I seem to be making it a habit lately of missing my regular posting days, thereby making this blog quite irregular. I remember when I first started blogging I browsed through a lot of tips and tricks on what to do and what not to do. It seems I have fallen into the trap of irregularity where my posts are unpredictable and inconsistent. I would feel bad about this but you know what: that’s life. I never want to give the illusion that I have everything figured out, that my life is a perfectly scripted adventure with a solid schedule laid out before it. After all, if last weekend reminded me of anything it was that the best laid plans don’t always work (and that Stephen Amell is truly even better looking in person).
Last Thursday evening, Fan Expo, which isToronto’s version of Comic-Con, rolled into the International Convention Centre for a four day weekend of comics, fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and just about anything from geek culture that you could want, except for maybe a Bitch with Wifi t-shirt, but maybe that’s just me.
This was my fourth venture to the convention and while I was originally just going to share some stories from our adventure I figured it would be more useful for me to share some of my do’s and don’ts of convention going. Even if I haven’t been very good at following the do’s and don’ts of blog writing.
Anyway, lets get on with it.
Do not feel limited in what you can and cannot cosplay or wear
The first time I went to Fan Expo I had no idea how big cosplay actually was. I claimed to be in a low key Wonder Woman tribute but in reality I had just wore red, white, and blue. But after seeing people of all ages, skin colours, sizes, and diversities absolutely kill it in cosplays from fandoms across the board, I knew I wanted to do a little more than match the colour scheme of a character. The thing is, I’ve never felt like I look anything like any of the characters I love.
Turns out, this doesn’t matter.
Do represent your fandoms however you choose
I am not pencil thin with blonde hair and I wear glasses so wearing superhero masks is a little tricky but I still managed to do a Black Canary cosplay. I am not a fifty something year old British man but Colin Firth’s Harry Hart from Kingsman: The Secret Service still looked pretty damn good on me. And then this year I went more lowkey again with a Han Solo casual cosplay dress I ordered from Think Geek.
My cosplays have never been the most intricate or skilled but I have still loved them and ultimately that is what matters. If you are comfortable in your version of whatever character you’ve picked then you’re on the right track. Some people will get every detail right and that’s amazing but if you just want to piece together an undercover Superman costume with a t-shirt, an unbuttoned dress shirt and some oversized glasses then go right ahead. Cosplay is for everyone, there are no limitations.
Do not force yourself to stick to a set plan
A week or so before the convention rolls into town you will likely find that they’ve posted a schedule for everything going on that weekend. It’s a great idea to open that up and even highlight some of the stuff you want to do. You can even plan your day(s) out but you should be aware that conventions are a messy beast.
Timelines don’t always work as planned for a number of reasons. You might get stuck in a long line just trying to get your wristband, the actor you are hoping to get an autograph from might not be at the table the exact moment you’ve planned to go meet them, and you might get stuck talking to someone about the functionality of a hand-crafted vampire stake (No? Maybe that’s just me). Regardless of what happens, these little things pop up often and can put a wrench in your plans. But if you’re willing to change and adapt you should be fine.
Do still plan ahead
Saying to not force a plan is not saying you should ditch the planning altogether. Our first year at Fan Expo we exhausted ourselves by just wandering around all day. We didn’t really know about the Q&A sessions and we hadn’t thought about how damn long the line for pizza would be. It was a fun time but it was definitely an exhausting mess. Moving forward we structured our days a bit more, and this Fan Expo I had pretty much everything figured out before we even bought our tickets.
That didn’t stop the plan from changing of course.
Just to give you a visual on what this looks like, I thought I’d share my original plan and then the altered one that quickly came about after spending all of an hour inside the convention centre.
The original plan
815AM – Leave home
9AM – Pick up wristbands (North building)
9AM – 1030AM – Locate panel rooms for later / explore South building
11AM – Stephen Amell Panel (Room 106)
After panel – finish exploring the south building
1230PM – Lunch @ THREE10
2PM – Catherine Tate Panel (Optional)
After panel – North building exploration
415PM David Ramsey Panel (Room 206B)
5PM – Bobbie Sue’s Mac & Cheese (501 Queen Streetcar)
What actually happened
830AM – Leave home
915AM – Pick up wristbands
940AM – Locate panel rooms / explore South building
10AM – Get in line for Stephen Amell
11AM – Stephen Amell Panel
12PM – Food truck lunch
1220PM – Get in line for Jason Isaacs
1PM – Jason Isaacs Panel
2PM – North building exploration
330PM – Get in line for David Ramsey
415PM – David Ramsey Panel
530PM – Dinner at Pie Bar Pizzaria
So there you have it: everything from who we were seeing to where we were eating changed on the go and that was okay. The original plan helped up figure some things out and then we regrouped when new things were added and others were switched around. Cons will throw curveballs at you, don’t be afraid to work with them.
Do not forget to eat and drink
This is probably one of the most important reminders I can give because it’s so simple and therefore so easy to forget about. Making sure you have the proper energy in your body to battle through a long day is important. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything around you and just try to push through. Your body will not thank you for this. You’ll burn out and that’s when the grumpiness and exhaustion can start to set in.
Do pack snacks, water, and get lunch at some point
From my knowledge most conventions will let you bring outside snacks so you don’t have to spend a fortune grabbing food from the vendors inside. Packing water and a few things to nibble on is a good idea. It’s great for when you’re sitting in the hall waiting in a line for a panel or even just walking from area to area.
If you’re doing a full day it’s a good idea to make lunch and dinner plans too. It’ll help you break up the day a bit. Be mindful of the fact that the food stalls in the convention will likely be very busy around lunch time and you may be waiting for a bit. Food trucks and hot dog vendors outside are easy grab and go that allow you to get right back into the action but a sit down lunch is not a bad idea either as it breaks up the day a bit. It doesn’t matter too much where or what you eat, the important thing is simply that you do.
Do not try to pack everything into one day
This is a funny tip coming from someone who has only ever done one day of the con each year but it’s something I am mindful of when trying to plan what we’re going to do at Fan Expo. There’s simply too much to do at these conventions to try and do it all in one day. In fact, I don’t think you can do it all over the entirety of the four days either. If you try to pack too much in you will definitely burn out. These things are much more exhausting than one would think. It’s a lot of time on your feet and the crowds can drain a lot out of you.
Do make a list of your must dos so you don’t miss something
Conventions are pack full of things to see, people to talk to, and stuff to do. Even if you spend the whole weekend soaking in every minute of the con there will be things that overlap. So you’re going to want to figure out what matters the most to you. It’s important to consider wait times for panels and even things like photo ops and autographs. In order to make sure you get everything you want out of the convention it’s useful to go through the schedule and figure out the things you don’t want to miss.
Do not touch someone or take pictures without their consent
This year Fan Expo had some signs up talking about consent and how it applies to cosplay. As someone who is now working in a non-profit where issues of consent are talked about a lot, it was nice to see this acknowledgement out in the open.
It does not matter if someone is in a spray on body suit, a suit of armour, or a string bikini; cosplay is not an invitation to touch. It’s important to remember this as you’re wandering the convention halls and watching as some of your favourite characters are brought to life. You may be in awe of some of these creations and that’s perfectly normal but don’t forget to ask before you start snapping pictures of someone. It’s always a better idea anyway, most people will stop and pose for you.
But if they say no: respect that.
Do acknowledge the awesome cosplays around you
A lot of con goers spend all year on their cosplays, others put them together in a few short days. Regardless of the timeline, cosplay is awesome and a lot of hard work. The geniuses behind these costumes should get to hear how much their work is appreciated. Don’t be too shy to stop and say something if you really admire a cosplay.This goes for the artists and crafts people at the convention too; you can’t always buy everything you think it amazing but you can tell the artist that you admire their work.
Do not spend the whole day on your feet wandering the main floor
While the main convention halls are packed full of beautiful art, game previews, free giveaways, and a geek’s paradise of merchandise; they are also packed with people. Moving slowly through tight claustrophobic crowds can suck the life right out of you, especially if you do it for hours on end. You could no doubt walk Artist Alley for a whole day, especially if you actually stop at most of the booths, but your feet and your body will not thank you for it. Neither will your friends. On our first adventures to Fan Expo there was a fair share of snapping and bickering and I blame that on sore feet and pure exhaustion.
Thankfully, we’ve learned.
Do consider using panels or Q&As as a way to break up the day
Instead of just walking around all day, there are lots of options that will get you out of the main crowd and off of your feet. From cosplay contests to writing or sketching workshops to the ever so fun celebrity Q&As, there are lots of things included in convention schedules that don’t involve wandering around the convention floor all day. Consider slotting these in to give yourself a bit of a break.
Do not ask Jason Isaacs what house he is in
He’s a Slytherin, of course.
Do laugh at all his jokes, he’s pretty damn funny
Okay, so not everyone is going to have the pleasure of seeing Lucius Malfoy several rows down from them but if you ever do have the chance to listen to this wonderful man do a Q&A I suggest you check it out. He was incredibly charming, honest, and very intelligent with his answers. He was great with the younger fans who wanted to know a lot more about Harry Potter and his stories from that set as well as others were really something. He is just one example as to why Q&As are a definite do for conventions. I still can’t believe we missed out on them our first two years going.
Do not let someone else tell you what you should and shouldn’t do
I know we just went through a whole list of this so perhaps this one seems counterintuitive but here’s the thing: these are just my tips. This is not the Holy Grail of convention experiences. In fact, I still consider myself an amateur when it comes to attending cons. This is only my experience, you will all have your own so don’t let me or anyone else tell you how you should experience a convention.
Do have such a great time that you’re already thinking about next year
Whether you spend the day in Q&A panels or you lose your mind a bit when you meet your favourite actor, just make sure to soak in all the awesome that conventions bring. If you’ve never been and there’s one in your area, I strongly suggest giving it a chance. Who knows, maybe it’ll be your first of many.