I often skim back through my old posts when they're relevant to a new post I'm preparing to write, and I surprised myself when I reread my joint recap of New York Comic-Con / Anime Festival 2011 and came across this statement about conventioning:
"Show up and have fun" only works when you have no idea what you're getting into.
Remind me to start taking my own advice. Many factors impacted my enjoyment of Otakon last year—and I'll reiterate that I did enjoy parts of it—but I was neither deliberate enough to avoid nor relaxed enough to deal with the headaches and setbacks I faced. I had certain expectations for the convention, but I left their fulfillment up to chance and to other people whose expectations didn't necessarily mirror my own. No wonder I got so grouchy.
Next time I go to a convention, I think I'm going to play by these rules:
- Plan each day from start to finish. Know the bus schedule, have a place picked out for lunch, map out the most efficient routes to get around the convention center, prepare to arrive early enough to see the things you most want to see. Logistics alone can derail an otherwise wonderful convention; if you've got the power to control them, do it.
- Communicate with others. If you're going with a group or even one other person, let them know your expectations for the convention. Tell them your plans, and understand theirs. If you want to spend time with other people, make sure it's on their schedule as well as yours.
- Always have a fallback plan. Have a list of alternate panels, screenings, and other events to attend if your first pick falls through. Have a fail-safe backup plan if those fall through, too—something you can do that doesn't hinge on you showing up at a particular time and getting in before everyone else. Dealers Rooms, Game Rooms, and simply going back to the hotel to recharge are great options.
- Make time to bring back memories. Stop to take photographs. Talk with cosplayers and vendors. Don't rush the shopping. Plan something big with the people in your group. Keep a journal. One thing I started to do at Comic-Con, which I hope to make a tradition of, was going around Artist Alley with a blank notebook and asking one artist after another for a quick sketch or doodle of whatever they felt like drawing. This makes for a great fallback plan, too.
- If you're going in costume, be committed to the costume. Don't dress up out of compulsion; dress up because you love the character, love the costume, and would rather suffocate under layers of foam and cotton in the middle of summer than walk around the convention like a normal person, or whatever passes for a normal person outside the walls of the convention center.
- Go back and reread this post before leaving for the convention. With any luck, I'll follow my own advice this time.