I have just got back from an amazing weekend at Star Wars Celebration, one of the biggest conventions I’ve ever attended (more on that soon!). I’ve also covered MCM London & Hyper Japan for SCK so I thought it might be a good idea to share some tips and tricks to help you survive your first convention.
Don’t Plan Too Much
This is my top tip. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to do everything you want to, so you’ll definitely need to prioritise. Pick a couple of big panels you want to try and see and then fill the rest of the day with smaller talks and shows and definitely set aside plenty of time to walk around the show floor checking out the artists and shops. If you only have one day to explore the convention, then this is especially important.
If there are panels that are important to you, then you need to make sure to get there ahead of time so that you can guarantee to be seated. This will vary from panel to panel and convention to convention though. At Star Wars I arrived at The Clone Wars panel 2 hours in advance and the queue was already full, but at others I was able to show up just as it started. Sometimes talks will run over, schedules will change or things will get moved, so flexibility is really important (and download the con app for notifications). If you want a photo or autograph with a specific creator then make sure to book them well in advance as popular people will get booked up very quickly.
Comfort Is Key
You will be on your feet all day so make sure you wear the most comfortable shoes you own and not ones that you haven’t worn in yet. It’s usually pretty hot inside a convention hall (especially when it’s crowded), so wear layers if it’s cooler elsewhere or outside. I have been on sweltering show floors, but also in air conditioned panels where I’ve been shivering by the end, so be prepared for anything!
Cosplay can make the above a little harder to follow along with, depending on the character you choose, but the enjoyment you get from dressing up as your favourite characters can’t be beaten. I didn’t cosplay at my first convention, but I remember being so jealous of all the people that had, that I knew I wanted to get involved and have dressed up ever since. A convention is the best space to share your love for specific characters or to express yourself creatively.
There are so many levels of cosplay, with some people taking months or even years to make their creations, whereas others just pick them up ready made online. If you want to express yourself, then this can be a fantastic environment to do it. It’s also a great icebreaker to start chatting to people. Which brings me on to my next point…
Talk to People
You will be doing a lot of queueing, so make friends with the people around you. You’re all interested in the same thing after all, so you’ll have plenty to talk about. I’ve attended solo before and chatting to people made it far less lonely and you might also find out about other events, talks, or artists that you might not have known about before. I’ve also met lovely people that are now my good friends and I’ve even attended other conventions with them since. With cons like MCM, I’ve found Friday to be the quietest day and is the best time to chat with the artists on the show floor. If you’re interested in finding out more about their work, then this is definitely the best time to go.
Drink all of the water. Bring a refillable bottle and keep filling it up. I said above that convention halls get hot and you will get dehydrated very quickly. I have made the mistake of not drinking enough in the past and it made me feel awful by the end of the day. On a side note – if the convention you’re attending lets you bring your own food, then do that, as queues at vendors can get horribly long and things can often be very overpriced, so just be aware of that.
Conventions will be crowded, but you can avoid the worst of them by attending on a quieter day (avoid Saturdays at MCM), perhaps paying for an early entry ticket or even arriving later when the entry queue has died down. Some conventions have a quiet area for people to go to and you can usually exit and re enter the event itself to take a break outside for a while too if it becomes overwhelming.
There’s usually a cloakroom (double check with the venue though), so you shouldn’t need to worry about carrying around big purchases, coats or extra cosplay items all day. If you think you might purchase artwork, then it’s definitely a good idea to bring a file or a tube to keep them protected and a big enough bag to carry them in.
Overall, a convention is an amazing experience, and whatever your interest, you will find one to suit you. Take advantage of listening to your favourite actors talk on stage, pick up some collectibles, check out sneak peeks of new releases, listen to live music, dress up as your favourite character (or wear them on a t-shirt) and discover some new interests and creators. Most of all enjoy being around people that love the same things as you do. The majority of my friends don’t enjoy anime, Star Wars or Star Trek, so conventions are great spaces to find people that share your love for your chosen fandom.
What conventions are you planning to attend this year? You can search for events worldwide at AnimeCons.com.
Emma is an English teacher who travels a lot. Adventuring around the world is her passion, with Japan being one of her favourite destinations. She loves baking, photography, sweet treats, and all things Disney. If Emma was a Pokémon, she’d definitely be a Pikachu.