If you are going to your first convention it can be hard to know what to pack and what to expect, so I have put together a small Con Survival Guide. I have gone to science fiction and fantasy book conventions since 2015. Find a tips for how to have an enjoyable first convention.
Originally posted March 25, 2018. Last updated June 22/6 2023
The Con Survival Guide
Planing before the convention
To get the most out of the con, look at the program at home and make a note of what you want to attend. It’s ok if there are multiple things in a time slot that you want to go to, mark them all down – you will decide on the day what you want to go to. Give yourself some options.
If there are any authors you want books signed by, bring the books! If you don’t have a physical copy of the book, you can either buy one at the con, they will most likely be sold OR you can bring something for them to sign – I suggest a bookmark, as it is on theme and will remind you of the experience every time you use it.
If you know others that are going, make sure they know that you will be there. Consider setting up a time to go eat together or meet up.
Plan your transportation and where you will stay before hand – it will make it much easier to relax.
What to bring to the convention
- Water bottle
- Notebook and pen, so you can scribble down book suggestions, contact info etc.
- Phone charger
- Emergency snacks
- Good shoes, you will be standing and walking a lot
- Cash for buying things from vendors
- Any medicine you might need. I always carry my allergy meds and pain killers
- Bag to carry your stuff in at the con
You might want to consider bringing
- Something to wear that shows your fandom love: This will make it easier to get to talk to others from your fandom
- Hand sanitizer, if you don’t bring some, remember to use the posts the hotels tend to set up for conferences. You really don’t want to get ill and you do not want to spread your cold around either.
Flying in for the con from outside the country
- Consider bring some local candy to share with people – it’s another fun little thing to do to get to talk to people in lines
- Check if you need a power converter – you can pick on up at the airport if you do, but not having one and having to go without charging your phone is hell
- Check if you need to bring your passport
- A bit of local currency
- A physical book for the airplane – airlines can be silly about electronic devices + it works without power
At the con
To get the most out of the convention I recommend:
Plan your day – go over the program again before you get to the con to see what you really want to do that day. Have some alternatives if the thing with the famous author is full. Remember to bring the books you want signed.
Know that it is ok, if you don’t get to all the things you wanted to do. You will get distracted, want to spend time with the cool people you just meet, take a break etc. That is ok!
Remember to eat regularly – and eat proper food. It’s so easy to end up eating nothing but junk, because you are excited and want to do everything other than “waste time” eating. You will get cranky and tired if you don’t eat. Going outside the con hotel to eat is a great way to meet people and socialize with the people you meet – it has the added bonus of letting you see a bit of the city you’re in.
Drink lots of water – dehydration is real and the quickest path to feeling shitty. I always carry water with me – some rooms are quite warm with many people in them and that way I remember to drink something – especially something without sugar. If you plan to take part in barcon, you still need to drink lots of water. You don’t want to spend the whole con with a hangover, do you?
Talk to people – most people are at a con to meet other people who love fandom as much as they do, or they are there to network professionally. Both groups makes for great people to talk to.
If you like me are not great at small talk, start by asking if they have been to any great panels – it will almost always lead to an interesting conversation. Or ask if it is their first con – if it clearly isn’t, ask when their first con was.
If you want to talk to people after the event, remember to get their social media handle or an email address.
Some cons have ribbons or stickers to indicate if people wants to be left alone – respect those!
Take breaks – especially if you are an introvert, give yourself some breaks. Go to the quiet room for a bit and just sit and don’t interact with people. If you meditate, do that for a bit. If you normally need breaks after being with a lot of people, then remember to let yourself have that time! It will make both the con and your days after the con better and less exhausting.
Take notes – if you hear about something cool at a panel or if someone recommends you something, write it down. You will not be able to remember it later.
Use the hashtag – if you plan on blogging or live tweeting or post about the event, please use the official hashtag. That way the rest of us can see your awesome posts! Most cons will also boost a lot of posts about the convention.
Be curious – Go to some things you didn’t think you would like. Perhaps go see a short film, go play a board game, go to a reading with someone you never heard off, go to a workshop etc. You might find something totally awesome, you didn’t know you would like. Let yourself be surprised.
Consider being a volunteer – Fan-conventions are run by fans just like you. Nothing gets done if people don’t volunteer. The great thing about volunteering is that you gets to meet other fans, without you having to small talk, you get to move the movers and shakers of the con and you get to see how the con runs. It might even look night on your resume if you do it a lot. Also some cons will pay you tokens (grots) for your time. I like to be on panels, which is another way to volunteer, but I also try to find a time slot to go help out with whatever Ops needs.
When it is your first convention you might notice a lot of jargon being thrown around. You can find my con jargon guide here.
I hope you have great con! If you see me at a con, come say hi!
Do you have any advice for other con-goers?