Today begins for four-day Nerdstravaganza that is MegaConvention1. Unfortunately, thirteen years have passed since my last MegaCon, and since then I’ve dreamed of finally getting back into the swing of things. In the last year, I’ve made some really awesome friends who not only love nerdy things, but many of them are discovering them for the first time. There are plenty of Comic Con Survival Guides out there, but this is how I– as a single, child-free adult– not only escape with my sanity, but have one epic convention adventure. Pull up a chair, Y’all, as I am going to share how I successfully Nerd Out at a Convention.
Let me share my Survival Secrets (SWW 2014)
First Timer Tips
I have only attended a handful of fan conventions, but throughout my professional career, I have attended plenty of business conferences and conventions, as an attendee, a presenter, and a part of the conference staff.
- Do Your Homework – Back in my day, you picked up a paper program on your way into the venue after picking up tickets, wristbands, and badges. Now, with you can download the eBrochure in a PDF, order and print out your tickets online, and even download an app to your smart phone! It’s a great way to be greener without having to recycle all the miscellaneous paper after you get home.
- I always print out a paper copy of the schedule for quick reference. I also use it when deciding my action and contingency plans. Read that schedule, Nerdlings!
- Chose the Right Luggage – There is so much shopping to be had, but regardless if you are staying on property or day tripping from your local residence, picking the proper bag to haul your stuff is essential. Always go function over fashion with a well constructed messenger bag or backpack. Keep an eye on your zippers as often there are sticky fingered thieves about.
- My bag of choice is the ThinkGeek Handbag of Holding because the large crossbody strap helps to distribute more of the weight and doesn’t give me unnecessary boob issues!
- Pre-purchase When Possible – With online ticketing, you can skip the ticket windows as well as save time and money. Admission costs are often lower when purchased ahead of time, and a worthwhile investment if you are on a tight schedule. Meet & greets and photo ops can be purchased the day of, but I prefer to secure my space in line with an advance payment.
- When I purchased my ticket for a meet and greet, the guest canceled within an hour! The event staff provided the opportunity to apply the purchase price to any meet and greet (with paying the balance in cash if more expensive), or not using the ticket and getting a refund issued the following week.
Don’t be afraid to have fun! You’re in a judge-free zone! (Avengers 1/2 2014)
- Arrive Early – Folks often forget about traffic and parking, and with massive construction and detours along Orlando’s major highways give yourself plenty of time AND patience. Do you homework and look at a map and don’t rely on GPS to get you there.
- The Orange County Convention Center is the second largest in the country with multiple concourses and parking. All MegaCon activities will be hosted in the Orange County Convention Center West Building, Exhibit Halls A-C.
- Carry Some Cash – You never know when you’ll need it, and make sure it is kept in a secure part of your bag (like an interior pocket) or close on your person. Occasionally, credit card readers fail, ATMs aren’t accessible, and certain booths only take dead presidents. Save yourself the additional ATM fees and stop by the bank or market ahead of time.
- Pack a Lunch – While there are food options available, if you have dietary restrictions or you’re wanting to have more control over how you fuel yourself for the long quest, pack yourself a tasty lunch and snacks. Be mindful of designated dining areas or take it outside. I’ll be bringing water bottle to stay hydrated.
- Make sure whatever you bring is leak-proof, so as to ensure all personal effects not smelling like your lunch by the time you get home.
- Follow the Rules – To avoid ejection from Fan Conventions, play by the rules. Unlike in Pirates of the Caribbean, they are not mere guidelines. They are designed to ensure a pleasurable experience for everyone, included special guests, vendors and cosplayers. If it says “No Photos/Video” just unplug as requested. Revel in the moment.
- CosPlay is NOT Consent – There will be many folks embracing many famous characters, spanning many genres of fandom. There will be lots of plunging neck lines, bare-chested heroes, and lycra for all. Before snapping pictures or embracing a CosPlayer, ask them for permission, and for the love of the gods, DO NOT SEXUALLY HARASS THEM!!!! They are there to celebrate at the event, not to fulfill anyone’s sexual fantasy. Also, CosPlay is about body positivity, so don’t tear anyone down regardless of their size.
Whether you’re meeting a group a friends or going it alone, it’s better to be over-prepared than completely blind-sided. It can be a little overwhelming, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of volunteers around who can guide you on your way.
I am not going to lie. Fan Conventions are fun, but they can ratchet up the stress into overdrive very quickly. Even the ones with the best executed floor plans and stellar queue volunteers can wear on the most seasoned of fan. Here’s a couple of tricks to make for smoother sailing throughout your con experience!
- Budget Wisely – Money aside, realize that no matter how hard you try, you may not be able to see and do everything you want. Taking a look at the schedule ahead of time and making contingency plans can help when your preferred panels and lectures are at capacity.
- Keep Your Head – The crowds of people, lengthy lines and packed exhibition floors can be overwhelming. If you bump into someone, apologize. If you misunderstand something said, take a pause before you respond. Take those deep breaths and remember your purpose for attending: to enjoy it!
- Break Up the Band – If you are slated to meet a large group of people, inevitably different people will want to do different things. Instead of wasting time and temperament with negotiations and potential discord in the ranks, take a break and do you own thing! There is nothing wrong with meeting up later, this way, everyone wins!
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Seriously. (#GeekFamous)
- Don’t Be that Fan – Cons are for EVERYONE who loves the fandoms they are there to celebrate. You will see folks from all walks of life, but do not for a second let anyone ruin the celebration for you. Conversely, be mindful of other guests, and do not make everything about you. Don’t be judgemental. The thing about cons is that it is a safe haven for everyone who loves imagination and to dream.
- Pace Yourself – It is easy to burn out and run on fumes when attending a multiple day convention. The exciting thing about Comic and Fan Conventions is that after the standard operating hours, there are always events carrying into the late hours.
- Zone Out – The sights and sounds of the con can be overwhelming. The tricky thing about navigating the ebb and flow of fans and the potential discussion of spoilers is virtual tsunami of information. Pack a pair of headphones or your favorite book to take your focus away, even for a few minutes. There is nothing wrong with excusing yourself and informing those nearby that you “may not be current on (insert program/film/book here).” Most true fans will understand and do their best not to spoil things, but there are some that don’t care (see “Don’t Be That Fan” above).
The most integral part of going to a Fan Convention is reveling in all the excitement with other die hard fans. Personally, I love attending cons with rookies because it gives me the chance to experience that first time feeling all over again. If you’re in Central Florida (or willing to make the grand drive), I hope you can enjoy all that MegaCon has available. Looking at the programming schedule, it is FAR bigger than I remember, so I’m already feeling overwhelmed.
Answer Me, These Questions Three
- What questions do you have about attending a fan convention?
- What additional tips could you offer?
- Which tip do you think is the most important for a successful experience?
Don’t be afraid to let your nerd flag fly!! (Clara Oswald Cosplay; Doctor Who)
- I am not sponsored by MegaCon or its affiliates. I’m just a long time fan wishing to share my experience, knowledge, and enthusiasm.