Toronto's convention season is upon us, starting with this weekend's ComicCon. If you're new to conventions, here are some basic tips that I've learned the hard way.
First – There will be lines and concrete floors: comfortable shoes are a good thing. (Or, if you're in costume, innersoles.)
Second -- Conventions with their autographs, artwork, comics, collectables, etc. are a cash-based business, and line ups (yup those again) at the ATMs are long. Bring cash. (Smaller bills are greatly appreciated.) You may be able to purchase some items by credit card, but it's easier if you use cash.
Third -- Food. Convention centres have limited food options with one thing in common: cost. If you have specific dietary requirements which aren't met by pepperoni pizza, it is best to bring snacks and water with you. If you have to leave the main floor, you may face up a line up to get back in. Trail Mix, granola bars, and bottled water will all make for a happier con.
Fourth -- Interacting with Cosplayers (those fans in costume). There will be some people in amazing costumes at the convention. If you'd like to take their picture, please ask them. Most will be delighted and will take a moment to get into a character appropriate pose. Let them know you admire their work, because what you are witnessing are the end results of an enormous amount of love and labour. If you think dressing up in costumes is weird, well as the saying goes, if you can't say something nice...
Fifth -- Interacting with the guests. Now is the big moment, after waiting in a long line (yup again with the lines) you will shortly be face to face with someone whose work you seen on T.V., in movies, or on the page. Some things to remember: There is often a charge for each autograph or artist's sketch done. The guests may or may not let you take a picture, especially if they have specific photo opportunities (for yet another fee). There may be an assistant who asks your name and takes the money. You might be given a sticky note with your name on it or you may have to spell your name to the celebrity. If there is a long line, you may only get a few minutes with the guest so think about what you'd like to say while you're waiting. Sometimes you will end up speechless (which is where going with a friend comes in handy!) or sometimes you'll find yourself talking so much the guest doesn't get a chance speak. Also remember that you know the guest's work, not them, so keep comments to their work and not anything which, when you look back, was stalker-y. Sometimes guests will be doing a panel and Q&A. If that's the case, don't wait til the last minute to go to the room.
Sixth -- Have Fun. Cons are about celebrating your interests and sharing that with others. Check out the artist alley for fabulous creations. See if there are either panels or guest Q&As that might interest you. Wander the floor to see fan tables where you can learn about other groups that share your interests and upcoming events or web series done for love. If there are lines, if you can't find that missing Amazing Spiderman issue you need, if someone else just bought the perfect pair of steampunk goggles, remember you are at a convention with other people who realize that these things are tragedies and commiserate with you. Sometimes promised guests aren't able to attend. Sometimes the lines for a guest are cut off just as you join them. Take a deep breath, grab a handful of trail mix and see what other fabulous things there are to see!
Seventh -- About the lines. This is an opportunity to speak to people who are interested enough in what you're interested in to line up. Chat with them! If you need to leave the line for a few minutes, you can politely ask the person you were chatting with to hold your spot. If it's a line up for a panel, why not sit on the floor and get comfy (this doesn't work for an autograph line which does move fairly quickly.) At Q&As there may be line ups for microphones, or you may just raise your hand. The moderator will let you know. If you have special needs, talk to one of the volunteers – their job is to make sure everyone enjoys the convention and they might be able to make things easier for you.
And I mean it about the comfortable shoes!