January 9, 2012

Ten Convention Survival Tips

by Patrick Delahanty, Senior Editor,

The convention season will be upon you before you know it. We wanted to share some helpful tips for getting through any convention visits you may have planned with minimal harm to your mind, body, and wallet.

10) Follow the 5-2-1 Rule
Bob Passovoy's 5-2-1 Rule is a time-tested rule that you should follow at every convention. It means:
• A minimum of 5 hours of sleep per night... (This means horizontal in a bed, not in a video room)
• At least 2 good meals per day... (Pocky is not a meal. Any good convention program guide provides a list of nearby dining options.)
• And 1 mandatory shower (with soap) each day. (Hotels provide soap for free. Use it on your entire body!)

9) Convince Your Friends to Join You
Conventions, by their nature, are social events. You will enjoy the convention more if you have someone to enjoy it with. Also, hotels, gas, and parking can get expensive, so it helps to have a few friends who can split the cost with you. ...but in order to make sure you don't get stuck with the bill, make sure they know you won't give them a hotel key until they pay their share of the bill up front.

8) Set a Budget for the Convention
After you know how many friends can join you and how much you'll be paying for the hotel, you should have a fairly good idea of how much it will cost you to attend the convention. Set a budget for things like registration, food, travel, and how much you can spend on any sweet deals in the dealers' room. You may even want to make a list of specific volumes of manga you are looking to get. Plan ahead and you won't find yourself stranded.

7) Pre-Register
Pre-registration goes hand-in-hand with the budget. For most conventions, the earlier you register, the less expensive it is to attend. However, not only do you save money, but you can save time as well because pre-registration lines almost always move faster than at-con registration. If a convention is nearing its attendance cap, pre-registration also guarantees your admission.

6) Make a Packing List
We've all gone on trips and realized too late that we've forgotten something at home. This can easily be avoided by making a detailed packing list for things like clothes, toiletries, phone, chargers, and snacks. If your list says "toothpaste" and you refer to the list as you're packing, you will be sure not to forget to pack it. If you cosplay, you may want to make lists for each of your costumes with all the parts listed out so that you'll never forget to bring things like your costume's gloves, shoes, or belt.

5) Never Line Up for the Dealers' Room
People have been known to wait in line for hours just to get into the dealers' room as soon as it's open. There's no reason for this. Go to some panels or events instead while you wait until the initial line clears out. Often, in less than an hour after the dealers' room is scheduled to open, you will be able to walk in without any wait at all and there will still be plenty of merchandise waiting for your wallet.

4) Actually Read the Program Guide
Everyone will get a copy of the convention's program guide when they pick up their badge, but far too many people don't actually read it until they get home. By then, it's far too late to realize a guest was in your favorite show or there was a panel on a topic you enjoy. After you get the program guide, look through it and let that show you what to do at the convention.

3) Highlight the Events You Want to Attend on the Schedule
When you get your program guide, you'll also be given a schedule of events that is hopefully fairly up-to-date. Take your first opportunity to sit down with a highlighter and select what panels and events you want to see. Next time you want to see what's next, you'll be able to see what you wanted to do next at a glance instead of having to re-examine the schedule every time.
Better still, if the convention uses the Guidebook app and you have a smartphone, you can reference that and mark all the events you want to attend in there. You won't have to carry around a dead tree all weekend and can just refer to your phone.

2) Follow the Convention on Twitter for the Latest Updates
Almost every convention out there has a Twitter account and many of them will post updates to Twitter at the convention. Follow the convention on Twitter so you'll know about any last-minute changes. Even if you don't post to Twitter yourself, it's still worth it to get an account to follow the updates. If the con uses the Guidebook app, schedule updates can be made there as well.

1) Print ALL your Confirmations and Directions
Imagine arriving at the convention only to discover that they have no record of your pre-registration, the hotel has lost your reservation, or your masquerade confirmation is missing. Print everything as proof that you've registered, reserved, and confirmed everything. It may be missing from their system, but having a printed receipt with you is undeniable proof that you're supposed to be there.

If you follow these tips, you'll be better prepared to have a great convention experience! As a bonus, here's one more tip for you...

Use AnimeCons to Track Your Conventions
When you've decided to attend a convention, you can add it to your Personal Convention Log on AnimeCons to keep track of where you've been and where you're going. After the convention is over, you can rate any conventions you've attended and an average rating of attendees will be displayed on the convention's information page for all to see.

Patrick Delahanty is the creator of and has attended over 100 fan conventions. His parents still don't get it.