wait to get your badge. Many big conventions sell out early. Also there is generally an early registration discount or specials

Tip 3)
IMG_0687Check out the online schedule and figure out what you like to do. Look at flyers for other events not on the schedule And then go do it!

Tip 4)
Read the Rules:

All cons have regulations to help make the convention run smoothly and be as fun as possible for everyone posted on their website and in their program. Look them over to understand what is expected. In addition to general conduct policies, they will have guidelines for cosplay, press, exhibitors, and others.

I am not trying to scare you: generally they all can be summed up with do not do anything: illegal or dangerous to yourself or anyone else. Excessive or underage alcohol use, drug use, harassment, etc will result in getting booted from the convention.

Note: If you have a safety or security concern, bring it to the convention’s operations center immediately. I have never seen a convention that didn’t care about the attendee first and foremost.

Tip 5)
Wear your badge and have ID at all times throughout the convention. People will notice if you are not wearing a badge. The other reason is to get into events. If you want to go to room parties you need your ID. Security will check, even if you are in your eighties.

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These cupcakes were at a publisher’s room party for a book release. So if you want them, bring your badge and ID

Tip 6)
Don’t be afraid to talk to people.

Even if you go alone, don’t feel like you have to stay alone. Many science fiction and fantasy fans have often felt out of place, and are thrilled if someone approaches them. Ask people about their costumes or talk to them about a panel you both just attended.  If you’re interested in an author, talk to them or ask questions at a panel.

Here is my secret: most convention goers don’t realize I am shy, and can be completely socially awkward. (Though I have written enough socially awkward characters that they might realize it by now.) Around age 28, I decided it was time to be the author and person I wanted to be. So I read A LOT of Miss Manners to figure out how to talk to people and make friends in uncomfortable situations. I still make mistakes, but overall, this served me well.

Tip 7)
Take care of yourself. Sometimes you get so busy, you don’t realize the time slipping away so make sure to get a few hours sleep, a shower, and a few healthy meals during the weekend.

And one more for free: Have fun!

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