Over the years, the United Kingdom has seen an increase in the number of conventions in the country – and travelling abroad to international events (such as Comiket in Japan and San Diego Comic Con in the United States of America) has also become increasingly desirable for convention goers in general. With the publicity and internet spiking increasing interest in UK conventions, we are also finding that our own home-grown events are also growing more packed with people, both from our own country and from abroad.
With rising numbers of attendees to conventions, there come many pros and cons to events. It is always fantastic to meet new people of similar interests – and great to interact with others on a multi-cultural level too. However, events can also become quite crowded and somewhat frustrating as a result of this.
Having attended conventions since 2006, I have seen many changes – both good and bad. This article will focus on how we, as convention goers, can make the best of our times at events, both for ourselves and for others around us.
Plan well ahead.
It is always best to plan your upcoming conventions well in advanced.
This includes travel to and from the event, accommodation (if required), entrance fee, calculating general finances for merchandise, food and drink. Remember, we convention goers are generally a very social lot so do not underestimate the amount of money that can and probably will be spent on consumables!
The duration of conventions can very anywhere between a day to a week, so it is always best to make sure you book any leave from work well in advanced to avoid disappointment.
Likewise, accommodation can also sell our like hot cakes, so try not to leave it too late to book a hotel room, etc. if you require a place to stay.
Certain conventions also require you to register your place in advanced. Be very aware that the more popular conventions can and will have people waiting for online registration to open up. Keep up to date with their website and any social networking accounts or pages associated with the event so that you will not miss out on a chance to register. Personally, I have seen both registrations and on-site accommodation for one particular convention fill up in a matter of hours. Equally, if this happens and you are unfortunate enough to miss out, do not despair – in most cases, a second wave of vacant places (both for the convention and for accommodation) may arise. Also, keep an eye out for any waiting lists that may occur as people can and will drop out after registering.
With regards to transport, it is always good to keep an eye on your travel situation to and from the event – and do not forget to give yourself some leeway for unexpected delays. If you are relying upon public transport, do check the appropriate websites for any planned engineering works along your route. You would not want to get stranded!
If you are driving, make sure you have your route well planned and also give extra time to allow for traffic, etc. It is also strongly advised to check the costs and location of parking on site and, if you are staying at a hotel, etc., to make sure you do not have to let staff know in advanced that you will require parking facilities.
Make a list of things to pack
This may sound silly and / or patronising, but pre-convention lists can be a God-send. When you are caught up in all the excitement and possible stress of getting everything ready, lists are great to make sure that you do not forget anything important. There is no harm in jotting down everything – from basic essentials such as toothpaste, to important pieces of kit for your camera, cosplay, etc. If in doubt, do not forget to pack any spare clips, tape, batteries, memory cards and so forth – just in case you may have to repair or replace anything during your time away.
Cosplayers – always have a backup plan
Depending on how far in advanced you plan your costume(s) for set conventions, it definitely will not hurt you to have a backup costume, both just in case your planned cosplay is not ready on time, as well as being cautious should anything happen during the convention. From personal experience, I have had an on-the-day cosplay malfunction whilst attending an event. Subsequently, I was fortunate enough to have brought along a spare costume, which I had told myself was erring on the side of caution should something go wrong with a completely different cosplay that I had packed for the same event (which, ironically, held out fine on the day!).
Obviously, the above suggestion is only possible if you have enough space in your luggage, and will also be more effective for conventions where you are staying on site, or if your accommodation is in close proximity.
If in the event of a costume starting to come apart, most conventions will have a cosplay help desk or room, which will have basic necessities (double sided tape, hot glue gun, basic hand sewing equipment, etc.) where you should be able to fix things on site. Be sure to look out for such places either on the event website, in your convention booklet or simply by asking any friendly on-site gopher or fellow attendee.
This should never need to be told to any convention goer. Unfortunately, there have been many occasions where people have come across fellow attendees who give off a less than desirable scent.
So, if you do not want to become “that guy / girl”, the solution is pretty simple: Shower.
If you are staying on-site or near by a convention, you really do not have any excuse – and even if you are commuting to and from an event, washing yourself still should not be an issue. Also, if in doubt, carry some deodorant with you.
Do not be that person.
People will remember if you are, and they will talk about you. It will be a pretty uncomfortable situation for all parties involved.
Overcrowding is probably one of the most stressful parts of convention life, and can be particularly scary for people that suffer panic attacks and claustrophobia, as well as those who are looking after small children.
If this affects you in any way, it is always advised to find out from previous convention goers what the crowd situation is like prior to attending yourself. If you do not know anybody that has previously been to a convention you are planning to attend, most events have their own forums and social networking pages and groups where people will be more than happy to help answer queries.
Depending upon the layout of an event – as well as how many dealers and guests are attending – conventions can get pretty crowded. Do remember that as much as you would like to get to see a certain attraction, rushing about and shoving others out of the way really is not the way to go about things. A little politeness and etiquette goes a long way in crowds – and from a cosplayer’s perspective, costumes are also less likely to become damaged as a result. Also, be mindful of small children that may be running around too.
Treat everybody else with the courtesy and respect that you would like in return.
Photographers and Videographers – Ask before shooting
Being a cosplayer, I know from experience that whilst a majority of photographers and videographers do actually have the courtesy of asking permission from both cosplayers and guests, there resides and unfortunate (small) percentage of people who do not abide by such politeness.
Please be courteous and ask for permission before you take your photos / videos. Just imagine how you would feel if some random person came up to you and shoved a lens in your face. I have heard an increasing amount of people complain about this happening and to be fair, you will be more likely to get a better (and posed) photo if you ask before you snap. Most people will be more than happy to oblige if approached beforehand for a photo or video opportunity.
This all being said, please also be mindful of what is going on when you do ask. If a cosplayer or guest is sat down having some lunch, they might not want to be bothered constantly by people asking for photos. However, if you acknowledge this fact to them and tell them you really do not mean to disturb them and will understand if they decline a photo, they may be a little more sympathetic to your requests.
Again, it is another scenario where you may want to consider if you would like to be approached in such a manner.
As mentioned previously in this article, convention goers are a social bunch. We all like to be happy and chatty. I have met many of my friends via conventions – and quite a few of these friendships were also formed from general random chats. So do not be worried about striking a random conversation with someone when you are in a massive queue for tickets or to meet guests.
This being said, it is also important to remember not to give out your entire life story and all of your personal information to some random stranger either. Be streetwise!
Not the Minecraft kind.
Having attended conventions since 2006, I can say that from personal experience, I have only had one bad experience with a creepy pervert at a convention. I have never had to approach convention security before, but I had my boyfriend and my friends with me for support and the situation was taken with the utmost seriousness and confidentiality. The person was found and confronted by convention gophers, and was warned that if he continued to carry on what he was doing, he would be ejected from the building.
Do not be afraid to report anything suspicious. Remember that conventions cater for audiences of all ages – from the very young to the elderly.
Also, if you see any shady behaviour, do not hesitate to tell somebody about it. I was actually initially warned about that particular convention pervert by one of my friends who had spotted this particular man acting very suspiciously around us on more than one occasion. It also became apparent after the convention – via social networking sites and pages – that this same person had been spotted acting in a similar fashion towards other cosplayers as well over that same event. However, when we had approached convention security at the time, we had been informed that nobody else had made them aware of any similar situations.
There is no point ranting online about how one creeper ruined a convention experience – make sure you let the appropriate people know straight away!
Food and drink
Conventions can get extremely exciting and filled with so many stalls, games, guests and activities. Time really does fly when you are having fun. Just remember to leave some time for a little rest, relaxation and sustenance.
Most of the time, events will have sellers and stalls that provide a variety of food and drinks. Depending on the location of the convention, there may also be cafes, restaurants and supermarkets local to the area too. Please do not forget to keep yourself sufficiently fed and watered. Becoming ill and / or fainting from dehydration, hypoglycaemia or lack of food can put a serious downer on the experience for you.
This has become an extremely serious issue for one of the larger conventions over the years. Please, if you have any rubbish, have the courtesy to find a bin. If you cannot find one, keep hold of it until you do. Do not carelessly drop it in or around the vicinity of the convention. This can lead to complications and also injuries (one particular convention experienced many broken bottles on the concourse outside the main building – remember, some cosplayers wear costumes that have either very thin-soled shoes, or they may be walking around barefoot).
There can be serious repercussions from mass public complaints regarding behaviour and littering – you would not want conventions to be forced to move venues as a result.
Events schedules and timetables
Try to make sure you get hold of a copy of one of these at a convention. Sometimes, they are handed out in goodie bags. Alternatively, you may be able to request a copy from any of the convention gophers. Some places will even have larger copies of timetables, as well as an annotated map of stalls, stages and guest desks.
Remember that some conventions may run multiple panels and interactive events simultaneously at different stages or different rooms, so be sure to plan in advanced what you would like to attend in order to avoid disappointment.
And most importantly…
Remember to have as much fun as you can!
One of the first pointers mentioned in this article (under the ‘plan well ahead’ section) was to make sure you manage your finances.
Yes, conventions can be costly, so make sure your money is well-spent: Do as many things as you can, catch up with your friends, make new ones, party hard! Just remember to keep streetwise as you do so and you should be able to have a thoroughly good time.
2014 has begun, and with it, many conventions are out there waiting for you!
photo © Jojo Yap