Con Survival Tips: The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for a Geek Convention Part 3

Your con is finally here! You’ve been waiting for what seems like forever, but the time has finally come. Now what? To help make sure you’re absolutely ready to have the time of your life at your convention, here’s the third (and final) installment of The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for a Geek Convention blog series – Con Survival Tips!

If you missed my first two blogs, make sure you check them out.

Now, you’ve waited long enough for your convention to get here, so I’m not going to make you wait any longer for my con survival tips. Jump in!

What to Do When You Get There

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Expect Your Schedule to Change

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“What!? Are you kidding!? But I spent so long making it!”

Ehhh…I know. Sorry ‘bout that.

Truthfully, one of my most important con survival tips is coming to terms with the fact that your schedule is going to get shot to shit once you get there. It sucks, but it’s what happens. And it’s okay.

Every year I have all sorts of grand notions about what I’m going to be doing each and every hour of the con. I’m pumped and I’m ready to rock and roll! And I do, for the first couple days, but then I start to mellow out by and slow down by day three. I opt for a long lunch with friends or a nap in the hotel room over a panel I was kind of interested in. This may not happen to you (I’m an introvert), but if it does, don’t feel like it’s the end of the world if you allow yourself some leeway to adjust.

It’s also important to remember that guests sometimes cancel, photo op times shift, panels fill up, and it’s easy to get lost on the way from one hotel to another. Stuff happens. Don’t let missing one thing ruin the rest of your convention.

Get to Know New People

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When you finally get to your con, there are going to be people from all over the nation (sometimes the world) in attendance and you’ve already got something in common with all of them – you’re all complete and utter nerds! Take advantage of this opportunity to get to know people from different places. Geek out over the things you love with people.

I once overheard someone telling their friend, “I’m weird 361 days a year, but this weekend I’m home.” That statement has really struck with me and I think it accurately captures how a lot of people feel about attending conventions. Enjoy the feeling of being surrounded by like-minded people for a change. It’s not uncommon for lasting relationships to form over just a few con days.

Use the Subway When Possible

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I love the subway. It makes getting around big cities so much easier. The first thing I do when I get to Atlanta for Dragon Con is buy an Amtrak pass for the weekend. Plan to use the subway when preparing for a geek convention, especially if your hotel is a several blocks away.

In fact, if you can find a hotel just outside of the main convention area but situated next to a subway station, you’ll be golden the entire trip.

Added bonus (at least in Atlanta) – the subway helps you quickly get from one side of the road to the other when the streets are too flooded with people and cars to do it above ground. This usually only happens during the parade, but still, it’s a huge plus.

Rest / Sleep When You Can

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Resting and sleeping are probably the last thing on your mind now that you’re preparing for a geek convention, but I speak the truth here. It’s going to be important to conserve your energy as much as possible so you’re better able to enjoy your favorite parts of the con.

If you need a nap, take a damn nap. Don’t push through and then feel terrible for the next several hours. Staying up super late in your hotel room is also counterproductive. After my last event for the evening, I head back, get stuff ready for the next day, and go to sleep so I can be as fresh as possible in the morning. I also avoid scheduling panels at 8AM if I know I’m going to be out until 1AM or later.

That said, also plan to be a little sleep deprived for a few days. A convention trip is not the kind of vacation you come back from rested and refreshed. You’ll be dragging for a couple days, but it’ll be totally worth it!

Try Something New

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We geeks can be somewhat stubborn people at times. Don’t let that get in your way of trying new things while you’re at a convention. Someone invites you to a weird sounding concert? Go and check it out. If it’s terrible, you can leave. Find a cool looking game? Find someone to play it with you. Maybe it’ll end up being something you want to pick up in the dealer’s room later. Maybe you’ll make a new friend in the process!

Don’t be afraid to step a little outside your comfort zone. Be safe, obviously, but becoming mentally ready to try new things is definitely part of preparing for a geek convention.

Stay Cool and Hydrated

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Preparing for a geek convention also means preparing for lots of hot weather. Many conventions are in the summer, which is great if you’re a teacher but terrible if you hate the heat. Personally, I despise the heat but, unfortunately, it’s part of the package.

If it’s too hot outside, find a panel to sit down in for a while. It doesn’t even have to be something you’re interested in, as long as it keeps you from overheating. This is also where having a full water bottle comes in. More con survival tips? Drink lots and lots of water. As a rule, you should drink so regularly that you never actually get thirsty. If you’re thirsty, it means your body is always dehydrating. So just drink water to drink.

Be Smart; Stay Safe

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And while we’re are on the subject of drinking, be smart about your alcohol consumption. A lot of people drink at conventions – in fact, it can feel like a giant frat party sometimes – but it’s vital that you stay safe while doing it. One of my most important con survival tips is, if you plan to drink, make sure you do it with friends. Know your limits and, while you can bump into them a little, don’t go tearassing passed them.

We like to think that, as geeks, we’re all good people. Most of us are, but there are bound to be a few bad eggs looking to take advantage of someone at every convention.

Staying safe also includes taking care of others in need. There’s been a couple times where I’ve had to help someone out, either by finding their friends or getting them back to their rooms. Do unto others as you hope they’d do unto you.

Go to Panels

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I mean, duh, right? Of course you’re going to go to panels! But seriously, go to panels. You paid the registration fee, so attend as much as you can to ensure you get your money’s worth.

An additional word of advice, however, is to get to panels very early. As con survival tips rank, this one is pretty high. Even if you think no one else is going to be interested, there’s a good chance it’ll fill up. After all, if no one was going to be interested, it wouldn’t be on the schedule.

Big panels with big stars are ones you want to get in line for really early. If it’s something I’m absolutely determined to see, I show up at least two to three hours early. Remember what I said about bringing some entertainment? Yeah, now you know why.

Another note on lines: con volunteers will often say people can’t line more than an hour in advance. That’s crap. Don’t believe them. I mean, it’s actually true but fans start their own “unofficial” lines much earlier and those generally end up being where the volunteers start the official line. It’s kind of crappy, but it is what it is.

Get Guest Autographs and Photos

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Most convention guests will have booths where you can get autographs. There will also be professional photo ops. Figuring out who I autographs from and photos with is one of my favorite parts of preparing for a geek convention. I love bringing home goodies to put on my office wall. Here are some great con survival tips if you plan to spend time collecting autographs or want to get your picture taken with one of the guests:

  1. Don’t take candid photos of guests without first knowing it is allowed. Their agents sometimes get really mad at you if they see you doing it without permission.
  2. Plan when you’re getting autographs just like you plan the rest of your con. Guests won’t always just be sitting at their booths. They often post signs with autograph times, though, so use those when you can.
  3. There will be lines for autographs for big stars, especially right when the guest arrives at their booth. Either get there very early and stand in line to be one of the first people seen, or wait until the line dies down. High profile stars may have lines that never die down, but it amazes me sometimes when I walk by some booths on day three of the con and no one is in line.
  4. Photo ops can be a hot mess. You usually get a ticket, show up an hour or so before the photo time, stand in line, and then get ushered through sed line very, very quickly. There won’t be time for pleasantries. Just try to smile and look as good as possible for ten seconds while they snap the shot.
  5. DON’T LOSE YOUR PHOTO OP TICKET! They do not give you another one. If you lose your ticket, you are out of luck.
  6. If there is something wrong with your photo (i.e. someone has their eyes closed), you can request that it be retaken. Don’t wait to do this. Alert the photo company right away because the guests are on a tight schedule and they won’t be able to come back later for a single photo.

Hit the Dealer’s Room Multiple Times (and especially on the last day)

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Yay dealer’s room! Oh, it’s so much fun. There’s going to be all sorts of stuff you want to buy. Here are my two con survival tips for buying things at conventions.

First, grab what you really want (like really, really, really want)  as soon as you see it. Vendors are usually traveling long distances and they won’t have lots of stock available. When things are gone, they are gone.

Second, visit the dealer’s room over and over again. No matter how many times you walk through, you’re going to see something you didn’t see the times before. It’s also particularly useful to go back on the final day of the con. Vendors don’t like to have to pack up lots of stuff and take it back with them. They are tired and just want to go home, so they will often lower prices in order to move more inventory.

Remember to Eat!

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This may sound stupid, but I did attend a convention once with someone who got so caught up in everything that they forgot to eat. By the time evening hit, they were a hot mess and hardly able to do a darn thing. As far as con survival tips go, remembering to eat is a pretty big one…you know, because starving just isn’t fun.

Forgetting to eat is silly. Nothing is so important that you’re excused from taking care of yourself.

Be Patient

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Just like a trip to Disney World, there’s going to be a lot of waiting around in line, on the subway, between sessions, or for your food. It will to be uber crowded, so nothing is going to be moving quickly (or even normally). One of my best con survival tips is to start getting used to this idea early. Remember to be patient with people and the lines, as well as with con staff and volunteers. You’ll be much happier for it, I promise.

Have More Con Survival Tips to share?

And so our grand convention journey ends…but for you, the fun should just be beginning! Whether this is your first con or you’ve been attending conventions for years, I hope you have an amazing time. I’d love to hear about it!

Have questions about attending or preparing for your geek convention? Are you a seasoned con-goer with more survival con tips to add? Leave a comment below or contact me directly. I’d love to hear from you!

Did you miss one or both of my other blog posts? Make sure you check out all of the The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for a Geek Convention articles.

P.S. If you’re a big Teen Wolf or Star Trek Discovery fan, check out my episode recaps on The Game of Nerds. I write weekly articles for this site and they are awesome! The Game of Nerds, that is – although my posts are pretty epic too.

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