I have been attending conventions since 2004 and have learned many things over the years. This is a check list of what I consider essentials in order for one to have a successful convention. Yes, I tend to overthink many things. That is because I am a perfectionist and want things to go perfectly.
Unless you have no goals in mind and only plan to “hang out” with friends or casually wander around, you need to have a carefully thought out plan prepared prior to the event. Most, if not all, shows will provide you with a schedule at the event but that is the general schedule outlining everything that is going on. What you need is your own schedule that clearly outlines all of your priorities and goals for the day(s) you are attending.
Convention schedules tend to be posted 1-3 weeks in advance. Look up the posted schedule and plan everything out when you have plenty of time and not under pressure. I tend to do the bulk of my planning months in advance as information gradually trickles out, so I will have buffer time to re-think things carefully to ensure it is the most efficient plan that will result in the least or, hopefully, no regrets. Check the event website once more a few days before the event, and the night before, in case of any last minute changes and compare it to your own schedule one last time.
The day of the event has arrived and you are all set with a solid idea of what your primary objectives are, but do not let excitement get to you and never deviate from the devised plan! (even if complications or unexpected surprises occur)
Always bring a bottle (or two) of water and some snacks. Conventions are serious cash cows nowadays and they will do anything to maximize their profits. That said, food vendors will no doubt gouge attendees and overcharge for food. Think about it: Why are restaurants inside hotels more expensive than surrounding eateries outside? Most guests rather not go through the hassle of leaving so they just remain inside. This is especially true at big shows that are often suffer from building capacity issues. So unless you want to pay $8-10 for a hot dog or a small slice of pizza, bring your own food.
3. Mind & Body Preparation
Make sure your body and mind are both ready, physiologically and psychologically. Conventions are events that you will likely remember for a lifetime — that moment when you meet your favorite actor/actress or your childhood idol, you will want a photo as a keepsake souvenir. Do you really want that moment ruined because of an upset stomach or the case of the runs? Would you rather spend the day enjoying fan events or going to the bathroom? Yes, that’s exactly where I’m going: healthy bowel movements. As gross and hilarious as it sounds, nature calling is a reality one must consider on such a defining day for a fan. (Thankfully, my body has never compromised any of my plans before *knock on wood* but this is certainly one of the things I am always paranoid about!)
Eat well for at least a week in advance and forgo any risky foods that may cause stomach churning. Fried foods should also be avoided unless you want pimples, acne, or other facial blemishes to curse your photo ops. (Maybe those with Photoshop experience can easily edit these problems out but it can be an extreme annoyance when they only give you a hard copy photo for the standard photo-op price and attempt to gouge you for more money if you want the JPG files as well!)
You should also get an abundant amount of sleep so you are wide awake and not prone to making stupid impulse decisions. A teacher once told me that it’s better to be well-rested than well-prepared. I’ve learned that this could not be more true. If you are a late-owl like me, condition your body to sleep and wake up early at least a week in advance.
4. Contingency Supplies
Keep a small supply of Tylenol or other migraine medications ready just in case. It is also a good idea to bring re-useable bags in case you make some purchases and the dealers do not have plastic bags.
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So there you have it – my convention check list and perfectionist’s guide to come home happy from a convention having accomplished each and every single objective they set out to do. No matter how much you prepare though, there will always be unexpected circumstances here or there at the end of the day. It seems most can easily shrug it off but when you are a perfectionist like me, it’s has proven to be more difficult.