Tips for Having a Good Convention Experience

As summer winds down into the cool months of autumn, convention season is also slowing down. There are still some big events left to be sure, but the winter months are often considered a rest period. People will use this time to save some money, focus on school or work, and prepare for the next season of conventions; early year events typically have an outpouring of well-made and creative costumes. However, in this storm of preparing, we must remember that we’re attending these events with other human beings and their desire to have a good time is equally as valid as ours. In the meantime, here are some general tips that will help make sure that you, your friends, and strangers will have the best time possible.


(All pictures within this post are my own.)

The first thing we should be constantly aware of is that cosplay is not consent. This phrase is often posted around convention floors, but it always bears repeating. The way that someone is dressed does not entitle you to touch them or their costume. We love the characters in our media very much, but no matter how attracted to Commander Shepard you are, you do not have license to treat that cosplayer however you want. It’s about boundaries: harassment of any kind is not acceptable. We all like to have a good time, and probably have gotten a bit more obnoxious than was probably great—being around friends can lead to loud conversations for sure—but we should never have that rude behavior target someone. As long as you can observe basic human decency, you won’t be ruining anyone’s day. But you should stay away from touching people without permission, demanding unreasonable time or attention from people, stalking, or using demeaning language toward people.

Related to cosplay, you should remember to observe prop and costume safety and size policies. Many series have many characters who use really cool weapons! Unfortunately, some of them look exactly like (or just are) real-life weapons. This poses an immediate safety concern to con-goers and people in the surrounding public areas. While live ammunition and loaded weapons are outright banned, there are also typically restrictions on replicas. You can usually get away with having an orange cap or tip, but you should still check anyway. Blades and blunt objects typically have policies too. Still, not all weapons look real, or are even feasible, and not all props are weapons. Size, however, can be an issue. Convention spaces, even the larger ones, can get very crowded, and it is an annoyance and hazard to patrons to get bumped with props. It’s another thing to keep in mind, but it helps the event proceed smoothly.

In the spirit of keeping things moving smoothly for those around you, try to carry some cash with you if possible. In vendor and artist rooms, some people may not be able to accept cards. Sometimes the card process is slow and cumbersome. This goes for food vendors and local businesses as well. It’s a matter of keeping your options open for both your own sake and others’: long and slow lines can really put a damper on a day. On the same note, use common courtesy in the artist alley: don’t linger around booths if you’re not going to buy anything and, above all else, don’t take pictures of the artists’ work unless permission is granted. Artists work hard and need to make a living somehow! Please don’t disrupt this flow.

There's normally great spaces to the side to take pictures, rather than blocking walkways.

There’s normally great spaces to the side to take pictures, rather than blocking walkways.

Be sure to have a way to recharge your communication devices! At a convention, you may be away from your room for many hours at a time. During this time, you could be taking pictures, reviewing schedules online, or trading numbers and texts. Combine this with crowded free wi-fi and often subpar data signal, and phone batteries can drain quickly. You can still enjoy a con without one—most features are accessible by analog means—but you will have lost contact with your friends, roommates, or rides. This can be especially dangerous for younger con-goers. Even when there is no imminent danger, broken communication lines can really irritate your group members when it’s time to call it a day. So, whether it be a cord with an AC adapter or a battery pack, be sure to have some method of recharging handy.

One of the more important tips, at least to me, is to maintain proper hygiene. To put it bluntly: soap is your friend. Washing is absolutely imperative! The dreaded con funk is a very real thing and can be very disruptive to those around you trying to have a good time. Some people have weak stomachs and might not be able to handle it; some of us just prefer clean air quality. But beyond that, poor cleanliness habits are an excellent way to spread germs. Like the funk, con plague is also a frequent shadow over these events. There is a reason why people frequently catch colds or feel under the weather the week after a con. One of the joys of going to these is meeting tons of people, and you will probably hug, shake hands, or be in general contact with other humans. We don’t want to have every handshake be a trading of super germs, so make sure to wash your hands after using the restroom or touching various surfaces (to get that perfect cosplay shot). Again, soap is our friend and will help us get out of conventions with clear noses and immune systems.

It's a thankless job, but somebody's gotta do it!

It’s a thankless job, but somebody’s gotta do it!

Lastly, drink water! This tip is more for your own benefit than anyone else’s, but you can’t enjoy a convention if you are dehydrated and too tired to move around. Stay healthy! No amount of fun is worth sacrificing your well-being. Along the same lines, try to wear comfortable shoes when you can. You don’t want to have to take frequent stops to wait around and rest your feet. In the same vein, there is a finite amount of sitting room, and you don’t want to have to sit in people’s walkways.

Conventions are fun for many reasons and are a great chance to connect or reconnect with friends. Staffers work very hard to provide us with top notch experiences, but we need to do our best not to destroy those atmospheres. These tips aren’t a comprehensive list by any means, but more of a set of things we should all remember whether it’s our first year or our tenth. We all paid to get in, and we all deserve a solid experience; we have to make sure not to deprive anyone else of that.

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