Nerd culture is now mainstream and conventions are popping up everywhere. What was once a niche meet for a few has turned into massive weekend long  events for the many. Whether you’re a total newbie or a frequent face, my Anime and Comic Con survival guide will make sure you have the best experience possible.

Planning ahead is going to make a whole lot of difference to your con going experience. Tickets to bigger conventions do sell out, so if there’s a big one you really want to go to make sure you know when tickets go on sale and to buy them whilst they’re available! Since they can be quite expensive, it’s important that you check the dates and location and are definitely sure you can make the event.

As the convention grows closer, you can follow their webpage or social media to see updates on guests and panels. The thing about conventions is there’s always a billion and two things to do and not enough time to do it.

Panels for instance are one of the coolest experiences that are offered and it’s always worth checking them out. Find which one sounds interesting to you personally and don’t just go for the big names. Try and find out where and when those panels are and organise yourself so you don’t accidentally miss it!

Decide on a merchandise budget before hand. Conventions often have lots of merchant vendors, selling things you can’t easily get elsewhere. That’s why it’s very easy to spend a lot without realising. Deciding on a general budget and list of things you’d like before hand helps you tackle impulse buys.

What to bring with you

Preparation really goes a long to making your convention experience more smooth. Here’s a handy check list of essential items you should be bringing with you, not including basics like phone, wallet and keys.

  • Water – There’s going to be a lot of walking, queuing and waiting around. Staying hydrated is super important, and you’ll be glad you don’t have to line up to buy over-priced water bottles.
  • Portable Chargers – You’ll be using your phone a lot more than you realise, whether it’s for taking photos and videos of cosplayers or just general browsing as you wait in line, you’ll need some backup power.
  • Pen and notebook – It’s amazing how handy a pen and notebook can be at conventions! You can use for anything from getting contact details of cool people you meet to impromptu autographs by celebs you bump into.
  • Sunscreen  – Many conventions are have outdoor areas and you might not realise how much sun exposure you get. It’s quite common to get sunburnt at a convention!
  • Cosplay fixes – If you’re going in costume, make sure to bring glue etc in case parts of your costume breaks. If you have room, essential makeup for retouching can also be great so you’re photo ready the whole day.
  • Snacks and food – Conventions often have food available, and food trucks and stalls are now becoming staple parts of the convention scene. However, they are expensive and often unhealthy. Not to mention yet more lines. Bring your own lunch or at least a supply of snacks! It’ll save you time, money and calories.

Convention Etiquette

Like all events, there are some dos and don’ts you’ll need to remember.

Do make sure you ask permission from people before taking their photos. Technically speaking you’re all in public space, and for wide scene shots you don’t need to ask every individual for permission. But it’s basic etiquette to ask if you’re taking solo or even group shots. Don’t worry though, most cosplayers are really friendly and they’ll even pose for you better!

Don’t diss other people’s fandoms. Remember when you were a nerd at school and liked things other people didn’t, and felt bad because people judged you for it? Well don’t do that to other people. Even in geekdoms there’s different types of geeks but everyone is here to enjoy themselves. You’re not into My Little Pony? No problem. Just don’t make fun of the people that are. Simple!

Do ask for social media of independent artists and exhibitors. If you like their work, it’ll make it easier for you to find them online afterwards. Show your appreciation by sharing their work!

Don’t litter. Trash is a real problem at conventions. Don’t be an asshole by leaving your junk behind you. Cleaning up after yourself is basic adulting after all.

Do enjoy yourself. No matter how much you prep and plan, things won’t always go as you expect. There might be a lot of waiting and lining up, but if you’re with good friends time will fly by. If you don’t make it to everything you wanted to, there’s always next time. Enjoy the moment as much as you can!

Cosplay is not consent – this is such a tired phrase but it can not be emphasised enough. A lot of cosplayers will be wearing revealing costumes, many of which are also quite sexy. That doesn’t mean the cosplayer, male or female, wants to be touched without permission or have their photos taken without permission. Don’t ruin cosplay by taking advantage of cosplayers.

Meeting new people

Anime and Comic Conventions are great place to meet new people and make friends with others who have the same hobbies as you. But it can be daunting to do so, especially if you’ve never been to a convention before or if you don’t know anyone else attending.

Most people like to go to conventions with a group of friends or with family. You’ll often see groups of friends that seem like impenetrable circles. A lot of people also have “con families” that are groups of friends they only see in real life at conventions. But don’t worry, just because there’s lots of already established friendship groups doesn’t mean there isn’t room for you.

The easiest way to make friends at a convention is to find people with the same interest as you. You can find online groups in places such as facebook for fandoms who are arranging to have a meet-up at specific conventions. Conventions also host their own events, with dedicated rooms for things from tabletop gaming to karaoke, it just depends on the convention. Check out mini events conventions hosts and join in as much as you can!

Cosplaying is also a great way to meet new people. You don’t have to make a complicated armour set, casual cosplay is a thing too. It’s a very visual way to announce which things you’re into, and gives you an automatic connection to others cosplaying the same way. Don’t worry about being original either, there can never be too many spidermen or deadpools. For shy people, cosplaying a character with a mask can also help you, you can adopt your character’s persona’s and use that for courage to greet new people.

Don’t be afraid to go up and compliment people on their costumes. Or to ask exhibitors more about their work. There’s lots of ways to start a conversation with someone. If you find a nice group, just telling them you’re new and if it’s ok to tag along with them can work too. And if it doesn’t, you don’t have to be embarrassed because you never have to meet them again if you don’t want to.