Spring is coming, and that means one thing: Convention Season begins.
I get it, conventions really run all year round, but they really do pick up the pace in spring and into summer, leading up to the usual rush to finish costumes, plan hotels, and overall the general pre-con panic. There’s also a drastic increase in new attendees that are asking for general pointers and what to do.
Don’t fret, The NPC is here to help you through the process!
==Always Remember To Breathe==
I am guilty of this one, even after all of these years of bringing The NPC to cons. I get so caught up in wanting to get it all done that I’m burned out before I even put the vest on for the first day of the con.
Breathe. Don’t panic. You got this.
==Know Your Venue==
This is something that I have to work on personally, but it is easily overlooked, especially with all of the nuances of the phrase “know your venue.”
I know it’s obvious, but the first part of this is knowing the location: how to get there, what is nearby, where can you park, bathrooms, etc. All of these things are valid, especially if you are commuting, staffing, or just in a costume that makes it a pain to use the bathrooms.
Of course, this is the other reason why I say know your venue: your costume. If you are wearing armor that makes you stand ten feet tall, but the ceilings are only nine feet, you’ll be running into a problem. In my case, I have an exclamation point that hovers over my head, somewhere around eight or nine feet in the air. I have to duck through not only doorways, but shorter hallways. I’ve also seen people wearing massively bulky costumes, only to find out that the venue is in a hotel with standard hotel hallways (and they cannot fit).
Speaking of knowing your costume, many conventions have been providing staff (or have general attendees) that offer ways to assist you with broken costumes. Find out what’s being offered and don’t hesitate to use it!
Finally, you’ll want to know about what sort of rules are in place at that convention site. If you are cosplaying, many sites have requirements regarding props (no metal, no wood, metal okay for masquerade, etc), bags (sizes and where they can be), and in some cases, even food (I’ve been to a few with “no outside food or drink” policies). Many venues also have limits regarding photography in set locations, and many more are strict about how “vendors” are treated (i.e. if you are selling your skills as a photographer, you can’t be paid on site).
Additionally, if you are planning on doing anything outside of the norm, like I do with my Quest handouts, you’ll need to ensure you are not violating any of the policies of the con that’ll get you kicked out. I’ve had a few close calls with this, but I lucked out with some smooth talking and knowing people. (Hey, I’m an NPC; Charisma is not a dump stat!)
==Know The Schedule==
I’m not saying you need to know the entire four day schedule, room by room, hour by hour, but rather be aware of the schedule. Know where things are happening that you like, know the times when areas are going to get crowded (like any autograph signings or concerts), and plan accordingly.
To give you a better example: I know that if I want a moment to sit in peace, I go to the end of the building opposite of the big concert, rave, or autograph session. I also know if I need anything from a set area, I try to get there before to crowds start milling in.
Basically, plan ahead, don’t miss what you want, and use the madness to your advantage.
==Remember Common Courtesy==
I’ve been to my fair share of cons. Not as many as some of my friends (some of whom hit a con almost every week), but enough that I can say this is a rule we sorely need to remember:
Don’t Be A Jerk.
This phrase runs the gamut, so I’ll break it down for you.
There’s always the primary issue: Cosplay Is Not Consent. I’ve run into far too many convention attendees that stalk their favorite waifu or husbando and make some rather unwanted advances, whether it’s demanding rather specific photos, following them around, or making demands of a more physical nature. Don’t be that guy/gal/carbon based lifeform. Please.
Harassment in general is also not okay. Don’t harangue artists/vendors over stupid crap, doubly so because they are a “captive” audience and are dealing with this all day. Try not to give flak to staff; they’re literally unpaid people trying to keep the event going for you. Don’t give someone grief over a flaw in their costume (unless criticism is asked, and even then, don’t be a jerk), and absolutely remember the aforementioned “Cosplay Is Not Consent.”
I also feel that “common courtesy” extends to things that people overlook, like blocking doorways (even ones you can’t enter; they are staff doors and emergency exits for a reason, trust me), not trashing rooms, and even watching where you step (there are small cosplayers around, and many are adorable).
==Remember Self Care==
Self care has been making the rounds lately, and sadly, so many people forget it when a con hits. While you’re out at a con, remember to take care of yourself.
Sometimes this involves a bit of prepwork. Remember to bring your meds of ANY variety, whether they are life-saving (like an inhaler or epi-pen) or even make your life better (anything that helps you mentally or physically). Pack snacks (again, if able); some of my favorites are dried fruit and protein bars, honestly (and I always have a bunch in my gear).
When on site, always remember to be comfortable and don’t push yourself; wear comfortable shoes, take breaks, get out of your costume if it’s too much to deal with physically. Remember to eat and drink, as the last thing you need to do is faint or get dehydrated. I know I’m not the best at taking care of myself when I’m on the floor, but I always have at least one hot meal over the course of the day at con. It forces me to stop, sit down, and take a break, which is huge when I am NPCing for up to sixteen hours a day and on my feet for most of that time (and when most of my water is delivered by friends passing by).
While it’s a common courtesy for others, it’s also helpful to you: grab a shower, and I don’t mean macing yourself with cologne or perfume. I mean actually grabbing a shower, soaking in water, scrubbing your hair. It’s not just for smell reasons, but it’s one of the ways to help deal with writer’s block and depression, among other issues. It’s a combination of a rote action with cleanliness that’ll make you feel more human.
==Most Importantly, Have Fun==
I know I’ve dropped a bunch of rules-like things on you, but in the end, the whole point is to have fun. Don’t let the haters get you down because you don’t have the “right” prop, don’t let the thought of post-con depression ruin your trip, and don’t kick yourself over splurging on something (after knowing all of your bills are paid, of course).
Attending these events is supposed to be a fun escape. Don’t turn it into a job for yourself unless you absolutely have to. This is coming from a guy who literally pays for his way into a con by working 8-16 hours a day during the event; if I can have fun working the whole time, I’m confident that you can have fun by attending!
I have faith in you. You can do the thing, whether it’s getting over anxiety to do the Masquerade or finishing your cosplay with only a week to go.
Just remember to go, have fun, and remember that everyone there is there to do the same.