Monday Musings: 9 Convention Tips & Tricks

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Welcome to ‘Monday Musings’!

A new segment from Teenplicity, ‘Monday Musings’ will explore personal interests and thoughts in a multitude of ways. Whether it be through lists, fan interaction, or discussion posts, each week will offer a different topic and new perspective from Teenplicity about what is on our mind. The range of topics, just like our interests, will be vast. Some might be familiar, as it could highlight previous feature stars, while others will discuss uncharted subjects for Teenplicity. They might be fun posts with a silly twist or a more serious discussion about something that could concern you.

The goal is for Teenplicity to become more engaged and involved with our readers. The Teenplicity Team is made up of fans, just like you. Let us know what you care about – a show, a film, music, an event or aspect of your life. There are no limits for what can be explored in ‘Monday Musings’ or how we present it to you.

Here are nine tips & tricks to help you get through your first convention!

  1. Folders.

Okay, so, you’re getting an autograph or you’re getting a photo op done with your favorite celebrity. What are you going to do with it for the rest of the day? You could purchase a protective sleeve from one of the convention vendors for the cost of an arm and a leg (been there, done that). But why? You can either purchase the sleeve via Amazon prior to convention or do what I do and use an old school folder. Seriously, it was probably the best thing I ever did. It’s lightweight, I only need one to hold all of the autographs and photos I plan on getting, and I can place other papers I receive throughout the day, business cards and convention map included. Plus I can leave some spare paper inside one of the pockets in case I want to write a quick note for a celebrity, write out my plan for the convention, or jot down any questions I may have for an upcoming panel. Some friends use a binder with plastic sleeves which is also a cost effective and cool way to keep all your convention pictures, autographs, and art safe but I prefer the folder as it’s lighter and smaller.

 

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  1. Plan ahead the best you can.

I tried doing the whole ‘We’ll see how it goes!’ mindset with a  convention and it didn’t work out so well. Either I missed out on things I really wanted to do or I didn’t know how to spend my free time. A good way to help you plan ahead is to check if your upcoming convention has an app. This will be a quick and easy way to check the schedule, guests, vendors, and more! Use it to help you plan ahead with your money, with merchandise, and with your time.

  1. Money. Buy what you can ahead of time. That means any photo ops you can buy online prior to the convention, any special merchandise, etc. Do what you can before the convention so you’re spending all your money on that when you’re there and also so you don’t have to juggle everything as the day goes on. Organizing (also budgeting) your money beforehand will not only help you figure out your schedule but it will also help you to ensure you don’t spend your next three paychecks or your entire savings account. Having an idea in mind of what things will cost you – prices for things like autographs, photos, etc. are usually posted on the convention website ahead of time. Use this to sort your budget. If you’re looking for an autograph and selfie (photo at the table) with a certain guest, sometimes they will have “combo” deals, though the convention website won’t always advertise that. It’s better to allow yourself more room in the budget in case these aren’t available. Rather be safe and have leftover money than be sorry and be left shorthanded.
  2. Browse merchandise online. If you’re looking to buy merchandise during the convention, you can always browse at some vendors online shops. Usually vendors are listed on the convention’s website well ahead of time and most will have a website or online shop that you can view. These will give you an idea of what kind of items, custom artwork, or other things they sell that might be available for purchase during the weekend. It also gives an insight into pricing. Keep in mind though that prices and stock may fluctuate depending on the demand and the convention. There also might be “Con Exclusive” items that vendors and artists bring specifically for the convention that’s not available online. You’ll be able to organize your time better too.
  3. Time. Conventions usually release the schedule for the weekend around a week to two weeks ahead of time. This will include the times for panels, photo ops, and other events or happenings at the convention. Individual guest schedules, like when certain guests will be signing, doing photo ops, or participating in a panel, will be available then as well. Taking a good look at this will help you organize your weekend and make sure you hit the things you want to do most. My advice is to focus on the panels first. Most guests will attend the convention for at least two days – some will do all three or four days while very few only do one day – so if there’s a photo op at the time of a panel, try to do the photo on another day. Make a list of all the things that catch your interest. From there, you can narrow down the things you want to invest your time in most and then you can organize the rest of your “free time” around that. Be aware of what might have crowds around it, like a popular artist or vendor booth, and what may have long lines, like a major panel or big list celebrity. Try to get these things done on quieter days like Thursday or Sunday, if the schedule allows. Know that it may take up a chunk of your time. If you plan to do shopping, save that for those slower days too. I highly recommend going on a Thursday if the convention starts on that day. This typically has the least amount of attendees of the entire weekend. Vendors will usually have a full stock which means you can have first picks at whatever you may like. While many people advise to wait until Sunday when you’ve seen everything you possibly can, keep in mind that this also may mean that the vendor is out of stock of that item after the busy weekend. Having a plan ahead of the weekend, no matter how simple or loose it may seem, really does help everything flow much easier and with less stress.

 

  1. Cash.

THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. I know we live in a world of debit and credit cards but having cash on hand is so important for these events. Most vendors will have a way to accept debit and credit cards but you don’t want to miss out on that really awesome merchandise because you didn’t have some cash on hand. The same thing goes for artwork as many artists will have their creations ready to sell, or will even have options to create art for you – for a price, understandably – during the convention. Plus, you can always tip them as well. Physical money is also really important if you’re looking to get an autograph. Most cons will have you pay cash upfront just prior to meeting the celebrity. Only a few accept card payments. If this is your one and only chance to meet said celebrity, don’t let the wrong form of payment stop you.

 

  1. Eat big beforehand and HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE!!

Not all cons will allow you to bring in food. Understandable as the event center is looking to make money off of the stands that will service the convention. What is equally understandable is not wanting to pay $10 for chicken nuggets and fries that may or may not be good. This is why it’s so important to have a good breakfast. Not only are you going to walking a lot and are going to be on your feet in general most of the day, but it will help keep you going and keep you satisfied for a longer period of time. If you can, try to bring snacks in your bag. Some conventions will allow this while others may have you throw them out so keep that in mind as you attend. Another good option is going off property to a nearby restaurant or fast food joint for lunch or a quick bite. Most convention centers are in the city center which means a lot of options close by. Don’t be afraid to step out to eat. Throughout this all, be sure to hydrate with WATER. You make not think it, but conventions can sometimes be overwhelming and you’ll forget to drink. Bring a water bottle with you, as most conventions do allow this. You can refill it throughout the day at water fountains around the convention floor. Usually they are located by the bathrooms. Remember — HYDRATE.

 

  1. Don’t overpack your bag.

I am notorious for overpacking. Really. I usually attend a convention with a lint roller, tide pen, first aid kit, snacks, etc. in my backpack. For Star Wars Celebration when some panels required a stay overnight to get a seat, I even packed some Colgate Wisp mini-toothbrushes. Despite all the things I carry in my bag, I make sure they’re all travel size, lightweight, and small. For real, I end up having a Mary Poppins-esque bag. Keep in mind when preparing a bag or backpack that you will have to lug it around all day. Drawstrings may seem like a quick and easy solution but around hour five, the thin straps digging into your shoulders make life pretty uncomfortable. And you probably won’t need half of the things you’re thinking of bringing. Try to keep it down to the absolute necessities. If you don’t want to bring one of your bags from home, usually one of the corporate booths will have free bags with goodies inside of it (I got one from NASA last time, complete with stickers, temporary tattoos, and more).

 

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  1. Dress accordingly.

Whether you’re going in cosplay or street clothes, remember that you probably have a long day ahead of you. For street clothes, try to bring a light sweater or jacket with you as the halls where panels are held tend to be the coldest as the AC is blasting to keep the large crowds cool. Reasonable and comfortable shoes are a must as well. Like mentioned in #4, you will be on your feet and walking most of the day. While your boots, heels, or sandals may seem comfortable, think about the fact you’ll be wearing them nonstop for hours, walking around as well as standing still in them for moderate periods of time. Will you be comfortable? Are you willing to put up with that all day long? Same applies to cosplays. In addition, while cosplays are incredible and beautiful, some of them are large, heavy, and hot. If you’re thinking of cosplaying, either try to plan it for a day that you don’t have a lot scheduled. While your cosplay may be great, it can also be bulky and make enjoying things like panels, photo ops, special events, and more difficult and uncomfortable. Most conventions will hold a “Cosplay Red Carpet” each day with professional and amateur photographers taking pictures of cosplayers. Some conventions will even do a fashion show or contest. Be sure to look into the day and times for those events as well.

 

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  1. Spare batteries.

Depending on the kind of content you’re engaging in during the convention, you’re either off of your phone most of the day, immersing yourself in all things around you, or killing your wait time by checking Twitter or playing a game. Keep in mind that most convention spaces don’t actually offer free WiFi and if they do, it’s extremely slow. So you’ll be burning through your LTE and your battery pretty quickly. In that case, be sure to bring a portable charger if you have one. While there are some wall outlets throughout the convention, you don’t want to be stuck in one spot or miss out on something because you were charging your phone. It never hurts to carry one around even if you still have a lot you plan to do as you never know what might happen. You can also use it to make friends while on lines as always be in need of charging their phone.

 

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  1. Always ask for a picture.

Don’t be that creep that sneaks a photo of some stranger because you like their outfit or cosplay. Trust me, we’ve all been there. But it’s always better to ask. It’s nice and respectful. Plus, this often leads to conversations with the person you want the photo of. Cosplayers mostly expect that they make get asked for a photo of or with them while at the convention. Many are friendly, excited, and open to doing so. It shows appreciation for all their hard work put into their outfits and it makes everyone’s day a bit brighter. However, sometimes circumstances change and they may not be feeling up for a photo and they have every right to say no. In those cases, nod your head, thank them, feel free to let them know you like their cosplay, and move along. Don’t pester or badger them. They are in no way, shape, or form obligated to take photos. Keep in mind that you can still let someone know that their cosplay is awesome without wanting a photo. Some cosplayers may expect that as a followup, as they’ve been asked that multiple times throughout the day, but just getting a compliment is also nice. It may lead to a longer, more in-depth conversation as well. Just remember that cosplay does not equal consent and they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to and that their cosplay does not mean that you can do whatever you want to. Respect and boundaries are still very important as they always should be.

 

  1. Don’t be afraid to go slow.

It’s a lot to take in. Trust me that it can be overwhelming. The convention floor alone is packed with rows up rows of booths, artists, vendors, celebrities, and more. There is so much happening that it can feel like a sensory overload. It’s impossible to take everything in with one glance. If you need or want to take your time, that’s okay. Give yourself some time to walk around and soak in the atmosphere, take a look at the different vendors and artists, see what is happening throughout the floor. Some conventions will actually have tattoo artists there who can tattoo you then and there, time and price willing. Going slow is completely acceptable and understandable. I encourage it. Going so fast through everything causes you to miss out on so much (I missed the NASA booth much of my first day at MegaCon Orlando because I was running around everywhere). Also, if the convention is proving to be too much and you need some time to yourself, some conventions will have meeting rooms available that are designated quiet spaces where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the con floor. Be sure to check in your convention map for where those places might be.

Did you like ‘Monday Musings’? If so, you’re in luck! Each week, Teenplicity will feature a new ‘Monday Musings’ post about things we are looking forward to, topics close to our hearts, or suggestions from readers!

Do you have a suggestion for ‘Monday Musings’? You can let Teenplicity know what you’d like to see on Twitter or anonymously on Tumblr! Or you can directly contact Mary Ayers on Twitter and anonymously on Tumblr or Brie Garrett on Twitter and Tumblr

23. Television and radio production graduate. || I think some people underestimate the range and variety of things that interest younger generations. I'm determined not to.

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