Saturday, 23 March 2013

Convention Preparation: Part Three of Three.

OK, so it’s time for the final part of convention preparation:What to do at the con itself.

Convention Etiquette.

I covered basic hygiene last week so I’ll assume you’re washed and dressed appropriately.

You’re going to have to queue, sometimes for hours, to get into the more popular panels. Be nice, don’t cut the queue, don’t break wind in the line and nerve gas the people around you and please, no shoving.

Treat everyone like you’d want to be treated and make the effort to talk to people. You’d be amazed at the conversations you’ll strike up if you make the effort. Even if you’re a bit of a loner socially (and many of us are) or at the con on your own I’d strongly urge you to make the effort. Remember, you have at least one thing in common with the stranger beside you: your shared love of pop culture. There’s a conversation starter right there. 

We’re in a connected world and the online fandom can sometimes breed a bit on anger in people. You may run into people you’ve crossed swords with on a message board in the past. It happens. Resist the urge to smash your pint glass in their stupid faces, I don’t care if they insulted Joss Whedon or committed another heinous crime: leave it alone. You will be thrown out of the con or arrested.

You may run into guests outside of the convention. Remember to give them their space. Don’t rush over to them in the Indian restaurant down the street and demand they sign your chest or speak to them while they’re taking a dump. Both of these are things I have seen happen.

Having said that, if they’re holding court in the hotel bar, get in there and buy them a drink! They’re regular people too. You may be surprised what you have in common.

Attending panels.

This is the fun stuff right here, it’s one of the major attractions of attending any convention. You get to sit in a room and hear someone whose work you adore just talk for an hour. The best panels I have attended are hours I will remember forever. (e.g. Veronica Mars panel at SDCC in 2006.) 

There’ll usually be a Q & A session at the end. Have your burning questions ready. You’ll usually be only able to ask one as time is always against you. Keep it short and sweet. Sometimes someone else will have asked your question already, have a back up prepared and written down somewhere just in case.

Oh and don’t be the guy AT EVERY CONVENTION I’VE EVER BEEN TO who asks the voice actor “What would happen if (cartoon character A) and (cartoon character B) went to a restaurant and didn’t get what they ordered.” Voice actors hate these questions. In fact, if you asked one what was the question they’d least like to be asked it would probably be one of these types of question. (Someone asked this to Gary Chalk (Voice of Optimus Prime) at a con I attended a few years back and got that exact answer.)

Also DO NOT ask an actor if they’ve read slash fiction involving characters they’ve played. They haven’t. Most of them have no idea it even exists. (This was also asked of Gary Chalk at the con in the UK I attended. He was asked it at a Canadian convention the next year as well.)  


Many cons put a limit of the amount of things you can get signed. Three or four things is usually the maximum allowed. There are lots of other people in the line so be considerate of them and the wrist of the writer or actor who is doing the signing.

Some people will charge for a signed photo, its how many jobbing actors help pay the mortgage. You’ll usually be informed in advance by the con organisers if it’s the case. Most actors in my experience will usually be ok with getting a photo taken with you though.

Buying stuff!

Also a major attraction of attending a con in person. Online shopping is fun but you can’t beat the feeling of finding at item you really wanted in the flesh (as it were).

Sometimes there’ll be con exclusive items (toys, limited edition art prints etc). These can be worth getting but they’ll occasionally be pricey. Depending on the item there may be an aftermarket value so buying a spare for Ebay can be worth your while. (SDCC convention exclusives can go for four to five times their retail price, depending on the item).

Make a shopping list of what you really want to get to help you budget. Get your list done and everything after that is gravy.

You should be prepared to bargain if possible. Some dealers won’t do it. Many will. Shop around. But remember that rare items will go quickly. The last hour of a convention is a good time to do some shopping. The dealers want to bring as little as possible home with them. Getting fifty percent knocked off something is not uncommon if you can haggle. 

Buying artwork from artists is also possible. Sketches can run you anything from €10 to €100, depending on if it’s a head sketch or a full figure. It’s a great way of having a unique item that you can get framed and hang on the wall of your man cave / hovel.

Some artists will be selling the original artwork from comics they’ve worked on. These can cost anything from €40 to a few thousand a page. The higher prices are usually commanded by “Splash page” images (i.e. a single image of a famous character or characters) or comic covers. Expect to pay less for storytelling pages with lots of smaller panels.

You can often walk away with a decent page of published artwork from a top tier comic for €200 to €300.
Getting your luggage / purchases home.

Some cons (particularly ones that deal heavily in toys) in the USA will have a Fed-Ex or DHL desk on site that will allow you to send stuff home directly. It’s usually expensive but you’re paying for the convenience.

You can always post packages home from a nearby post office as well. Chances are you’ll make it home before the parcel does.

Book an extra bag in for the return journey in advance if you are planning on getting a lot of stuff. It’s cheaper than showing up at the airport with the extra bag.

That’s it, that’s all I can think of off-hand! I’d be happy to take further questions via the comments or facebook if you have any.

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