With MCM London Comic Con looming around the corner, I’ve already started mentally packing my bags, arranging my cosplays and strategising my schedules. It did however occur to me that not everyone is a con veteran by now, and going to your first one can be a bit of a mind-boggling experience. The queues, the vendors and the sheer geekiness is quite simply overwhelming.
Therefore I thought it might be prudent for me to create a quick little guide to my own personal top tips for navigating cons. Hopefully with this advice, you can go in prepared and armed for battle.
Let us begin.
Pack your ‘con survival gear’
Okay, I’m going to play mum now.
Whilst of course we all want to look the part at our nerdy events, the most important thing to remember is that you will need endurance to make it through the weekend. It’s hot, it’s packed, the food has inflated prices and may take ages to obtain. Therefore I suggest bringing enough things to keep you feeling well cleaned, well fed, well watered and well entertained in those long-ass queues. As a base line I would pack the following:
A large bottle of water. Cons have lots of bodies, which means lots of stuffiness. Put your health first and beat the heat!
Snacks and lunches. Same as above, it’s always good to keep your energy up, plus con food is expensive. Instead maybe treat yourself to just one bought lunch, but make it a gooden! The bigger cons sometimes have independent street food vendors.
Deodorant. Trust me on this...
Painkillers/tissues. It’s always best to be prepared for feeling under the weather. The last thing you want is to be leaving the building to find a chemist!
Your favourite handheld console. If you’re not feeling sociable in the queues, avoid using your phone's precious battery and get in touch with your inner gamer.
Earphones/headphones. Good to accompany the above, and generally nice to have on your commute there and back.
A notepad and pen. You never know what famous face you could bump into on the con floor, so see if they’re up for a quick auto!
That - on top of anything touch ups for your cosplays - should be enough to last you throughout the weekend. Some may think I’m being excessive, but this bag has not failed me yet, and I’ve managed to make it through the busiest of cons quite comfortably with my reliable little pack.
Embrace the madness
This really encompasses what cons are all about. It’s like stepping into another world. The best thing you can do is adjust your brain to this new pace, and mentally prepare yourself for just some of the things below.
The key to any successful con is to be organised. Arrive early to everything you can, because it's likely everyone else will have the same idea. Take a look at the schedule, and create your 'wish list' of things to see, but accept there and then that you may only see half of what you have planned. So prioritise, and create backups. You'd be amazed how long it can take to travel between events, and how quickly panels can fill up.
Appreciate the glorious cosplays. Take time to admire the effort that con-goers have put into their outfits. If you feel like it, go up and compliment them, or even ask permission for a photo. Some super-geeks make a living out of cosplays, so this is your chance to see the best of the best. And if they’re in character? Treat them as such! There’s no such thing as ‘too dramatic’ at a convention.
Having said that, this is also a chance to see heightened emotions from fans first hand. As conventions offer the chance to get up close and personal with celebrities, some people can become overwhelmed with emotion. Hell, if you know you’ve got a chance to meet your idol at an upcoming con, you may have a similar reaction. It’s completely normal. Just treat everyone (by which I mean fellow guests, stewards and especially the talent) with respect and all will be hunky dory.
Does anyone still say that? No, just me? Okay then...
Don’t be afraid to say ‘Hi’ to fellow fans
There will be people. Lots of people. This is turn equals a hefty amount of queueing for panels, autographs, photo-ops and even the toilet. My advice? If you’re feeling up to it, strike up a conversation with those around you. You’re all in the same boat for a long time, and you’ll likely have a common interest due to the nature of the event.
If you think I’m crazy, I’ll prove a point to you. I went to Asylum 18 last year in Blackpool, the Supernatural UK Con that was around at the time. I attended this event completely on my lonesome, which was slightly intimidating. When I made it to that glorious castle of a hotel (fellow Asylumers will hear my fond exasperation here) the first thing that greeted me was a three hour queue to pick up my pre-ordered photo-op tickets.
As I stood in line, I managed to get chatting with a friendly gal, who kindly took me under her wing and introduced me to her bunch of fellow SPN Family misfits. We carried on talking all the way through the queue, and they ended up adopting me for the entire weekend. We had such a ball, behaving at 100% geek level, analysing episode trailers and guffawing over hilariously bad fanfiction.
And guess what? I’m still friends with them today!
So I highly recommend using your queue time wisely and getting to know other fans. Because in all honesty, you’ll only get to see your idols for a short amount of time. But your fellow con-goers? They could likely be friends for life. So don’t be afraid to introduce your awesome, nerdy self.
That’s just about it! Are there any other fellow con goers with advice out there? Drop a comment below and let me know your own top tips! Or if you’ve got any more burning questions, drop a line on my brand spanking new Twitter handle, @HannahCowton
Till next time!