Right now it seems like this awful winter will never end, but before you know it, we’ll be well on our way to summer, the season of beach trips, barbeques, and conventions! That’s right; whether comic books or individual fandoms are more your thing, there’s a convention for that, and I’ve put together this beginner’s guide to conventions to help you prepare.
I’ve only been to one convention myself, so I thought it would be fun to bring you a guide to conventions from the con and cosplay expert in my life: my sister, Parker. She’s been conning and cosplaying for a few years, and she now works for a non-profit organization called Princesses with a Purpose, where she gets to put her cosplay skills into action while visiting children’s hospitals and events all over Georgia. So I’ll let her give you the inside scoop on everything you should know about attending your first convention!
What is a convention?
A convention is an event, usually hosted in a hotel or convention center, that focuses on a particular set of fandoms and interests of its attendees. A comic convention, obviously, focuses on comic books and the media surrounding them. However, the larger conventions are typically multi-fandom based.
For example, DragonCon in Atlanta is a sci-fi/fantasy convention. Its focus ranges from popular competition shows on the Syfy channel to Young Adult Literature. One out of its four host hotels is just for video games. The multi-genre conventions are pretty big because they have something for any con-goer.
What is there to do at a convention?
That would depend on the convention. A good convention always has a variety of options for its attendees. For instance, DragonCon features over 3,500 hours of programming with workshops, seminars, panels and parties. Some conventions hold video game and board game competitions. Many are heavily costume/cosplay focused and hold costume competitions.
What are panels?
Panels are a part of convention programming that feature guest speakers and artists. Some are in Q&A format, which is common with celebrity guests, and some are workshop based. Some are simply demonstration, for example how to cast body parts to make molds for armor. I’ve been to competition based ones that feature guests from competitive shows on SyFy, such as FaceOff.
How do you attend a convention/how do you buy tickets?
Depending on the convention there’s a different amount of planning. When attending any convention order your tickets early; a lot of the bigger conventions will go up in price throughout the year, and even smaller conventions have a discount for buying your pass early.
If you’re going to a convention and know you’ll need a place to stay, look into hotels early! DragonCon host hotels sell out in a couple hours. If you can stay in the hotel where the convention is held, I highly recommend it, especially for cosplayer.
What do you wear to a convention?
That would depend on the kind of person you are and what you’re planning to do that day at the convention. I’m a cosplayer. I love to make and wear my costumes to conventions. However I have lots of friends who are photographers and videographers or who just aren’t into costumes that prefer a pair of jeans and a nerdy t-shirt.
Trust me, there are very few people at a convention that will judge you for wearing casual clothes, and if they do they’re probably not worth talking to anyway!
(Here you have me in an “I heart-heart bowties” shirt because bowties are cool, and Parker dressed up as Oswin Oswald from Doctor Who)
What should you take to a convention?
I always make sure to pack every part of my costumes first. The worst feeling is getting somewhere and realizing you didn’t bring part of your costume after hours upon hours of work. Oh, and if you’re wearing a wig… don’t forget bobby pins!
As far as convention specific things, make sure you remember your badge or registration information. It makes the process faster, and you’ll be happier because of it.
And personally I always like to bring snacks and bottles of water. If you can plan ways to save on food, it’s a great thing to do! You’ll want to spend your money on cooler stuff than food over the convention weekend.
Also, conventions are full of people and it’s not a bad idea to bring hand sanitizer and some Vitamin C to avoid what con-goers call “Con-crud.” Not much is worse than being ready for a convention and getting sick half way in. (Hygiene — something I didn’t expect we would cover in this guide to conventions!)
Any favorite convention memories?
My first DragonCon I got to meet Brent Spiner, who played Mr. Data on Star Trek Next Generation. Mr. Data is my favorite Next Gen character and getting to take a picture with him and then talk to him when he signed it was amazing. He’s super nice!
This past year at DragonCon I was dressed as Merida, from Brave, and I got so many kids coming up to ask to take pictures with me! That was a pretty cool thing for me. I also got to meet a lot of people I admire creatively, like some of the stars from Syfy’s Heroes of Cosplay and Face Off. This year I got to hang out with Eddie Holecko, who was on Season 5 of Syfy’s FaceOff. He was super cool and we actually went to the Rave together with some of my friends at DragonCon.
Best advice you can give for fully enjoying a convention?
∴ Don’t stress yourself out trying to get to everything you want to do. At bigger conventions like DragonCon there’s way too much to do and too many people for you to get to every single thing. Be happy with what you do get to and make sure to enjoy it.
∴ If it’s a multi-day convention, don’t buy something on the first day. Especially not something expensive, unless you’re seriously worried the artist will run out. Make sure to give yourself time to figure out what you really want.
∴ Make sure to set a budget. If you can’t spend $100 on extra stuff over the weekend, go to an ATM and pull the money you do feel comfortable spending. Then leave your card in the hotel room (or with a trustworthy friend who won’t give it to you)!
Finally, because I can’t resist, which Disney princess is your favorite to portray?
Out of the ones I’ve already gotten to be I’d say Anna or Merida. They’re both fun and free and a bit less “princess-y,” which means I get to have a lot of fun with them. But I got to be Tinkerbell the other weekend, and she’s been my favorite Disney character to portray so far. She’s my favorite character of all time and she gets some pretty fun poses too!
And there you have it, a perfect beginner’s guide to conventions! You should definitely check out Parker’s Instagram and Facebook fan page for some of her cosplay photos and costume information. I would also suggest checking out her YouTube channel for convention videos and other great content like this audition video for Princesses with a Purpose.
Are you planning to attend any conventions this year? I hope this guide to conventions gives you a leg up!