Convention Survival Guide
Updated: Apr 17, 2020
Take This...It Will Help You on Your Journey...
We’ve written quite a few guides here on Nerd Out Word Out however this one can help you away from your TV screen! If any of you follow us on social media (follow the links at the top of the site) you may have seen that we attended MCM London Comic Con last weekend and had a great time buying things we didn’t need and meeting some amazing Cosplayers. This was in fact our second time at MCM and my 5th (MCM Comic Con x3, EGX, Hyper Japan) large scale convention so you could say I’m pretty much an expert at these things now.
So for those of you that have never been to a fan convention before or just those of you that need some tips for the next convention you’ll be attending, I’m here to help! Who knows, maybe one day you’ll see us with our own panel or signing at a convention one day… here’s hoping!
Tip No. 1 – Let’s Talk About the Money I know, I understand how overwhelming your first con can be. You’ve just arrived and can see hundreds of stalls all offering something of interest that you’ve never seen in shops before. The only problem is: money. I won’t lie, at my first comic con I accidentally spent £100 on merchandise. Sounds bad but I was 17 and had disposable income, it’s not like I had bills to pay back then! This comic con, I surprisingly only spent £30 the entire day! So my tip for you regarding money is: budget. Before you go head to a cash point and take out your allowance, I typically take out around £50 for the day and this is usually enough. There are usually cash points at the venue and some bigger company’s stalls take card transactions as well if you ever get desperate!
The other piece of advice I have on this is think before you buy, I often see things that I love but once I hand over the money and have the product in my hand I realise that I have no use for this thing and I now have to lug it all the way home on the train. I’ve come to the realisation that the reason for my impulsive comic con buys is down to this theory: if I saw this merchandise online, I probably wouldn’t buy it but because it’s in front of me and I’m able to hold it I’m usually persuaded to buy it – don’t fall for this! Think before you buy, think; ‘would I buy this thing under any other circumstance?’. Remember, you can usually always find it online afterwards if you regret not picking it up at the con, otherwise you’ll end up with a £25 large fluffy bandanna wearing plush dog that you’re still not sure what to do with it!
Tip No. 2 – Food! This is usually one that everyone forgets to take into consideration, but not Miss over prepared here! Convention days can be long, some offer priority tickets meaning you pay a little more per ticket and get to enter the venue a couple of hours early. This means you can sometimes end up at the con from 10am to around 6pm. with all the walking around and warm temperatures, you will get exhausted very quickly if you don’t refuel! And let me tell you, large venue food isn’t cheap! So my advice? Take your own food! This may not be the case for every convention everywhere and perhaps I’ve just been lucky but I’ve never gotten in trouble for bringing a sandwich, snack and a couple of drinks (don’t forget to stay hydrated throughout the day, like I said – it can get hot in there!) into a convention. There’s designated seating areas for eating so try to nab a seat there to eat your meal deal. It does get busy though so if there’s nowhere to sit, just find a small area out of the way of crowds and entrances/exists to sit on the floor! No one will judge you – you’ll see loads of people doing the same! However if these two options are looking unlikely, my last suggestion with food is to take small bite sized snacks (maybe a packet of crisps, some biscuits, etc) with you and eat them as you walk around. They’re not too heavy or messy that you have to stop to eat them and they’ll keep you going throughout the day until you get back to your hotel/home that evening to eat. It really is a wonderful sight when you sit down to eat and see Spider-Man also digging into his Tesco meal deal across the food hall from you.
Tip No. 3 - Take Photos of Everything! Although many conventions have similar lay outs and designs, every con is different. To remember all the great things you saw, take photos! Spam all of your Instagram followers with your nerdy day out. As some things may be exclusive to this particular con, show them off! Take a photo of you sitting on a cardboard cut-out sofa with the Ninja Turtles, whatever you gotta do – just have fun! Another thing to definitely take photos of is Cosplayers, if you see an impressive cosplay or a character you love bought to life, ask for a photo! 9/10 times the cosplayers love the praise and attention the costume they’ve put tonnes of money and time into gets. Post them on Instagram/twitter/etc. too including the hashtag of the convention you were at so the cosplayer can find them later, just make sure you always ask them for permission to take a photo - no one likes having their photo taken without their consent, whether they're dressed like Princess Peach or not! I cosplayed at comic con once as Honey-Lemon from Disney’s Big Hero 6 and you bet I went through the hashtag on Instagram after the con to see if anyone posted photos of me in costume, it really does make a cosplayers day when you say how great their costume is. Plus, it’s pretty cool heading back home to your friends afterwards with a selfie of you and Deadpool, etc. It’s like Disneyland full of all of your favourite movie, tv and video game characters! This is also a great opportunity to make friends who have similar interests to you.
Tip No. 4 – Visit the Independent Artists/Stands Sure, one of the main reasons to head to a convention is to play the latest Nintendo game or to visit the Forbidden Planet or Tofu Cute stall, however don’t forget to give a little time to the independent artists/retailers that have stands that day. Some of the people there have their latest artwork on display, or the latest project their working on or their handmade products. Sometimes you even get people taking commissions for the day so if you’re after a drawing of yourself as a cat in the style of a particular artist, you’re sure to find something of that sort at conventions. Just taking the time to look through an artist’s work, ask questions about it and take a leaflet/business card can really make their day. This is also a great place to buy prints, if you’re after a high quality/hand drawn print of Totoro and Pikachu hanging out, you’ll definitely find one here and usually for not a crazy price either! Even if you don’t find any art or products you’re after on the day, take note of the artist’s name or take a business card if they have them, you never know when you might need it! Who knows, you may find your new favourite illustrator, comic artist or nerdy accessory merchandiser that day!
Tip No. 5 – Do Your Research Although you may want to be surprised when turning up to your first convention, it is important to do your research. Otherwise you may miss out on important guest announcements or panels that you would have loved to go to if you only knew about them. Some conventions/venues have strict rules too, sometimes you’re not allowed a certain type of weapon with your cosplay so to avoid disappointment on the day, my advice is to read the venue’s website FAQ, keep up to date with the convention’s social media pages as this is where you’ll first hear about new guest announcements as well as any sudden changes made to the day’s schedule. My other tip (which may be obvious) is to make sure you research where the venue that the convention is being held at is, this is especially important if you’re planning on Cosplaying. If you have to try to squeeze on a busy tube train in heavy, warm armour – it isn’t going to be fun. So perhaps look into a way to get to the venue efficiently, remember you can always take your cosplay in a bag with you and change once you get there, it’ll save you from all the stares you’ll receive on public transport during your journey in too!
Tip No. 6 – Take Breaks I don’t want to be a nagging parent now, but it can be exhausting walking around all day, no matter how much you refuel. You must remember to take breaks, even if it’s just a 10 minute sit down. I know it can be so exciting at your first convention and all you want to do is rush around all day making sure you cover everything that’s there but in order not to run out of steam right away, take the time to rest. Once again, especially if you’re in cosplay. I can’t tell you how harrowing it was cosplaying as Honey-Lemon all day and walking around the convention in huge high heels. I mean I have never worn high heels before so this was my mistake but boy did my feet ache! I had to change into flat shoes half way round which kind of compromised my entire cosplay which could have been avoided if I had just taken the time to sit down a couple of times.
I think that’s about it for my convention survival tips, whilst all of these things are important – the most important thing is to not take it too seriously. You may see cosplayers that don’t look exactly like the character they’re portraying or someone could be wearing a t-shirt featuring a tv show that you don't like. Just remember that everyone is there for the same reason as you – to have fun! So, don’t ruin someone else’s day by being small-minded. If you just follow that last piece of advice you’re sure to get on fine.
Did I miss any tips out? Let us know! You can find me at hopeelizab.co.uk as well as @hopeelizab on twitter/Instagram and who knows! Maybe one day we’ll see you at a convention!