CONNON SENSE: Convention Etiquette and Advice

I talked about how to get ready for a con, how to pack, and how to behave at a hotel in my last post, CONNON SENSE. In this post I’ll be talking about how to tackle the actual convention. (#long post)

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THE BASICS

  • PICK YOUR BADGE UP EARLY! Some cons will let you pick it up on Thursday, and some cons will stop letting you pick up a badge halfway through Saturday. Most of them will list this information on their website, so be sure to check when you can get your badge and go do that ASAP! Registration systems are getting more efficient with the advent of technology (gasp!) so with midsized cons you probably won’t have to wait in line for half your life, but with bigger cons—Comic Con and Dragon*Con come to mind—be prepared to wait in a pretty sizable line. You’ll want to have some form of photo ID on you and your confirmation number if you’ve pre-registered; if you haven’t, you’ll obviously need money.
  • Read the convention policies (always online) before attending so you know what will ABSOLUTELY get you kicked out. Read the props/weapons policy before trying to bring something like an airsoft gun or a ~real~ katana~ into the con. Read the dress code policy.
  • Remember that while a convention can often feel like suspended reality or the internet come to meatspace, it is actually real life with real people who won’t appreciate you stopping in the middle of a hallway (or anywhere really) to twerk or perform a solo flashmob of a kpop dance. Have fun, but don’t do it in a way that makes shit unfun for other people.
  • Don’t throw things. Ever. And don’t spit! That’s way gross.
  • If you’ve got a smartphone and there’s an app for the con, download it! They’re usually free and always helpful.

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HEALTH & SAFETY

  • WATER! Bring a bottle of water with you and DRINK FROM IT FREQUENTLY. You can fill it back up at a water fountain and avoid paying $4 for a fresh bottle of Dasani at a concessions stand. I said it in my last post and I’ll say it again: stay hydrated.
  • Bring food with you for the con! Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack foods! EAT THEM! Do not skip meals! Cons get really exciting and it’s hard to tear yourself away from the hubbub but YOU NEED TO EAT! There’s no excuse for making yourself ill. Be sensible; stop and eat when you’re hungry. 
  • If you’re with a group of people and someone in the group needs to get a food, don’t be a jerk. Go with them, even if you yourself don’t need to eat. If the rest of your group doesn’t want to wait, establish a meeting time and place and make sure you both have working phones.
  • WEAR GOOD SHOES TO WALK AROUND IN! I know sometimes costumes call for ridiculous shoes, but DO carry flip flops or flats or something to wear when you get tired or ache-y. (Don’t go barefoot, that’s super gross. I have done it, trust me, it is nasty.)
  • Use the buddy system, especially if you’re a younger con-goer. Even if you’re older and experienced, it is never bad to have a buddy with you. People can get creepy and it’s good to know that someone’s got your back. If you can’t have your buddy with you, keep your phone on you and charged and get phone numbers from other friends at the con so you can contact them if you need to.
  • Find the bathrooms BEFORE you have to pee, especially if you have an unwieldy cosplay.
  • Establish meeting places with your group (if you have one. Which you should.) in case you’re separated.
  • When you get your con registration, you should also get a pamphlet that has stuff like panel times and places, special guests and their signing times, some ads, and importantly, A MAP. Take a minute to study the map and figure out where the fuck stuff is, especially the first aid station(s). Shit happens and when you’ve busted your nose doing parkour at the Assassin’s Creed photoshoot or you’re suffering from minor heatstroke it’s better to know beforehand where the emergency stations are. 
  • It also probably would not hurt to know where the lost and found is, if there is one. If there’s not one, that’s a damn good reason to keep an eye on your stuff.
  • If you have a weapon on you (whether its the Zanpakuto you bought in the dealers room or the steampunk rifle you made out of your grandma’s old dresser and a bunch of clocks), make sure it complies with the conventions weapons policy and be careful not to hit anyone with it. Save the fake sword fights for your backyard.

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  • Keep an eye on your own shit! Do not misplace your wallet, your meds, your phone, or your con badge. (Not everyone who picks this stuff up will bring stuff it to lost and found. It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to keep an eye on it. Carry a backpack or a bag (with a zipper) if you need to—I don’t care if it ruins the line of your costume. (You can carry the bag and just put it on the ground for photos if you need to! I always carry a bag with me, even when cosplaying.) If you can’t actually carry one because of your costume, leave everything possible in your room or car or have a friend carry it.
  • Again: water! Water water water water drink water driNK WATER! If you have a hotel room and you feel exhausted, go take a nap! It’s okay to miss an hour or two of the con—if you need to rest, you need to rest.
  • If you drink (alcohol), be safe and considerate. Know your limits and don’t drink with people you don’t trust. Keep an eye on yourself and also on your friends! Don’t drink on an empty stomach and make sure to drink plenty of water. DON’T DRINK ALONE! 

RESPECT & CONSIDERATION

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  • Be aware of your surroundings—cons are crowded. Don’t walk through photo shoots or in front of people getting their picture taken, and don’t cut in lines!
  • Glomping is out of style and has been for years. Honestly don’t even touch people without asking if they’re okay with it. 
  • Don’t be the reason someone needs the buddy system. Be aware that there are kids at the con and don’t be creepy to ANYONE. Don’t be inappropriate or creepy for any reason at all, especially not “it fits the character!” If someone tells you to back off, do.
  • Keep a lid on your dick and put a fucking cork in it. That is to say, do not hit on strangers. Do not make inappropriate comments to anyone. It’s great when people can be comfortable with their sexuality and the human body but it’s not great when some shitwad compliments your ass when you’re trying to figure out where the DC Comics panel is. 
  • If someone at the convention has a service dog, whether they are training the dog or in need of the dog, do not mess with the dog. That dog is like secret service or some shit, just pretend it’s not there while being respectful of it (and its handler). No matter how cute it is.
  • Do not make fun of fellow con-goers (loudly). If you HAVE to be an asshole, do it in private, later.
  • Cons are noisy enough without you screaming. Please do not yell. Please do not sing along to a song you hear, or stop everything to do the Hare Hare Yukai in the middle of the food court. 
  • You know that person who you can’t tell if they’re in crossplay or not? Guess what: It actually doesn’t matter. What assortment of dangly bits they own doesn’t actually (ever) concern you! :-) SO, DON’T ASSUME ANYONE’S GENDER. If you need to talk to them, avoid using pronouns. If you talk about them, “they” or “[insert character name]” is fine. If you want to make friends with them it’s as easy as asking “What pronouns do you prefer?”
  • Clean up after yourself. This is a really simple concept. Find a trash can—they are usually about waist height and a neutral color, are lined with a plastic bag, and have other shit in them. They are also usually everywhere at cons, so you have no excuse to leave food wrappers or your empty pocky box or a piece of chicken you sneezed on behind you. 

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  • You lost the game when you started playing. Please do us all a favor and DON’T SHOUT MEMETIC CRAP. Keep those on 4chan or whatever forum you frequent and spare us all the secondhand humiliation when your fellow anon (or no one) replies.
  • Some examples, if you’re coming up short: 
    "THE GAME." or "I LOST tHE GAME." 
    "WHAT TIME IS IT??" 
    "MARCO!!!" 
    and so on. (Just don’t)
  • Be polite to convention staff. Frequently they’re volunteers and they work long shifts and get asked where the bathrooms are about fifty times an hour. If they’re a little short with you, don’t be a shit, and when they tell you to do something, do it without being a sass. They’re just doing their job.

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MONEY, THE ARTISTS ALLEY & THE DEALERS ROOM

  • Get cash out before the con; there are usually ATMs at the con, but there are also ATM fees. A lot of dealers don’t take credit cards, especially artists, and it’s always good to have cash on you.
  • Do a first sweep of the dealers room before you buy anything, and wait until Sunday to buy especially expensive stuff—dealers lower prices and are more willing to haggle on Sunday, and it’ll also give you time to consider if you REALLY ABSOLUTELY NEED IT. 
  • Don’t touch merchandise without asking, especially figurines or other pricey stuff. Even if you have the gentle hands of a shoujo princess someone could run into you or jostle you and wow there goes the left hand of that $50 figurine!
  • Same goes for artists’ booths. Ask if you can look through their stuff, and say hi to the artist. Sitting at a table for 10 hours a day all weekend can suck.
  • Don’t say rude things about people’s art/wares, even if it looks like butt, and DO NOT tell them their prices are too high. Artists selling in the AA most likely set their prices too low, and just because you’re cheap doesn’t mean their art should be. 
  • Don’t be weird at artists you like—they’re people too. They’re probably just as flustered and excited that you follow them on tumblr or deviantArt as you are.
  • Don’t rely on the venue for food; convention food is hella expensive. Budget for food, bring your own, or check BEFOREHAND to see if there are places around the con with cheap food (eg. corner store) so if you get hungry/run out of something there may be somewhere nearby to get a replacement. 
  • Don’t stop in the aisles to get pictures of cosplayers. Ask if you can step out of the way with them and get a photo. 

PANELS & SIGNINGS

  • If there’s a panel you want to attend, make sure you keep a schedule on hand and find out where it’s being held beforehand. Set a timer on your phone so you remember to actually go—it’s easy to lose track of the time at a con.
  • There’s a good reason the people on the panel are on the panel and you aren’t. Don’t yell annoying shit just because you want to; other people are attending the panel FOR THE PANELISTS, and there is usually a time set aside for people to ask questions if you absolutely must express yourself.
  • If there is a famous person in the panel do not be weird or aggressive at them. Do not ask them sexual questions or tell them uncomfortable things or recommend RPF fanfiction to them. Please. PLEASE DON’T DO THIS. It will not only put the panelist off the convention, but it will cast a mysterious warding spell around you that alerts people to your lack of self control and respect. 
  • If you have a giant ass hat or something of the sort, TAKE IT OFF during panels, people cannot see through it. Sit in the back if it’s glued to your head. Also if you’re like seven feet tall and the person behind you is 5’2” DON’T SIT IN FRONT OF THEM. BE NICE!!!! Short people want to see things too, things that aren’t the back of your shirt.
  • If you’re planning on going to a signing, find out where it’s going to be HOURS BEFOREHAND. Show up at least an hour beforehand because signings are going to be crowded! This goes for panels featuring super famous people as well. Get there early and get in line. Especially if the convention is a big one, like Comic Con or Dragon*Con, get there SUPER MAD EARLY.
  • Don’t ask for weird or excessive things when you get your signature. You’re taking up both the signer’s time and the time of the people behind you in line who don’t care if your ten internet friends also want Misha Collins’ signature. 

COSPLAY, CLOTHES, AND COMMON SENSE

  • Check the weather and costume accordingly. Heat stroke and frostbite don’t make good memories or photos. If you think you can handle a turtleneck and a tailcoat in 90º weather with 70% humidity go for it, but stay hydrated and bring a buddy with you to occasionally fan you and spray your underarms with lysol. 
  • Wear comfortable shoes as often as you can! 
  • If you are wearing clothes that could cause chafing in hot weather, invest in baby powder (it works wonders) or this stuff (also a miracle). Chafing may sound funny but having your thighs rubbed raw on day one of the con can make the whole weekend blow.
  • Wash your cosplays before you pack them. Iron them when you get to the hotel. Most hotels have ironing boards and irons and if they don’t you can probably ask for one. If this is impossible, you can also steam wrinkles out by hanging the costume in the bathroom and taking a hot hot shower. If your cosplay has been wadded up in a bag for two months it’s going to look like it’s been wadded up in a bag for two months. Even if you think it looks fine—IRON IT. If you don’t know how to iron things, here is a fun tutorial for you.
  • Make sure your costume is secure. Don’t shed feathers everywhere or get makeup/body paint on other people. If you think you might do this, sew your feathers in tighter and fucking seal your makeup. (Homestuck fandom I am looking at you again!!!) You can do this with baby powder and hairspray. 
  • (Speed sealing tutorial: pat baby powder on the makeup until it doesn’t come off on your hand anymore, and use a soft makeup brush to brush away excess powder. When all of the painted areas are baby butt soft, apply a light layer of cheap hairspray to all the areas. When this is dry, congratulations, you have sealed your makeup.) 
  • If you’re cosplaying or at a fandom photoshoot or whatever, represent your fandom well. 
  • Be aware of your surroundings and don’t hit people with your Keyblade, Buster sword, Hammer of Zillyhoo, Pyramid Head, huge wings, rubber horse mask, or your tail. 
  • Also be careful of other people’s costumes! Don’t step on people’s dresses, feet, or any other trailing costume part. Don’t barrel into people (at all), but especially don’t if they’re holding a prop. Props are hard to make and take a long time and usually a fair amount of money. 
  • If you do break someone’s shit, offer to pay for it, even if it was an accident. 
  • Have a friend be a spotter if you have trouble seeing in a costume or can’t access your phone or need help moving some of your costume. Don’t try to do it alone! A friend can make your life tons easier letting you enjoy being in the cosplay!
  • If you don’t have access to a friend for costume spotting, plan your costume accordingly. 
  • Do not touch other people’s outfits without asking. Admire from a polite and socially acceptable distance.
  • Always ask a cosplayer before taking their picture. If they say no, respect that they don’t want their photo taken.
  • Try not to ask cosplayers for their photo while they’re eating. Wait until they are done or try to find them later. 
  • Wait until the cosplayer is ready and posed for their picture before you take it. If you have an unreliable camera, set it so it takes multiple pictures at once. You can delete the bad ones later and this way you don’t have to take up 10 minutes trying to get The Perfect Shot.
  • Keep with flow of traffic. If you need a pic of somebody or they need a pic of you and you are ships crossing in the night or something, move it elsewhere AND GET OUT OF THE WAY OF ESCALATORS, and then get their picture.
  • Thank cosplayers for their picture.
  • Be careful asking for pairings/shipping photos with or of strangers. If they aren’t comfortable with it, don’t press the issue. Just don’t do it.
  • If your friends are helping you with your cosplay be sure to thank them/help them back or buy them food or something. 
  • Please be aware that cultures are not costumes. Adding a sombrero and a mustache to a character doesn’t make it Hilarious. Swastikas are not accessories. Real world national flags are not accessories or capes or blankets. (Hetalia fandom I am staring deep into your soul.) Be aware of the connotations and weight your costume has and if you aren’t sure if it’s appropriate, don’t do it.

You can follow all these guidelines and have hella fun. Trust me—all these things do is make sure the convention is just as fun for other people as it is for you!

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