Convention Survival Guide, Post #2 – How to Select What Convention to Go Attend

So sometimes you wish everyday was Halloween and want to go live inside your favorite book or movie. If so then conventions are the place you want to be. Once you’ve been to Serenity you can never leave, just like Hotel California.

When selecting a convention there are a lot of things to consider. Are you a fan or some kind of professional working in the field? Note; if you’re a professional working in the field and you’re not a fan, there’s something wrong with you. That’s just my opinion, but how can you be any good at writing, acting, or doing anything else in the genre if you don’t like it?

This is a very different question for fans who are not professionals than it is for someone whose livelihood depends on the right choice. There are several questions that you should probably ask if you are new to conventions and want to start trying them out:
1. Do I already have friends who go to conventions who can give me advice about what cons they like?
2. Is the convention centered around a genre that I like?
3. How much does the convention cost?
4. How big is the convention?
5. How far away is the convention?
6. How many days is the convention?

If the convention, for instance, is in the town in which you live, is free, is a one-day event, and is on your day off then it would be worthwhile to go to even if it isn’t in your favorite genre and is only expected to have 100 people attending. However, for a convention that you’re going to pay for then you probably want to start with the convention that has 1000 to 1500 members, is less than 100 miles away, is dedicated to your favorite genre, and is a three-day event. Note; the term three-day event is a bit of a misnomer as most people will arrive on Friday evening and leave by noon on Sunday. Some people may show up on Thursday and not leave till Sunday night but not many. Most of what happens will be on Saturday. Still these conventions are much better than one-day events.

I do not recommend starting with a huge convention like San Diego Comic Con, Dragon con, or WorldCon. They’re just way too big and unless the only thing you’re looking for is sensory overload and to lay out a large amount of money to go shopping there’s really not much point. These conventions typically have thousands of people, complex schedules, and it is impossible to find anything. Once you are used to convention maps and schedules then they are definitely something to see at least once. If on the other hand you are a professional trying to promote yourself, network, and do business these are often the places to be. Please note that in my opinion anytime you have the opportunity to go to WorldCon you should.

I’m not saying that these can’t be great conventions to go to; I am saying they’re not where to start. Similarly I don’t recommend the little conventions that are under 500 people as a general rule as a place to start for a number of reasons. The small conventions are frequently disorganized and they may be just starting up which frequently is a good thing or they may be dying which is usually depressing but they’re just not the best introduction to fandom.

Another important thing to consider is whether or not the convention has a con suite. A good con suite with real food is preferable but free sodas and snacks are an essential part of a truly good convention. Most Anime conventions do not have con suites. I consider not having a con suite to be one of many symptoms of not really caring about or respecting the fans. Anime conventions on the other hand tend to not really exist after the official schedule times of the convention and generally don’t have room parties. In fact most Anime conventions are not even in hotels.

If you are a dealer then Anime conventions and the really large conventions like WorldCon, Comic Con, and DragonCon are probably the best places for you to make money but even a small convention can be profitable especially if you have the right products for the right convention and stick to doing one job well.

If you are a professional, one of your big concerns is always going to be: do they want you as a guest? Another big concern is whether they’re willing and able to pay you. Furthering your career is not really relevant to conventions unless you’re going there to network with other people in the industry or meet up with your agent. I used to go to Dragon Con to meet up with my agent but he’s been MIA for a while now.

Literary conventions are frequently the best ones unless of course you are going expressly for the purpose of partying. Media conventions are more popular and can be fun but really, read a book.

If the convention doesn’t respect you then why should you give them your money?

I can’t think of a single reason.

The other two possible methods are taking names of all the conventions you know about, put them in a hat, and draw one out, and the much more reliable method of waiting until your friends abduct you by telling you to “get in the car, we’re going somewhere” and look up from your cell phone, book, or Game Boy five states later and say, “hey where are we?”

One of the big difficulties when going to conventions is that just when you’re getting used to being able to use your whole vocabulary you have to go back to Mundania where they don’t understand any word with over five letters.

Once you’ve gone to a convention, of course, there will be flyers for lots of other conventions on the freebie tables. You just have to find the freebie tables. Whether you are an Anime fan headed out to Anime Central or a steam punk fan in search of Anachrocon there is a convention out there for you and if there isn’t here is your chance to start a convention. Just make sure that if you go to Necronomicon that you say all the words. So until next time have fun and stay safe.

Copyright 2012 Julian Thomas Reid III

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