INSPIRE CONFIDENCE: Convention Season Protips

Convention Season Protips

It is that time once again to pull out the suitcases and pack all your gaming supplies into the largest rolling bag you have, it’s the beginning of Convention Season! Of course, convention season never truly ends, it just rolls throughout the year with small local conventions. However, Memorial Day weekend is mere days away and that means PaizoCon in Seattle. I’d like to take a few moments to discuss convention attendance as a whole for any convention you might ever have reason to attend, whether a gaming/hobby convention or even a professional convention for boring old real life.

  1. Remember why you are at the convention.

Duh Monica, we’re here to have fun, right!? Sure, that is exactly why you are at a convention, unless it is one of those real life “boring” ones, then you’re probably there to network and learn about something that applies to your profession. In some cases, you’re at a convention to do all of the above.

I bring this up because sometimes people lose sight of why everyone else might be at a convention, especially big conventions that serve many fandoms at the same time, like GenCon, Origins, SDCC, or PAX. All of those thousands of attendees are there because they feel strongly about their chosen fandom and they want to go share their enthusiasm for their beloved fandom with other like-minded people. These people may not be at the convention for the exact same thing you are there for, but that does not make their chosen favorite thing any less valid than yours.

I have a friend who despises Star Wars, I love it. We maintain our friendship because we love other things equally and we respect one another as individuals. When someone doesn’t like something we like, it can feel like they do not like us personally, this is not the case. There is nothing personal in their disliking of a single fandom that we love, it’s just not for them, just like something they love may not be for us. Conventions are a place where thousands of people come together who both simultaneously get and do not get the same fandoms in various combinations. Don’t take it personal if someone doesn’t love something the same way you do and don’t make it personal if you dislike something and you encounter an enthusiastic fan. Remember, you’re all there to have fun.

  1. Be mindful of your surroundings.

Don’t get so caught up in the experience that you lose sight of where you are. Be aware of your surroundings, because it can be really easy to miss a small person or someone with adaptive equipment moving through a crowd while you’re all moving like salmon in a spawning river.

One of my most memorable convention moments was at Star Wars Celebration II when a friend, who shall remain nameless, almost pushed Kenny Baker down the Indianapolis Convention Center escalator. She was so excited after the symphony played the soundtrack live and was walking backwards talking to the rest of the group. Mr. and Mrs. Baker were with a small retinue of people, but they were trailing the group and we could not see the Bakers as we rounded a corner and our friend was between us and them. Yes, my friend almost killed Kenny.

  1. Be mindful of your fellow attendees.

Not only in a physical sense, but in a human sense. We live in a world where predators seek their prey where ever and whenever they present themselves. Harassment is common at conventions, especially directed at women. Despite numerous blogs, videos, and commentary to the contrary, there is no such thing as a “fake geek/gamer/nerd” among the individuals who spend countless hours crafting cosplay or waiting to marshal for the PFS Special or standing at gaming terminals burning it up or learning a new game at a demo table. Every person at a convention has just as much business being there as the person next to them, as long as they’re engaging in the convention’s offerings.
If you see someone behaving strangely, which could include having a medical emergency, or witness an actual crime in progress, call for help, find a convention employee or volunteer, bring it to the attention of people around you. Safety is something we all need to be aware of. There are reports of drinks being roofied at bars and attendees spending conventions hospitalized or worse. Practice safety at all times while traveling.
This does not, however include reporting people using the bathrooms as intended, please let those people do nature’s business in peace. #Illgowithyou pins are found here – and Back Up Ribbon project has event ribbons to help attendees to self-identify to end bullying and harassment of all varieties –

If you want any of these pins or ribbons for PaizoCon, you’ll want to order them stat and have them delivered to your hotel. I will have a small supply of pins and ribbons with me and will make them available on a first come, first serve basis.
All of that said, do not be a hero unless you are trained in such matters. Placing yourself in danger can be more of a detriment when trained responders arrive. Hold the space, get help or provide help if the situation is safe.

  1. Respect personal space.

Personal space can be at a premium in crowded conventions, do your best to provide it whenever you can. This includes making your own personal space as neutral to pleasant as possible. Use shower facilities and an antiperspirant every day you are in attendance. Do not go too far the other way either, no one wants to be able to smell you 15 minutes after you’ve passed by. Be generous with soap and sparing with the cologne. Some people have serious allergies and triggering an asthma attack is not the goal here.

  1. Participate in self-care, daily.

Conventions are exciting and no one wants to miss a single moment. I get that, but no one wants to be around a bunch of cranky geeks either. Do not sleep on the floor at a convention, seek out the Quiet Rooms or whatever kind of down time facility the larger conventions provide if you need a refresher. You should sleep in a bed for at least a handful of hours every day/night of the convention. Drinking 5-Hour Energy Drinks is NOT the same as sleeping. You cannot caffeinate and power through a convention. The human body requires sleep, especially if you need to replenish your spells or offset burn damage. You should eat at least two real meals each 24 hour period, not just a handful of snacks. Pack nutritious food if you must in order to save money. No one said conventions were cheap, plan accordingly.

  1. Know and acknowledge your limits.

As mentioned before, no one wants to miss out on the fun, but there is no fun when you’ve over exerted yourself, had too much to drink, not enough sleep, and your blood sugar is tanking. Conventions are expensive to attend, even when attended frugally. Don’t waste your convention money and time behaving like you’ve never been off the set of Animal House.

Overbooking your schedule is easy to do as you look over the events catalog. Order your tickets, especially if you’re looking at free events and plan for the best. You should feel no guilt when you have to bail on that fourth seminar in 5 hours after playing a 5 hour table top event, especially for the free events. For paid ticketed games, try to let the GM know you won’t be there, that way they can fill that seat and not wonder if you’re just running late. Also PaizoCon has a trade board where players put tickets for events they can no longer attend, you can get into some great events that you missed in the lottery. There is no shame in realizing you just need to sit down, have a drink and a snack and take some time to recharge. That’s adulting and you’re doing it right.

  1. Don’t travel alone, always have a wing person.

Unless you absolutely must travel alone, always go with someone else to all places, even if it is just to the bathroom and you’re pretty sure it will only take a minute. Several years ago I was at GenCon and I was very ill, although I did not yet realize the extent of my illness. I was walking through the concourse by myself and I nearly passed out. I will be forever grateful that a friend of mine, who also happens to be a nurse, saw me at that exact moment and reined me in. She sat me down, got me something to drink and stayed with me until I was feeling better. She even walked me back to where I was going and made sure I was safe. It was that moment when I realized I really looked as terrible as I felt, but I had a mission. Honestly, that “mission” wasn’t half as important as me remaining upright and safe. I am a confident and independent person, but in a place where no one knows your name, that’s not always a benefit. I should have listened to the messages my body was sending me all day and I should have stayed with my party. I was lucky that year. I never go anywhere without my phone and the knowledge that someone knows where I am.

  1. Don’t break the convention’s rules.

No one likes to be told what to do, however those rules are in place to maintain order and to provide record keeping for the convention. That means don’t trade badges or tickets that have your name printed on them. While not specifically stated in any convention rules I have ever seen, always carry some form of legal identification on your person at all times.

  1. Think like an adventurer, be prepared.

You are going to be in a strange location with people you don’t know. Carry some cash somewhere other than in your wallet. Don’t carry all of your money on you at one time. Walk with purpose, make eye contact with people. Do not take short cuts through a building or between buildings. Know your exits. Keep your important belongings within arm’s reach at all times. Know who you are responsible for if you’re traveling with children or others with special needs. This might seem a little alarmist, but speaking as someone who has been evacuated from more than one building for emergency reasons, being ready to move and traveling light affords you peace of mind when unexpected things happen. You never want to have to use your emergency preparations, but you never want to be in a position where you find you needed them and were without.

Monica Marlowe

Monica Marlowe is the 2015 Paizo RPG Superstar. Winning the contest launched her freelance game designing career. Her winning adventure, "Down the Blighted Path" and PFS scenario "Captive in Crystal" are available through Paizo. She’s publishing additional gaming materials under Marlowe House and through 3rd party publishers. Monica is also active in the ongoing education in gender, sexual, and racial equality in the gaming community. Driven by a desire to see a more diverse gaming community, Monica has joined the Know Direction network to help and encourage all gamers, veteran and new, to find their voices. Monica lives in southwest Ohio with her husband, Andrew, and 2 children, Kate and Thomas.