Convention Survival Tips – 2012

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July is coming up pretty soon and with July comes two of the biggest cons of the year: Anime Expo and San Diego Comic Con.

With these cons you are looking around anywhere from 50,000-100,000+ attendees a day shuffling in and out of the convention centers. Those numbers are pretty impressive on their own, but this year it is going to be crazier. First off with The X-Games happening the same weekend as AX so all of Los Angeles is going to be busy, next San Diego Comic Con is going to happen no more than 2 weeks after AX, and – for the very extreme con goers – the weekend after AX is another convention called Pop Con LA at the LA Convention Center.

Now I am not saying I am expert on conventions or anything, I have been to a few in the last year and this year will be my 5th year at AX, but I thought I’d share some convention tips on ways you can enjoy a con from experience.

1) Know Your Surroundings

For very huge cons like AX or Comic Con, knowledge (or at least partial knowledge) as to where everything is extremely beneficial. Sometimes the halls won’t be easy to find since most centers don’t have them numbered or alphabetize like Anaheim Convention Center – it can result in hours walking every inch of the place and not having any idea as to where you are. My suggestion is to spend usually the first hour of the con simply walking around. Most of the time (after a convention opens) certain things won’t start for awhile. So take that time to know your surroundings. If all else fails, there are almost always maps available.

2) Do Your Best to Memorize the Schedule

An almost guarantee at cons are big events – Masquerade, Concerts, Big name Panels, or Screenings, to name a few. There will be lots of people trying to get in and very limited seating for most of them. One instance at AM^2 voice actress Tara Strong had a panel, out of 300+ people trying to get in only about 100 or so were able to be seated (lucky enough I was able to get in). With most events they can have some additional space in the room but I wouldn’t rely on it. So it is always best to look at the schedule of events before hand so you can mark which one(s) you want to go to. If you want to attend the events, try getting there at least 30 minutes before hand (up to four hours before-hand at SDCC) so you can get a good seat.

3) Stay Healthy

For the experienced convention-goer, con flu is the biggest downside of conventions. Due to the fact these cons have thousands upon thousands of people present, there are tons of airborne germs waiting to get you sick. Nothing sucks more than getting horribly sick the day after a convention and being too sick for the rest of the month. Thankfully, the health departments notice this and hand sanitizer machines are readily available at most cons – but it can only help so much. The rest comes down to you. So the obvious solution is if you are horribly sick, just don’t attend. If you are not sick then follow these tips.

+ Shower before and after the convention. You don’t want all that sweat and those germs to get you sick while you sleep.
+ Eat fruits/veggies - I know this sounds cliche about “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” but it really does. Get a good amount of Vitamin C in your body by drinking fruit juices and eating some fruit throughout the con instead of that manhandled burger.

4) Food

Now we know the food at these places are way overpriced, and unless you have money aside for food expenses this is the best solution: I recommend packing yourself a small school lunch. Stuff like a sandwich, chips, fruit, soda, cookies, etc. It’ll keep you going throughout the day and won’t break the bank.

5) Obtaining Autographs with the Guests

With these cons they’ll have a very large handful of premiere guests. Some of them are local or out of state, while others might be coming in from other countries like Japan. So getting an autograph might your biggest priority. I first recommend doing your research on the guest to know what they have worked on/seeing if you own a copy of their work. Whether it is a poster, DVD, game, manga, or whatever you probably want them to sign it. Next make sure it is the legal product – trust me nothing looks worse than going to get a product signed and realizing it is a bootleg and they refuse to sign it (most voice actors have stated they will refuse to sign bootleg merchandise). So make sure you give a close inspection and checking to see that it is a legal product. When it comes to getting an autograph, be courteous and try limiting yourself to one autograph per session. I am sure they would love to sign all your stuff, but there are other people waiting in line wanting an autograph too. So unless they allow it, just try limiting it to one and make sure it is something you really want sign from them.

Masakazu Morita with my signed BLEACH manga at AX2010

6) Photos

I am sure everybody wants very good memories of their con experience and the best way is with photos of the events. At the cons you’ll get a ton of cosplayers and you will more than likely want to take photos with them. The best approach is by saying “Hey can I get a picture?”. Most will easily say yes. If you want one with them just say “Do you mind I get a photo with you?” If they say yes, congrats! – and if they say no – remember NO means NO. Respect their space. If they look busy don’t try to bother them, and if they are eating let them eat. They been on their feet all day getting photos from all different photographers and they need a break too.

These are generally the tips I follow the most. If you have any additional tips that you utilize at conventions, leave them in the comments below. I hope you enjoy the cons coming up in the next few weeks!

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