Comics/Graphic Novels

How to Survive a Con

Melody Schreiber

Staff Writer

Melody Schreiber is at work on a nonfiction anthology of premature birth. As a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C., she has reported from nearly every continent. Her articles, essays, and reviews have been published by The Washington Post, Wired, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Pacific Standard, NPR, The Toast, Catapult, and others. She received her bachelor’s in English and linguistics at Georgetown University and her master’s in writing at the Johns Hopkins University. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @m_scribe.

Cons can be absolutely amazing–a great opportunity to meet creators and like-minded fans–and there’s nothing quite like being with your own people.

But often, we’re talking about a lot of people. Whether it’s your first or your fiftieth, conventions can also be overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help make your con-going experience the best it can be.

1. Make a game plan ahead of time

Figure out which panels and tables you want to hit or what gear you want to grab before you even enter the venue. You don’t have to stick to it, but it helps to have a strategy when the crowds get too overwhelming

If you’re meeting a friend, try to nail that down ahead of time, so you’re not both wandering around, cell phones in hand, hoping to bump into each other.

2. Pack light

Unless you’re staying really close by (like the hotel of the convention), be exacting when it comes time to pack your bag. You don’t want to lug a lot of stuff around all day–and invariably you’ll buy swag that will only load you down more.

If you can’t make regular trips to your car or where you’re staying, scope out lockers and luggage services to store new treasure as you find it. This is especially helpful if you’re cosplaying; it’s tough to incorporate a giant backpack into that dynamite Alanna outfit. And it’s always a good idea to have a few backup items in the case of wardrobe malfunctions!

3. Pack the right gear

So what goes into that backpack? I highly recommend an external battery for your electronics. I use the Anker recharger and recommend it, especially if you’re charging more than just a cell phone (cameras, mp3 players, and so on)–the battery lasts a good while. But there are tons of options at various price points, weights, and capabilities. If it was an option for my phone, I’d totally invest in a rechargeable case.

If you’re in a related industry and attending this convention might result in work, bring tons of business cards–or at least something with your website and contact info on it, like a flier for an upcoming event you’re hosting.

4. Bring cash
Bringing cash has two major upsides: first, some vendors won’t accept plastic; if they do, they’re charged a processing fee. Second, you’ll never go over budget; when you run out of money, quit buying things. (This presupposes, of course, that you can control yourself from switching to plastic! If you’re anything like me, you may want to set a limit for that scenario, too).

Be sure to tuck away those Benjamins (or Lincolns and Washingtons, let’s be real) in a safe place; not everyone at a convention–and the metro afterward–shares the same moral compass.

5. Take time out
When the steady hum of the convention floor starts a headache brewing, or when you’ve bumped into one too many Chewies… take off. Go outside, find a quiet room, buy a cup of tea – relax. Especially for the introverts among us, quiet time is key to managing large, stressful events.

At cons, you might be tempted to do and see it all–but you don’t have to. Do as much as you will enjoy, and then respect your limits. (Your feet will thank you.)

6. Have fun!
That is the whole point, isn’t it?

What are your favorite tips for surviving cons?