I’m New & Going It Alone! Any Advice?

I’ve had a people ask me over the past few days for advice for those newcomers to Comic Con. The thing is, not only are they new but they’re going it along. I want to first say KUDOS! I think it’s great that so many of you take the plunge to travel to Comic Con even if you can’t find another poor soul to drag along with you. With that being said, it can be a scary and overwhelming place. Here are a few pieces of advice that I hope will help you out. Yes, some of it is commonsense but I think we all need to be reminded of certain things when it comes to San Diego Comic Con.

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.

9. Bathrooms
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!

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30 comments

  1. Bring MEDS – The CON FLU is real. I got it. And so did the two other guys that came with me. The air in the center is VERY dry.
    Make sure to drink lots of fluids.
    The con flu will creep up on you and kick your butt the last day of the con.

    @theblaque on twitter!!

  2. Food and water: Concession lines are long and the food expensive. To save time and money, pa k some easy consumables. Jerky, granola bars and trail mix are good. Also, the sheer volume of people makes the exhibit hall a warm environment and you’ll be walking a lot. Try to pack at least 2 water bottles and refill them at water fountains when possible. Alternatively, if you can, you might just want to carry all the water you need. It’s a heavy beginning, but your load lightens as the day passes. I tend to snack in slow lines and between panels. Just remember to move with the line and not to eat noisily during panels. See you at #SDCC

  3. Have a plan!!! And bring a backpack with some snacks and water!! Use the next 9 days to plan out day(s). I remember my first trip, my wife and i spent it on the main floor, completely unaware of the awesome panels we were missing out on. And wear some good shoes. You’ll probably spend 80% of your day on your feet. If you want a hasbro or mattel exclusive get your entry pass right after you pick up you badge. Most of all have fun. For me its the one time of the year i can i feel at home with my fellows nerd and geeks!

  4. Celebrity Sightings!!
    — You WILL see celebrities on the streets — so keep your eyes open and scan your surroundings!!! And.. they WILL be staying at your hotels in the Gaslamp District!!
    — Just remember to stay calm and keep your cool!
    — Some are pretty cool! But I can’t speak for all of them, so don’t get mad if they can’t stop and take a pictures. Most of them are there to work, so they will be busy. If you see a celeb in a more crowded area, remember they might not want to be outed and just get to their next destination. So say “Hi!” but don’t freak out and draw a ton of attention to them.
    — If you spot one on a less crowded street or a more secluded area, still remember to not freak out — go up to them calmy and introduce yourself. Always ask for a picture first!!!! Don’t assume they owe it to you.

    • Barbara Staigerwald July 2, 2012 at 9:46 am - Reply Author

      Yes! Always look around but if you see someone on a phone, don’t bother them! Rememmber, you’d be pretty pissed if someone interupted your meal/phone call/personal space. Just treat them how you want to be treated! Lame, but true!

      • Alsoooo… a lot of celebrities go to SDCC with their kids and families — as fans!!! So if you see a celeb and it looks like family time, again, just say “Hi!” and don’t be too intrusive!

  5. I have to disagree on the changing seats thing. When everyone leaves, it becomes really easy to move up a few rows. If you are in a room all day waiting for an afternoon panel, this is how you can get a front-row seat.

    • Barbara Staigerwald July 2, 2012 at 10:06 am - Reply Author

      IMO, I think it depends on the day and the panels going on. In 2010 I sat in Ballroom 20 all day on Thurday which was USA Network and I believe Showtime. Barely anyone even left the room during the day and people would run right up front for a seat to find none. Like most things at the Con, it’s probably a mix of luck, speed and the day of the week! lol

      • It’s okay to move up if there is an actual spot. There are people who will bum-rush to the front in desperation and try to nab seats from people who are just standing to stretch between panels. Don’t be a seat vulture.

        And be cognicent of the people around you. In 2010 we had a woman in front of us in Ballroom 20 who left during a panel to go to the restroom. She was alone and asked if we’d watch her things. When she didn’t return, I got a little worried. Sure enough, a police officer (actual police, not security) and a medic came into the hall looking for her things. It seems she fell ill and called for help while in the bathroom. She had one request too — Could one of us take a picture of David Duchovany.

  6. Pretty much everything everyone else has said — especially about the food and hydration. While waiting in line to go into a panel, snack then. If there is another panel between the two panels you really wanted to see, or a few before the one you were interested in, SIT THROUGH THEM! They do not clear out the rooms (specifically Hall H and B20).

    Do check out Artist Alley and the other things in the Sails Pavillion. Awesome stuff in both areas.

    Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer. BEWARE THE CON FLU!

    Have fun. Above all else. If you are tired and exhausted, don’t be afraid to skip something or arrive later to the Con. Take care of yourself first and foremost.

    I say often as well, “Eyes down”. I say this because people drop things. And you might be in a small room with a few people and Danny Devito and the only way you’ll see him is by looking down. No matter how tall you are.

  7. Due to a friend getting stuck at work and last year being my first con ever, this was me Thursday and Friday last year! By having a plan, along with snacks, water, and comfortable shoes, I was busy (or waiting in line) for 15 hours Thursday and it was great. Barely even had time to view the main floor. Knowing in advance what’s going on where is invaluable.

    Friday I was still on my own and actually didn’t have a pass. It was the only day we couldn’t get passes for. So I checked out everything else going on outside and downtown. Gaming, art galleries, more gaming, food, and caught Captain America that night at a theater.

    And always be nice to people! I had questions, people had questions of me, it’s all good and I like that complete strangers can help each other out.

    Then when my friend arrived late Friday/early Saturday, he wanted to make sure we found proper meals 3 times a day. What madness was that haha?!

  8. Seats in panels: I have found that unless I sit in the very front few rows in BR 20 or Hall H, the big screens are the only way I actually “see” the celebrities. I do have a zoom on my camera(who doesn’t these days) but in reality, in a large panel you aren’t going to be anywhere near the famous people, so you don’t really need to try to switch around a lot.Under random happenstances,I have seen and photographed many people just walking around. One of my faves? Seeing Kevin Spacey waiting in the hall upstairs for room 6BCF. So panels aren’t really the way to “catch” celebrity sightings. The fun part of panels is being able to geek out with HUNDREDS of other people who love the same things you do…and their enthusiasm is as infectious as yours!

    Don’t let your expectations be unrealistic-and that goes for all aspects of Con.

    Food-snacks are a MUST. Hubby and I carry trail mix, sandwiches, fruit, lots of water, and other portable sancks, since we tend to hang in the CC from 6 a.m. until the early evening….and eat whereever it works for you (yes, even in panel, despite others’ opinions regarding this) as long as you a) eat politely and b0 throw away your trash. Don’t leave it behind for someone to clean after you.Your mom doesn’t work at SDCC and it’s the maid’s day off. So do the right thing, and don’t be a slob.Pack out what you pack in.Oh, and use the recycle bins.’Nuff said there.

    Shoes: if you’e cosplaying, then wear your character shoes only as long as necessary. Bring comfy shoes to change into when it’s feasible.

    Bathrooms: Let the cosplayers stay in there as long as they need to, and try not to be impatient with this, especially for us girls. People who cosplay do it AT THEIR OWN EXPENSE AND ON THEIR OWN TIME for the most part, investing loving care and oodles of money and time into their costuming. For the most part, bathrooms aren’t *that* crowded. You go and time it the way you do at any huge event-when you can, and try not to be in a hurry, cause with us girls, it takes a little while.Oh, and take the time to wash your hands.

    Patience: Make sure you eat and that your physical needs are met(and yes, if this means loading up on vitamins and ibuprofen, then do it) so that you have lots of patience. Con can be very overwhelming-so prepare, prepare, prepare…and then hang on to your patience. You are going to be in lines for just about everything-so be brave and open conversations. You’ll make new friends and Con goers don’t bite. (Well, depends on who it is. LOL)

    Camera: keep it handy, but don’t be intrusive. Try to be aware of the crowds of people streaming by you in the exhubt hall-if you want a pic of a cosplayer, try to take your pic quickly and then move on. Although cosplayers love to have pics taken, they,too, are there to enjoy the con, so don’t keep them there posing for 400 pictures. Take a few and let everyone move on.

    Last, smile and be nice. A random act of kindness (holding a door open for someone who is struggling with a big prop or lots of bags of swag) or offering a kleenex or a million other ways to show kindness will go a long way. You get what you give, so be nice.

  9. My first year of Comic Con, I went alone, and it turned out to be amazing!
    I actually met up with people I was friends with on Twitter but hadn’t yet met in person, and it really made the Con more special. There’s also a good chance you’ll end up bumping into people you know from home all day long. You won’t have time to feel lonely!

  10. Use your badge to keep on schedule! Each day I write down my “absolutely, can’t miss, must be-on-time places” on an index card and slide it inside the back of my badge holder. Yes, I have my highlighted book of events and my schedule is blocked out on my phone. But in past years I was surprised how often I was compelled to check that I wasn’t missing what was the most important to me. A quick flip of the badge was comforting and easy. Plus, it makes a cool keepsake that lasts long after the phone schedule is erased.

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