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Jeff’s Ten Simple Rules for a Better Convention Experience – 2012 Edition

Once again I thought I’d lay out a few obvious, or at least obvious to me, thoughts about how to do your best to make your convention going experiences great for yourself and others since the con season is getting into swing. For the most part, these tidbits don’t require a whole lot of thought and really no monetary investment to pull off so they could easily be adopted by 95% of convention attendees without an issue. Of course, most of what I’ll share does require a modicum of common sense and a heap of common courtesy so you’ll have to take them for what they’re worth. The reality is almost all of these rules come naturally to just about all con visitors but, unfortunately, there are more people than you would think for whom these tips will be completely alien…

10. Personal Hygiene: Yes, this makes the list again although I do believe I’ve noticed a little less “Con-Funk” the past couple years than I had in the past. Still it goes without saying you should try to shower at least every other day – if you’re staying in a hotel or motel then it should be mandatory you bathe daily. Say money is tight and you’re staying in a van down by the river though? At least bring along the most powerful deodorant you can find as well as a toothbrush and toothpaste. Maybe a couple rolls of mints to be safe? Also, have clean clothes to change into every day.

I understand some folks perspire more than others so if that’s the case you might want to have another shirt to change into and carry a travel deodorant in your pocket. Just pop into one of the bathrooms at the show, freshen up a little, and get back on your merry way. Be mindful that other people have travelled just as far to attend the show and have every right to expect to enjoy sitting in on a panel or event without wondering what might have crawled up and died next to them before they run out gagging.

9. Media: This is actually two sides of the same coin – respect. If you’re hanging around at a show and happen to see someone in the midst of an interview please don’t walk up and interrupt them. If the media member is taking photos or shooting video please don’t jump into the background to get into the shot. All of these things are very distracting and eat up some of the precious time available to the press. A vast majority of people with press credentials have travelled a long way, at their own expense, to cover the con and are usually running on a tight schedule. Not to mention the additional time it takes to edit out the interruption from the audio, video, or photography before publication.

On the flip side of that same coin, if you’re a member of the press you need to respect everyone around you. We get into the shows for free and are normally privileged to receive extra benefits because we are members of the media. Remember 98% of the folks at the show paid good hard earned money to attend while we did not. Treat everyone you meet regardless if they’re a volunteer, organizer, exhibitor, ticket holder, special guest, or janitor politely as we are ambassadors of the genres we report on. Sadly, I’ve seen quite a few people sporting press/media credentials be extremely rude – even shouting out derogatory comments to cosplayers – and that paints all of us in a bad light.

Being a card carrying member of the media does not give you carte blanche to be a jackass.

8. Be Patient and Stay Calm: No one likes to stand in line. Ok, maybe there’s some odd fetish I’m unaware of involving people who love hanging around the DMV all day, but for the rest of us being stuck in line is a drag. Regardless if you preregistered four months ago or you decided to attend a show on a lark for the day, you’ll be standing in line at least to get your badge. The staff trying to get everyone checked in are doing the best to do so as quickly as possible – computer glitches do happen, especially at larger cons, so understand if something is holding things up. Do try to make the best of it and pass the time by getting to know the people around you. Obviously those folks share many of the same interests as you so why not make some new friends? Who knows they might tell you about something really cool you never knew about and at least you’ll have someone else to commiserate with that the line seems to have only moved thirty feet in the last hour.

If you find an event you’ve been dreaming about for the last month is sold out or that panel you’ve been dying to sit in on is full when you arrive here are two words for you: Stay Calm! Better yet, don’t panic!

Throwing a fit isn’t going to get you anywhere or at least anywhere with a positive outcome. Just roll with the punch and get into something else. It might even be a good idea to have some back up events (or generic tickets) on hand in the case of emergency. I can’t tell you how many times Elliott and I had something planned on the agenda, only to get there and find it was full or sold out. Without fail we end up somewhere else and have a blast – possibly a better time than we would have originally – by flying by the seat of our pants.

7. Perv Out on Your Own Time: Yes, once again I’ll mention sex sells but no one at a show is selling sex. Ok, maybe at some con in Thailand that goes on – no offense to folks in Thailand – but I’ve never seen it at any event I’ve attended. Let me point out I’m a full blooded male, single, and “loves me da ladies” yet I also realize some exhibitors have booth babes and those women are there to entice you to stop by to check out what the company has for sale. One thing I can guarantee the company isn’t selling is the booth babe (or even the booth hunk)…  Once again that respect thing comes into play. It shouldn’t matter if someone of the opposite sex is well endowed and extremely attractive; you need to roll your tongue back into your mouth and play nice. This goes for the attendees you see in costume as well as it shouldn’t matter if you see the hottest captive Leia in the world, you don’t want to ruin someone else’s experience by perving out.

I know most readers will think this should go without saying but you’d be surprised the poor behavior I’ve seen from people at cons; men and women.

6. Watch Your Mouth: I myself have a bit of a tough time with this one so I find the need to mentally note everyone doesn’t need to know I swear like a truck driving ex-sailor who did ten years in the slammer. Kids are everywhere at these shows and you just never know when one might be underfoot. Plus many adults may not use the same language as you may and could be offended by words that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow from your family and friends. Try to keep things PG and you’ll be good to go.

Also, this doesn’t just apply to swearing but also to other topics like sex, religion, politics, or anything else that could possibly set someone off. As an example, let’s say you have a cohost who just can’t seem to get enough of “Glee” while, at the same time you’d rather have red hot pokers rammed into your eyes and ears before being exposed to ten seconds of the opening credits. It’s okay they like the show just as you’re well within your right to not like it. Simply say, “Hmmm… I’m not a fan of Glee but what other shows do you watch?” You’ve gotten your point across ta you don’t watch Glee and put the kibosh on a continuation of a “Glee-centric” conversation while at the same time showed respect for that person by indicating interest in what other programs that you might share a common like.

Try this sometime rather than simply shooting down someone else’s interest; you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

5. Be Nice to the Organizer: This is important since you might find yourself taking part in a game or event where you feel could have been much better if you had been at the reins. As much as we may like to think that, the reality is we probably couldn’t because if we could we would have been running the show in the first place. Although I have experienced some poorly organized panels or game sessions so on occasions maybe we really could have done a better job. Regardless, we’re not behind the wheel so let the organizer drive. Granted they may get us lost on the way but very rarely are they going to run us over a cliff either.

If you really aren’t enjoying yourself you can either just roll with the punch and make the best of it or do your best to extract yourself as quietly and with as little fuss as possible. If you’re sitting in on a panel you aren’t completely sold on to start with, sit toward the back and this way you can excuse yourself rather quickly without creating a disruption. Keep your negative comments to yourself until you’re out of the area and then feel free to voice your criticism to your pals. If you’re involved in a gaming event this can be a bit trickier since simply jumping up and walking off can easily through the game off kilter for everyone else involved. My advice here is to just stick it out; it’s usually only two hours out of your life anyway so simply do what you can to insure the other people at the table continue to have a good time. Pouting and sulking won’t benefit anyone anyway.

No one is perfect and nothing can be all things to all people. You might not dig how something is being run and, if the organizer asks for feedback afterwards, provide constructive criticism. Rather than just tossing a blanket statement like “You suck!” out there, ask the organizer why they went in the direction they did as far as what you didn’t like. You may just be able to help that person provide a better experience in the future.

4. Cosplay Responsively: I have to say I really get a kick out of the vast array of costumes people come up with at the cons. Sure, I might not want to dress up but I surely appreciate the imagination and hard work that goes into a lot of the makeup and outfits con goers create. That said if I wanted to watch a street performer or catch Blue Man Group, I would track down a performer on the street or buy tickets to Blue Man. The convention traffic shouldn’t have to stop to accommodate a mini performance every time some stops you for a photo. If you happen to be hanging around in an out of the way spot by all means knock yourself out and recite Hamlet if you’d like; I’ll probably stop by for a few minutes to watch.

Yet, without fail, it seems as if there’s always a few groups of cosplayers who seem to think the folks coming to the show are there to see them. Zombies have to drop to the ground and writhe around, steam punkers put on a little performance, or anime fans reenact scenes. All in the exhibitors’ area where thousands of people are trying to make their way from point to point. Please have a little courtesy for those out there who may not be as enamored with you as you may.

Also, for those of you who want to get photos of a lot of these excellent costumes, if you find yourself in a high traffic area politely ask your subject to step to the side. This shows you have concern for your fellow attendees as well as the people you’re photographing – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone get plowed into because they’ve stopped to have their photo snapped.

3. Move Along… There’s Nothing to See: This piggybacks on number four as there are huge crowds at many shows and everyone, and I mean everyone, is on their way to somewhere to see or do something. Knowing this, I can’t get my mind around the number of attendees who just stop dead in their tracks in the midst of the throngs. That text or tweet can wait the extra moment or two until you make your way to the end of an aisle where there’s plenty of maneuvering room. Need to get your bearings and consult the convention book to find something? Great, once again head to the end of the aisle you’re in and take it from there. Yes, this also goes for mom and dad who brought along the Cadillac sized stroller. Honestly, I love the fact mom and dad are there and they’re exposing their kids to the things they really dig, but you’re only running the risk of having the little ones run down when you decide you’re going to take a breather in the midst of a busy convention intersection.

2. Have a Plan and Then Improvise: People don’t tend to fly by the seat of their pants as Elliott and I like to do so for them I always recommend taking time to go online before you head off to the con in order to get a feel for what you’d like to experience. This isn’t to say every second of every day needs to be plotted but come up with a bit of a gameplan and do your best to stick with it while also being open to something new and unplanned. Let’s say you don’t get into see Wil Wheaton or Felicia Day, or the Star Wars panel is full, or a guest backs out last minute, or the game you have a ticket for is cancelled. What are you going to do? Piss and moan about it for the rest of the day? Oh yeah, that’s a good time. No, you’re going to open the event book and see what else is cooking. Hopefully, you’re not right in the middle of a busy hallway when you whip the book out though…

One of the great things about attending conventions is the ability to immerse ourselves into our hobbies and interests while, at the same time, opening ourselves to new experiences. We can geek out on the things we love and have a chance to see or do things we’ve never seen or done before. How awesome is that?

1. Everyone is More Important Than You!: Ok, do I really mean everyone is more important than yourself? No. What I do mean is you need to treat everyone you encounter as if they were. You’d probably hold the door open for your boss; I’ll bet you’d say “Excuse me” if you bumped into the senator you voted for in the last election; I highly doubt you’d knock over your favorite actor or actress simply to get into an exhibitors’ room before they did. This is what I mean with rule number one.

Event after event I’m rather shocked by the rudeness I either see going or experience at the hands of fellow attendees. I really don’t understand the reasoning behind it since we all obviously have a common love of what we’re there to celebrate so why aren’t we all celebrating each other as well?  Can it really be that hard to hold a door open for the next couple of people behind you? Or to say “Pardon me” when you open a door or turn a corner and wind up smack in front of someone else? How tough is a simple “Please” or “Thank You?”

I don’t care if you’re the most callous, anti-social SOB who’s decided to leave their internet trolling behind to give it a go in the real world – you do not want to be that one person who sours someone else about the convention going experience. I also don’t care how important you may mistakenly think your lot is on this old ball of dirt, you still do not have the right be rude, spiteful, snide, judgmental, impolite, or any other sort of dick when you hit the convention scene; save it for your real life when you’re only making yourself miserable.

Plus you might not realize how good you feel when someone sincerely thanks you for being nice and politely courteous. Seriously, other folks taking a second to return your kindness makes you feel great!

And isn’t that why we’re all going to the show in the first place?

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