How To Avoid A Comic-Con Meltdown!

SDCC Tips/Info

Erin is back with some more tips and advice for San Diego Comic Con. If you remember she recently shared a post on how to eat like a pro while attending the convention. This time she’s here to share some words of wisdom when it comes to avoiding a meltdown during the four craziest days of the year.

How To Avoid a Comic-Con Meltdown
By: Erin

I wish I were not writing this post from personal experience. I wish I could just give you speculative advice and not advice based on my own terrible actions. However, I am the girl who cried on the exhibit floor at San Diego Comic-Con. More. Than. Once.

I cried out of sheer frustration that was brought on by repeated disappointment, mostly surrounding bad management, decisions and lack of communication at the Warner Bros. and Fox booths. Without going into lots of detail I will say that information given on one day did not match up with what happened in reality and when I showed up at a designated time, things were not what they should have been.

This is Comic-Con, and if you are going for the first time, with high hopes of signings and photo opportunities and meeting all your favorite stars, please heed my warnings.

1. At any given time there are about 14 official panels going on in the rooms upstairs and in gigantic Hall H. You cannot be everywhere at the same time. Once the schedule is released, decide what you would like to see and do and then pick two, perhaps three back-up plans.

2. If you want to see a popular panel that starts at 1:00, your best bet is to get in line for that panel as soon as you get to the convention center. Do not expect to get into a Fringe/Walking Dead/Smallville/Chuck panel if you walk up 30 minutes before the start time. That is not how it works. Fans will wait 3 or more hours to secure a seat, sitting through hours of programming they aren’t interested in just so they can be there for the one they are interest in. The rooms are not cleared between panels so you can get in early and stake out a spot and wait the whole day if you want to.

3. However, remember, while you are waiting, more things are going on. If your day is planned with back to back panels, in different rooms, you are going to end up missing something. You need to decide what your priorities are but be prepared to alter your plans. And then alter them again. And again.

4. Many booths offer signings on the exhibit floor. If you are interested in those signings, find out if tickets are required, and how distribution of those tickets will take place. If there are no tickets, just a line, find out how early, and where, that line will start. After you get your answers, go ask someone else. If the answers are different then mention that and ask which one is correct. Ask, ask and ask again.

5. Things are changing all the time on the floor. It’s impossible to keep up. You can put total faith in someone at a booth only to come back at the designated time to find what he or she told you was incorrect. It happens and it’s nobody’s fault. Try not to get angry, although you really will want to punch someone. You cannot change anything and yelling at a booth employee will not make things better. If this happens to you, you need to put one of your back-up plans into motion.

6. Keep in mind that sometimes ticket distribution of signings will take place upstairs, far away from the actual singing, and sometimes hours, or days beforehand. If you are in line for a panel then you can’t be in line for an autograph session. Which one is more important? These are questions that you will have to answer. These questions suck, I know.

7. The higher your expectations, the harder your fall.

8. To paraphrase the Fight Club movie, you are not a unique snowflake. Every attendee at Comic-Con thinks they are the biggest fan of someone or something. They think they deserve every good experience, that they should have every opportunity, and every wish granted. This just is not so, your Comic-Con experience is no more important than anyone else’s is. I know this seems like shitty things to say but chances are, at one point or another you will be feeling a little sorry for yourself. You might even make that little pouty face and noise and if you were 3 years old, it would be acceptable. We are all here at Comic-Con because we love to celebrate popular culture, you are not a unique snowflake.

9. If you find yourself feeling crabby, pouty, entitled, angry, frustrated, sad, on the verge of tears or any combination of those, take a time out. Get a Mrs. Fields cookie, take a stroll behind the convention center and find a quiet spot to gather yourself, regroup and make a fresh plan.

10. Get a mantra; “Flexible is Enjoyable” is a good one.

Have you had a Comic-Con meltdown? How do you keep your cool? Please comment with your stories and suggestions!

19 comments

  • I had an unfortunate run-in with an incredibly bitchy handler in the autograph area the second (I think) year that I went to Con. The policies for the autograph area had previously stated that anyone signing autographs in that space was required to sign one item free of charge but had changed so that they were now only required to sign the souvenir book. Attendees had not been informed of this change, but the talent and their handlers had.

    Completely unknowingly, I tried to get a DVD signed. This resulted in the handler yelling at me, waving the paper she had explaining the new policy at me, and then continuing to bitch at me for a few minutes. After a few tears (I don’t deal well with people yelling at me) and a few steps back and a lot of comforting words from my Con buddies I managed to get a picture with one of the actors (who was very nice about the whole thing and made sure the handler wasn’t looking at the time) and then left. If I hadn’t had people there with me I probably would have completely lost it. I’ve mostly avoided the autograph area except for author signings run by Mysterious Galaxy ever since.

    I went to the Talkback panel that Sunday to point out the inconsistency to Con staff. They pretty much blew me off, telling me the policy for autographs had actually changed years before (they never did offer any explanation as to why they hadn’t bothered updating the Events Guide or the Updates or otherwise informing attendees). They also told me that signing things for fans would violate contracts (which I suppose could be true but sounded like BS at the time) and that the policy was intended in part to prevent people from selling autographs on eBay. That didn’t make any sense, and I pointed out that if I had something personalized with my name on it I wasn’t likely to be selling it on eBay, and they told me I could just erase the name somehow. Because Sharpie comes off of paper DVD cover inserts so easily, right?

    And Re: #5. Yes yelling at booth employees will get you nowhere. But occasionally being calm and polite and explaining an issue can work wonders. I got a ticket to an autograph signing once because I politely pointed out that I’d gotten out of line when told to and people got in after that and got tickets and that seemed kind of unfair. The woman with the tickets apparently agreed.

    • Wow quote this post for truth.
      Ive never had any problems (I am not too involved) but I have seen other people have these problems.

      And Mysterious Galaxy is so great at signings too!

  • I am so sorry you had some awful and emotional times at comic-con, that just sucks! I’ve gone for the past two years and have such a different experience.

    The only real annoying thing is when, at panels (in the regular rooms as well as Hall H and Ballroom 20), people save seats for large amounts of people. It’s just ridiculous. But you face aggression when you say how ridiculously unfair that is – when you waited in line and they did not.

    The room handlers need to police that better. If I waited in line for 4 hours (or in some cases, even longer) I should not have to give up a seat to someone who just waltzes in at the last minute – or is farther back in line – which is usually the case.

    • YES! Saving seats should not be allowed, i can see saving a place in the waiting line and that happens often. But once your in it’s everyone for themselves ?

      • actually saving seats isn’t allowed…its on the comic con website in the section about rules for panels. we’ll see if they enforce it this year. sure would be nice! i hate it when someone saves a whole row of seats!

  • Yikes, that handler needs to find a different line of work. And yes, SDCCI needs to update their policy in writing and be extra clear about it. How I understood it, the “stars” in the autograph section are supposed to sign the souvenir book free of charge but CAN sign something else for free IF they agree to it. A compelling case could be made to have a personal item signed for free, such as a previously taken photo of you and the star or perhaps and personal autograph book. I can see why they would not want to sign an 8X10 that an attendee had brought with them (rather than one purchased at the time), especially if you request no personalization. However, that answer about erasing a name, that’s just ignorant.

    As I understood it, the booths are provided for the “stars” free of charge, hence the requirement to provide one autograph for free.

    Thanks for sharing your story, I’ll be extra cautious if I ever want to get an free autograph!
    -Bavarian Erin

  • I will take these words to heart as this will be my first comic-con! I have a question that I think you can answer. I’m a big fan of certain USA network shows (e.g. Psych, White Collar, and Burn Notice). I’ve seen video of the White Collar cast signing autographs from last year’s comic-con.

    My understanding is that studios have their own individual booths where they hold signings. Is this information made available prior to comic-con or you have to visit the booths each day to find out the scoop? Thanks for the help!

    • Yes and no. In most cases you can find out about signing before hand but things are always changing at Comic Con. Last year I didn’t find out about LL Cool signing until the day before. If you’re on twitter I recommend following the studios during SDCC. You’ll find them tweeting info about panels and signings!

      • Thank you very much for the info.

        Sorry I have so many questions. I’ve been researching last year’s autograph signings at respective booths (e.g. Warner Bros, CBS, Fox). I’m sure it depends on the booth but generally are you able to take pictures with the celebrities at the signings? Every picture I see online is of the celebrities and not of an attendee with them.

        I did see a video from the White Collar signing where one of the main actors did take a picture with someone but I wasn’t sure if this was shunned upon. Thanks for the help!

        • Sean, you ask as many questions as you want!
          In my experience, the booth employees really try to rush you right along and get you going through the line. That, in addition to the fact that there is a table between you and the guests, makes photos with them difficult.
          Also, some of the lines will request no flash photography when you get to the front.
          The best thing I can suggest is to have a photo buddy who will either stand in line with you or stand outside the line and take a photo from afar. Be aware though that security is usually trying to keep the crowd outside the queue moving and not stopping. Whether or not the guest will look at the camera for the photo will depend on them.

          One year I was in line to meet Thomas Jane and Marsha Gaye Harden. Neither star would look at, acknowledge or smile for cameras. They held a constant conversation between themselves, signed posters, shoved them to the end of the table and would not look at ANYONE. That was the worst in regards to photo ops in signing lines.

          Another time I was in line to meet Danny Trejo and he invited me to come around the edge of the table for a photo, that was one of the best experiences. I’ve had everything in between too.

          Being aware of the situation around you, being organized so you are prepared when it’s your turn, keeping your smile on, being pleasant with the booth security/employees, all of that could make your experience better, plus it’s just good for karma!

    • I second what B said, you should really follow the studios of the shows you like on Twitter. Some of the info will be released in advance but then there are always surprises too, so make sure to swing by the proper booths to get updated information.

  • Thanks for the help guys.

    Sorry for the bombarding of questions. I wanted to ask about pictures with celebrities at autograph signings. I’m sure it depends on the booth but generally are you able to take a quick picture with a celebrity or are you limited to just taking pics of the celebrities themselves?

    I’ve seen video from last year’s White Collar signing where one of the lead stars posed for a picture with a fan but I wasn’t sure if that sort of thing is shunned upon. I’m all for autographs but I would prefer having a picture with my favorite stars. Thanks for the assistance!

    • It all depends. Last year I went to the CBS booth for 2 signings. One was just LL Cool J and the other included 3 or 4 CBS stars. When I went to the LL signing they were allowing people a quick picture with him but since the 2nd signing had a large number of people both signing and waiting in line, we weren’t allowed. Now, there are some tables/booths where you can pay to have pictures with celebs like James Marsters (Spike).

    • If you go behind the con and behind hall H there is a small group of people that get autographs from the stars as they enter hall H.
      Most of the stars are pretty nice about handshakes and autographs out there.
      Just walk to the backside of hall H about an hour before the stars you want to see, and look for an area with lots of black cars driving in and security.

  • I mainly ask because I do not see many pictures of attendees with celebrities when I look for comic-con pictures.

  • This is more of a autograph question, but last year my friend and I stumbled upon the big bang theory cast doing autographs at the CBS booth, we went to go get in line and we asked the booth lady if we needed a ticket. She said that we needed this colored dot on our badge and neither of us were sure how to get one o.o. This year I want to get their autographs and they are doing another signing at the CBS booth. Any tips on how go get into their autograph lines?

    • Basically, last year when I attended a signing at the CBS booth, we formed a line outside the hall. There, we were counted and given a little dot sticker which was then taken off by the person at the booth. Basically you had to be in line before the cut off.

  • Ahhh wise wise words……. a few things to add

    1) COMIC CON SOPHIE’S CHOICE!!! if you don’t get the reference Google the movie —but know if you want say—Autograph of Bruce Campbell you will NOT be seeing the SAM AXE panel –you will have to choose which of the experiences you want most and Q for that line first thing in AM on day off the event or at whatever time the SDCC gods have determined is acceptable for autograph line up. Lining up at the butt crack of dawn doesn’t mean you will get in either or a good seat (5am for Dr WHO panel Sunday .we got sets 1/4 way back in Hall H) …..

    2) Ballroom 20 has become like Hall H–if you want to see ANYTHING in 20 I strongly urge you to line up when con doors open and tag team with a buddy for seats in what you want with the bathroom pass

    3) AVOID TWILIGHT LINES AT ALL COSTS !!! However they are easy to spot where they coagulate on con floor on line Q

    4) IF you get to do 1/2 of what you wanted you are a WINNER !!!

    5) Don’t forget to explore outside of the Con–last year Comedy central did awesome South Park Stuff–Zachery Levi and Nerd Machine did SUPER AWESOME stuff off site, and Shark Night had crazy great stuff too at Petco parking lot and SYFY always brings a good show to the Hard Rock –if people would just stop stealing the Fargo standee !!

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