1. Talk To Others
Yes, commonsense but I know it’s hard for some of us out there to just approach people. I know I’m one of those people. I’m not a very social person and I’m not always 100% comfortable talking to a random stranger. The thing is, at Comic Con we’re not really strangers! We’re all there for the same reason really. We’re there to have a good time, maybe pick up some deals, see a panel or two and maybe see a celebrity. The best place to strike up a conversation is while waiting inline. See if your line mates are waiting for the same panel/event. If you notice them reading a comic you like, speak up. Now, keep in mind not everyone wants to be a Chatty Cathy and you’ll pick up on that quickly.
2. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions
If you see a line and you aren’t sure what it’s for, ask. You’ll see a million lines at Comic Con and some of them even merge together and wind in and out of each other. The last thing you want to do is waste time by standing in the wrong line. If you see someone with a special item don’t be afraid to ask where they go it! I can’t remember the amount of times I was asked about my “Dexter” bag that I received for making a purchase. See an awesome Cosplayer and want a picture? Yup, go ahead and ask. Of course if they’re eating or chatting on the phone you might want to wait. That would be rude!
3. Have A Plan
I know I’ve said to have a plan and then throw it out, but if it’s your first time, it might be better to stick to your plan. The first year I attended I had a solid plan and that meant I spent two days sitting in Ballroom 20. I wanted to see panels. I wanted to be in the same room as my favorite TV stars. That was the whole reason I was going. I knew I’d probably return and be able to change my plan of attack in the future. Of course the most important part of having a plan is having a back up. You should have a few choices during the day in case you can’t make it into a certain panel/screening/event.
4. Ballroom 20? Hall H? Get There EARLY.
If your one and only goal is to attend a panel in one of those two rooms, be prepared to be in line early. How early will depend on the panel but I was in line around 5AM my first year in order to guarantee myself a spot in line for the Thursday panels. It was “USA Network Day” and I wanted to see every panel that day. I was prepared to wait hours in line if that’s what it took. In a perfect world it wouldn’t be necessary to camp out in a room all day for a panel in the afternoon but these days, that what it takes. It sucks for everyone but it’s part of the Con sadly. And remember, the rooms ARE NOT CLEARED between panels. For the bigger days, Saturday, Friday, you need to get there 10pm THE DAY BEFORE in order to get a wristband (http://www.comic-con.org/toucan/23-return-of-hall-h-toucan-tracker-wristbands see this from last year) which will let you go back to your hotel and get some sleep before you actually line up earlier in the morning.
5. Visit Artist Alley
My first year I missed out on AA and it was the one thing I was disappointed in. I just didn’t have the time. If you get the chance to visit, you won’t be disappointed. Even if you aren’t into comics, you need to visit the amazing artists that are hanging out there. You’ll see many different styles, characters, mediums and prices. You’ll find artwork for $20 and $200. The thing is, I really believe there’s something for everyone in Artist Alley.
6. Leave The Convention Center
What?! But that’s where all the action is! Wrong. There’s action all over the Downtown area during Comic Con. After spending days inside you’ll need some fresh air. Networks will take over local businesses, zombies will be shuffling around, restaurants will offer special deals. In order to experience all there is, you need to leave the safe confines of the San Diego Convention Center. Don’t worry, you’ll be OK.
7. Don’t Panic
You will miss out on things. It’s just a fact of Comic Con. There’s no way to see or do it all and you need to accept that before you even step foot on the plane/train. If you start feeling overwhelmed, step outside. There’s a few areas of the convention center where you can easily just step outside and watch the boats come in. Or if you’re lucky enough you’ll see Indiana Jones give Indiana Jones whip lessons. I know it sucks to miss out on something by seconds or because the line was too long or because you over slept because of a hangover, but it happens. Find another awesome panel/event and keep it moving.
8. Keep In Touch With Home
Time can get away from you at SDCC. You don’t want those back home worrying about you so be sure to keep in touch with them. Maybe even set up an alert on your phone to remind you to send a text or even a tweet to someone.
The first thing you should try to do is memorize where the rest rooms are. They can get crowded quick and with people adjusting costumes, fixing make up and everything else, the wait can seem like forever. If you’re going to be in a certain room all day, be sure to know where the closest and even 2nd closest bathrooms are.
10. Random Thoughts
As far as picking between a panel and an autograph signing, there is no real answer. It all comes down to personal wants/needs. What’s more important to you? This is why it’s important to have a few things picked out for each time period in case you miss out on the signing which then leads to missing the panel.
For the most part people are nice! You’ll find assholes in every crowd but I’ve never seen anyone really bullied or harassed at Comic Con. Most people are friendly and more than willing to help you out. Yes, you’ll be bumped into, pushed around and probably touched by strangers more than you’d like but that’s what happens in big crowds.
Make sure you take extra batteries and memory cards! If you can, be sure to take your phone charger with you as well. While waiting in line you might be near an outlet and be able to charge your phone/camera.
If you’re going to be waiting in lines all weekend, be sure to bring something to pass the time. Maybe bring your Kindle, a few books, a game, some cards…anything to help pass the time. If you bring a game for others to play, you might even make some new friends while waiting!
Be sure to follow the rules of the rooms! If they say no video, they mean it. Many times you’ll get the first look at something special, don’t ruin it by being a jerk. Normally you’re allowed to video the panel, it’s the clips/previews that you aren’t allowed to photograph or record.
If you get into a room after the panels have already started, don’t bother looking for a seat in the front. You’ll only waste time and I’m 99.9% sure you won’t find an empty seat to save your life. Just grab the first seat you find and be happy you made it in. Yes, you can change seats when a panel ends but I don’t recommend it. The only thing that will happen is you’ll probably lose your seat.
Speaking of following, be sure to check the #SDCC and #WBSDCC tags. You never know what you might find.
In the end, it’s all about having a good time but being safe as well. Just use your commonsense! If you have any advice to share please add it to the comments. We should all want to help our fellow Convention attendees to have a great time.
Here are some other articles out there to help you out!