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How To: Survive Your First Convention

How to Survive A Convention

So you are finally getting ready to attend your first convention. It may be big or small, close to home or far away, but there are some things that will make your first trip much more enjoyable. Whether you are heading to an anime, gaming, or other convention, they are a great place to meet people who enjoy the things you do and have a lot of fun along the way. However, like most things, conventions have a reputation for bringing out some interesting quirks of people. We are going to take a look through some of the big pitfalls to avoid and ways to squeeze a little extra enjoyment from your weekend!

Con Funk

This is one of the quintessential issues with conventions. Con Funk refers to the fact that many people get so caught up in the fun that they neglect their personal hygiene. This leads to some less than desirable aromas which you will smell throughout a convention center. Don’t be one of the people who gets caught up like this. You have a couple options depending on what your lodging is like. If you are staying in the hotel or convention center please take a few minutes at some point and grab a shower. You might even want to head up and grab another one mid-day depending on the weather. If you are staying somewhere further away, take along some cologne/perfume/deodorant with you. These are easy to carry (we will cover that later) and applied within reason can keep the funk away until you get to a shower. DO NOT be the person who douses him/herself in an entire canister of Axe body-spray. Personally I chose a natural solid cologne like this one because it’s small, easy to carry, and has a subtle but attractive scent.

Another side effect of con funk is that when people neglect their hygiene they run the risk of spreading colds. This happens WAY more often at cons than anyone cares to admit, and avoiding the con plague is a task in and of itself. Wash your hands often or throw a small carry-able container of hand sanitizer in your bag. On top of that I usually take some vitamin c gummies and zinc while I am at a convention (consult your doctor). Doing this might help you avoid becoming one of the walking dead come the following weekend.

Check Your Bag Twice Before Leaving Home

When you are getting ready to leave your house check your luggage twice. The time it takes is minimal and the return on not forgetting your underwear is substantial. Cons have a weird effect on the surrounding areas. They tend to cause prices for everyday essentials to get crazy, especially within walking distance of the convention itself. If you think the businesses around Comic Con don’t realize they have 170,000 paying customers coming into town you are delusional. Businesses see cons as free traffic and they price accordingly. Imagine trying to get bread milk and eggs before a blizzard, the same applies here. So, in order to avoid paying 9 dollars for a toothbrush take 15 minutes and go over that list one more time.

Bring. A. Bag/Backpack

Two of the main attractions of a convention are the Artists Alley and the Dealers Room. These are essentially the places that will suck your entire wallet dry and then make an attempt on your credit card. They are places where you will absolutely find items you cannot afford, and a million items that you want. Depending on the size of the convention these can range from the size of a basketball court to the size of a football stadium, and they are chalk full of wonderful people who are happy to talk to you and show off what they have for sale. 

Yes, it’s mildly inconvenient to lug a bag around during the convention but the conveniences are worth it. You are going to end up buying things in the dealers room that you have to carry. Also, pin collecting is gigantic among convention goers and if you want to trade your pins you better have a place to display them. I use the ThinkGeek convention bag because it lets me put all the pins I have to trade right on the side. Anything will work though. You could carry around a 6 dollar backpack from Kmart and it will serve you just fine. Whatever you decide to do I recommend you get a bag/backpack especially if you are not staying in the convention center.


When you first get to the convention you are going to need to stop off at registration and pick up your badge. You can do early start at some conventions and have the badge mailed to you ahead of time (thank you AWA), and I highly recommend this if it’s an option. If you cannot, understand what registration is going to require of you. Depending on the convention you will need to present some form of ID, have it ready. You may also need to have props labeled with orange depending on your cosplay (covered in another section). I recommend taking a few minutes prior to arriving to read through the registration guidelines. It will save you and the staffers a bunch of headache, and get your experience off to a better start. Your badge is your end all be all to enjoy what the con has to offer. Depending on what type of convention it may also grant you entry into tournaments or VIP meet and greets. More than likely it will come on a lanyard for you to wear, but I much prefer to throw it into something a little more formidable. There are a million awesome options like the one I use ***here***. You can just use the lanyard provided or pick up a badge holder from a local office max, but if you want something a little more interesting Etsy and Amazon are wonderful places to find them.

Tournaments (Cards, Video Games, Etc.)

If you are at a gaming convention and you entered into a tournament make sure to do the following or risk the consequences.

  1. Read the rules, then take a break and read them again. The rule books for tournaments can vary wildly, and making sure you understand them is paramount. Take the time required and acquaint yourself with them before the first round. If you have questions seek out one of the staff/tournament organizers.

2. If you are required to have your own controller make sure you have it and that it’s working. Nothing is worse than stepping up, plugging in your fightstick, and having your X input not work. Take a few minutes and make sure everything works before your are called on to play.

3. Do not forget to eat and drink. No, pocky and ramune are not a good weekend diet make. Although it’s tempting to skip meals and consider fast food to be a staple food for a weekend you are best not to. Not only will you feel like crap by the end of the weekend your performance will probably suffer as well.


One of the coolest things about conventions is seeing the insane cosplay that is around. People spend months working tirelessly to recreate an exact replica of your favorite game or anime character. When it comes to cosplay there are a few guidelines that are good to follow.

  1. Do not take their picture without first asking them. Even though they may be dressed like a super hero, they are just everyday people who do not want to have their picture taken without permission. Pictures with cosplayer’s is commonplace and you should get as many as you want, just ask first!
  2. Do not ambush them while they are eating a subway sandwich. Again, these are people and often their costumes take time to get off so they can eat. They are not going to want to put it all back on so you can snap a picture while their sub gets cold. Wait until they are done or catch them somewhere else in the convention center.
  3. Try not to break their costumes even if they are cumbersome to avoid. This is just a common courtesy, but it’s amazing how many costumes get broken by rude con-goers. Take the extra 3 seconds to walk around that angels wings.
  4. Try it! It sounds crazy, and maybe it looks a little crazy too, but it’s fun! Cosplay is like Halloween for adults, but with a better crowd. There isn’t anything quite like ambushing a local coffee shop with a full resident evil group and seeing how people stare. It’s a lot of fun and I promise you will meet some awesome friends along the way.

Boards/Panels/Meet and Greets

One of the biggest draws of conventions is that you get to meet some of the industry stars. This can be in the form of information panels, AMA boards, or general meet and greets. All of these provide an opportunity to meet with your favorite celebrities in a different way. However, there are some things that you should be aware of.

First off, do not try to run up and grab a hold of the person. Despite the fact that you may love every show they have ever voiced they do not know you. If you try to run up and grab ahold of them it’s a one way ticket out of the convention and a short end to your trip. Second, lines are long for the big panels/celebrities. This means your choices are either show up early, or prepare to wait a long time! Either of which is fine, I have met some of my best friends waiting in line for panels. Next, ask questions. A lot of people go to panels and just listen. If you have a question you want to ask speak up, you don’t know when you will get another chance! Lastly, don’t be upset if you don’t get to meet the person. Sometimes you will get a meet and greet where the person can’t meet every person waiting in line. It’s rare, but it happens. If you happen to be one of the people that didn’t get to meet them, don’t get upset, realize that they are only one person and you have an entire convention to find something else to do!

Final Considerations

Your first convention is almost always a great experience. You are going to have 3 days fly by in what seems like an instant. You will experience new things, meet new people, and have an amount of fun that is very rare in everyday life. Take advantage of everything the convention has to offer and be sure to collect contact info from people you meet. If you take the time to understand some of the basic rules of conventions your experience will be even better and you can avoid some of the common pitfalls. In closing enjoy yourself, but understand how to do it without ruining it for people around you! Happy con-going! get upset, realize that they are only one person and you have an entire convention to find something else to do!

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