Conventioneering: a guide to the first time con goer. (aka the con virgin)

Convention season is here! Yay convention season is here! Yes, I know conventions go off year round, but most conventions hit an attendance stride during the spring, summer and fall months. As a geek I say every fan should go to at least one. Not sure of one near you just wonder over to convention scene’s website ( to see if there is a convention or show near you. Put a comic geek, fan, collector or hobbyist in a decent comic convention with at least a few dollars is basically like putting a kid with a sweet tooth in a candy shop with a few dollars and telling them both to go hog wild.

For those of you going to a convention for the first time I will say this: going to a convention for the first time ever is like having sex for the first time ever. What I mean is that you can look at the photos, read articles about what to do, watch the videos, and listen to people tell you about it. But nothing really prepares you for walking through the doors or your first sexual encounter. Meaning there might even be a mess the first time, some shock and awe, maybe some crying and if things go well you’ll leave hungry, tired, in a state of bliss and some cases a limp. now at comic conventions you can meet both writers and artists of not only your favorite main stream books but discover loads of indie books out there that just as good as the main stream comics on the market. Some comic conventions have media guests from movies to television shows and more.  Some of the best things about conventions are not only can you go practically broke and get a bunch of stuff, but find all the stuff I mentioned above and more at these conventions. though you can find some and do find great deals there are also some companies even give you free stuff (called swag) from books based on games to free issues to buttons, to even key chains an t-shirts and video games and movies.

If you are a first time convention goer there are several things you must know:

First thing is bring enough cash to get there, admission, parking, food, and home. Keep this money not only separate but hidden, if need be. The last thing you need to happen is to spend everything you have once you’re there and have not only no money for gas to get home but no cash to get your car out of the parking garage and or food for the day. (Side note: average admission for most conventions depending on the day is between $20 to $40 and parking at most parking lots/ garages are $20 to $30 all day)  Be forewarned that the average price for a one day pass is between $20 to $40 depending on the day. Some cons cost more some less and because the con cost is high mean that it is a good show or that the cost is cheap it is a bad show. Also v. i. p. passes and multi day passes as always cost more, with the exception that the multiday pass being usually less than the days combined.

If need be use of public transit like metro trains, busses, subways, (where available), can save you money on gas, parking and overall head ache.

Since for the most of the day you’re going to be on your feet make sure you are wearing comfy shoes, sneakers are the best.

A decent backpack or satchel for the stuff you either get, bring or both. For most people a backpack will do. A simple cheap one will do. Trust me when I say if you have enough cash you can quite literally leave with a trunk full of stuff.

Also having a separate camera with fresh batteries is always a good idea. That way if the camera on your phone dies or doesn’t work you have a camera available. The camera doesn’t have to be fancy or top of the line; it just has to take pictures.

If you’re going to be there for a few days, or even one day, don’t forget to bathe. The last thing anyone wants is to smell either your or someone else’s stink while in line.

Though getting food or drink at a convention can be fairly pricey and most if not all convention centers either frown or disallow outside food or drink. There are always a way round that. Though like I said most convention centers disallow outside food or drink, they might not mind to much if you have a bottle of water with you. Food on the other had is different. Though food that can be easily hidden like crackers, beef jerky, pop tarts, or basically food that can fend off hunger until you can get out of line and to a restaurant or fast food joint can be different. Sharing with others in line is optional but can be beneficial for later or to make quick conversation for the slow lines.

Mind your “p”s and “t”s is next. What I mean is your “please” and “thank yous.” Trust me basic courtesy and politeness can and does go a very long way at conventions.

Create a check list, or “hit list” as I call it, of what you wish to get, to see, or do at the convention. You don’t have to get everything on the list but it’s always nice to have something handy to remind you what to keep an eye out for.

As far as planning and funds are concerned. Plan for everything up to the moment the convention starts and after the convention ends, because once the convention starts odds are you plan is going to take a dive quickly. Meaning you have plans stretching for each day of the convention sometimes you can complete everything you wished to do in a day. And sometimes depending on either who’s running the convention, the celebrity’s handler or other can toss your plan to the dogs faster than you can say “salt shaker”. As per funds you can go into a convention with as little as nothing and have as much fun as if you went in with $1000. Just take head of what I said earlier bout saving funds bout getting home or heck spending your food money on that one item you always wanted then having to go hungry for 3 days cause of it. If anything leave your a. t. m. card or charge card at home if possible. That way you don’t have to run the risk of using rent, bill or food money at the convention. A great idea is to set up a travel/ convention account at another bank and toss extra funds or travel money into it that way you can always bring that a. t. m. card with you and that money is separate. Also be forewarned most if not all celebrities charge for autographs. The standard fee is roughly $20 to $40. Mind you some celebrities like William Shatner (Star Trek, Priceline adverts) can charge $65 and others like Mark Hamill (Star Wars, and others) can charge up to $150. Those fees can go higher if the celebrities charge extra for photos or lower if you bring your own item to have signed. Always bank on having celebrities charge a fee, and it’s always good to error on the high side then the low. Therefore any extra funds you walk away with, or the rare case you are at a convention that doesn’t charge, you have that much more to spend on other things at the con.

Don’t forget the panels. Panels are usually question and answer sessions put on by the convention, and they could be about anything and everything. Panels are more than just can be useful information sessions. They can be a great way to get off your feet for about an hour or 2 and get organized. If you do this just sit in the back and keep the noise down low so others can pay attention. Now depending on how slow the convention might be sometimes you can have a great question and answer or discussion session with an artist or writer on the show floor. There have been times when I’ve been getting sketches or signatures on something and general chat leads into a drawing lesson or a talk about said person’s new project and more.

While you’re at the convention don’t forget to visit, say “hi” to the artists and writers there and get your comics and other stuff signed. Though there are some that would tell you that artists won’t or rarely do a quick sketch, yet I am here to tell you a good percentage will. The percentage is roughly bout 65% though but it doesn’t seem high but it’s way better than the 5% that those neigh savers will tell you. It just depends on the artist, the time of day you show up and how many people are behind you.

If and when you go for signatures, there are several options open for you. The standard for just plain old autographs is comics. But what if you don’t have the comic or the funds to get the comic and still wish to get something signed? Well just think outside the box. The following items can be used for signatures but for a few sketches as well. First item is the matt side of the boards used in the bag and board pair to protect comics. Just remember to let the signature(s) and or sketches dry first before putting the board back in the bag. Also the boards can be easily framed. The next item is the convention program. About 95% of all conventions give out a program of some sort, and there are tons of them. So snagging a few extra to get signed and still use one for convention planning. That’s because thick or thin the program is and always will be your friend at conventions. Lastly sketch books are also great for both sketches and signatures. The downsides to sketch books are: 1) if you getting sketches then you have to give up that book until it is done. 2) Next is sketch signature bleed. Because both the artists and writers use sharpies (a type of marker) and drawing pens sometimes the ink from them bleeds though. To prevent this keep a simple piece of scrap of paper in the book, and just remember to put the paper right behind the last page to help stop bleed. 3) sketch books can run from $10 on up, and can be found at any craft store and wal – mart.

Also no matter what, if you go by yourself, with family, or with friends, just remember to have fun. Don’t forget you are allowed to be selfish as well. You, as I said are there to have fun and maybe meet new people. So have fun, and do all the things you set out to do and see. Then go for a few extras for others. It sounds rude I know, but sometimes you can get more done that way and still make those friends or family happy as well. Take it from someone who knows and just trust me.


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