Going to a new Con or event can sometimes be intimidating for people. It seems like everyone already knows someone else. And why didn’t anyone tell me that there were so many room parties? How do I attend them? Arrgggghhh!!!
Comic Cons and Literary Scifi events can be annual tradition that have been around for more than 60 years. That’s a lot of history. Some people meet up with their con friends every year for over 10 years.
Which can be intimidating to a shy geek who has just discovered that their favorite actor is signing autographs at the con. Everyone seems to know the ropes!
Here are 10 tips to break the ice with other people:
1. Be aware of your reaction to large crowds. The larger ones like the New York Comic Con and San Diego Comic Con have over 100,000 people attend.
The NASA open House in San Franscisco that we went to had over 180,000 people attend. Shuttles were overflowing, we had wait in line for over an hour for a shuttle. Once the shuttle battled it’s way to the base, we had to wait another 45 minutes to get into the base. For us pampered Seattle flowers, the California Sun drained us. Did we meet anyone? No. Did we see plenty of our tribe? Yes. Geeks aplenty. Would I want to go back every weekend? Heck no, too many people. The water ran out, the gift store was over run by mobs, and we couldn’t see the displays for the most part. Most of the displays had lines of over an hour.
Last Month we went the VLA in New Mexico. It’s the Very Large Array radio telescope facility. Just as large, maybe larger than the NASA base. We were in a small tour group. We got lost, we ran into lectures by astronomers, we got to see some really cool equipment up close. They let us into the telescope control room the operator told us about his job. Wonderful experience.
Know your crowd tolerance.
2. If you cosplay, read the con rules. Some cons require you to preregister for any contests. Others have rules about how much skin you can show. Others have stringent rules about hall cosplay. Knowing the expectations can make it a better experience.
3. Read up on the Guests of Honor for the Con. It’s a small world and you might find yourself in the elevator with them. Small talk is less awkward if you at least know they are the guest of honor.
I once had an awkward moment with JA Jance, a prolific author. She was signing books in an extremely loud electoronics store which has since gone out of business. She was sitting there at the table. I was the only one there. I approached. I asked her where the toilets were. After I read her books ten years later, I slapped myself. I could have done better than that. 🙂
4. Double check the food situation. At the NASA event, it was so large, we couldn’t even find the food trucks. An extreme situation, but check to see if they will have food trucks, the nearby restaurants are overrun, etc. Most cons make some money if you purchase from their vendors.
5. Gaming Cons. Look and relook at their websites. Many game cons require you to preregister to play any games. It’s all the name of organization. But you will be sad to find out that you can only watch games.
6. Ask questions at Panels. The panel discussion folks have been focusing on these topics for months. They know all sorts of stuff. Ask a few questions to draw out more details. The Q & A portion is just as important as the talking head part.
7. Act respectively towards others. Maybe you think Maid Cosplays are a bit silly; that doesn’t mean that you need to loudly deride someone who has spent months on their costume. The same thing goes for other fandoms. Sportsmanship during Game Cons. Even in the parking lot, cutting someone off can create a bad vibe.
8. Remember that the other people are also shy and geeky. They might be thinking you are the unfriendly one.
9. Vollenter. Most Cons are run by vollenters. This can be the best way to meet new people, meet the guests of honor and make a difference.
10. Make a flexible plan to figure out what you want to see and do. Some Cons are a one day experience. Others have multiple days. If the con prepares some quality panel discussions, I think it calls for multiple days. If they have mostly vendor space set up and not so many events, it might be a one day event.
So set some reasonable expectations, make a plan, and be open to meeting other people in your tribe.
(Insert Strongbad Joke here.)