With Indy Pop Con in my rearview mirror, and Gen Con just a week and change away, convention prep weighs heavily on my mind. Now, convention prep for me has changed over the years. Starting out, it was making sure I had money for the dealer’s room, maybe a good costume, and I was set. Now, it’s making sure I have all of my blog equipment, extra batteries, snacks, and photo equipment to make sure I can cover the convention effectively. While you might not need everything I bring with me, I thought I’d sit down today, and give you all some tips on things you might need for a convention.
I love walking around host cities, checking out food places and eating things I can’t eat around home. In the case of downtown, I also enjoy hitting places like Rock Bottom, Scotty’s, or food trucks. However, that can put a serious dent in your budget, one thing I’m very concerned about. So, before a convention, I like to stock up on snack bags, sandwich bags, and food items. Here are some things you can normally see me munching on as I’m sitting down, looking at my schedule. Adjust for your dietary restrictions, as needed. IMPORTANT NOTE: As pointed out by Chris Meadows in the comments, the Indianapolis Convention Center does not allow outside food. While I thought this always meant vendors, it appears to also include attendees, as well. Bear this in mind if you bring food, and I’m just going to start my snacking out on Georgia Street!
- Beef Jerky – Protein! At Gen Con last year, I walked closed to ten miles a day. That amount of walking takes fuel. This is my preferred fuel.
- Trail Mix – Even though it contains M&Ms, it still has nuts and raisins, so that makes it healthy, right? Plus, it really takes the edge off.
- Mixed Nuts – While this seems rather redundant, especially coming after trail mix, it’s still a good thing to have. While I list mixed nuts, I am also a fan of almonds, and especially those 100 calorie packs of walnuts and almonds that you can find at the grocery.
- Granola/Protein Bars – Oh my lord, these are tasty. Granola is good, as is bars like the Lara or Clif Bars. Tasty, compact, and they take the edge off nicely.
- Peanut Butter Sandwiches – My first Gen Con with a press badge, and I was practically penniless. The parking garage took all of my money, and I wasn’t looking at buying anything. However, as I said, you need to stay fueled, and I was lucky enough to receive some jars of peanut butter in the mail from Klout. Those, along with some whole wheat bread and sandwich bags, kept me going that weekend.
- Water – Most convention centers have water fountains. You can either reuse a plastic water bottle, or get yourself a nice Nalgene or metal water bottle to keep yourself hydrated.
- Gum or Breath Mints – Dental hygiene is important. However, especially if you have a few hours of interviews back to back, you don’t want Peter Adkison keeling over from your breath. Same with your friends, or people across the table from you.
It is actually a weird balancing act you have to do at a convention. You need to remember to take care of, and watch out for, yourself, but you also need to remember, you’re not the only person there, and you need to watch out for your fellows, as well. Here are some tips to help you walk that line, and these really should be taken seriously.
- Shoes – Remember when I was talking about fuel, and I mentioned that I have walked ten miles a day at Gen Con? At Indy Pop Con, I walked only about three or four, but that was also with a foot injury. This means that footwear is very important. You want good shoes, with strong arch support, that are broken in, but not broken down. Don’t buy new shoes on Wednesday to wear on the con floor Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday! Also note: good socks are also very well received by your footsies.
- Comfortable, family-friendly clothing – Not only do you need to be comfortable, but you also need to be aware that a convention should be a safe place for families, and your fellow geeks. If you think you’d be ashamed to wear it in front of your mother, leave it in the closet at home. Otherwise, remember to wear something that you can easily move in while squatting to look at comic boxes under tables, kneeling to get something off a low shelf, and walking all day in without chafing horribly. Yes, Pinky, that means leave the burlap at home.
- Bag – You need a way to carry your snacks , as well as any swag you get. A solid backpack is good, keeping it slung over both shoulders for even weight distribution. A messenger bag is also nifty, but I’ve noticed that, after carrying one around all day, that single shoulder starts to get sore.
- Hygiene – Lord knows everybody and their brother brings this up, but dang it, folks, just because you’re hanging out in a convention center all weekend, it doesn’t need to smell like you’ve been hanging around in a convention center all weekend. You’re going home, or back to your hotel room. When you start your day, start it with a shower, which will wake you up and help energize you a bit if you throw in some cold water. Use soap. After bathing, use a good deodorant and antiperspirant, if you wear a perfume or body spray then use it sparingly, brush your teeth, put on a clean shirt and pants/shorts/utilikilt, and go onto the floor and be awesome!
- Spatial Awareness – I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve had someone accidentally swing a backpack at my face, or almost take me out when they turned around in their elaborate cosplay. Folks, you are not in an empty room. A convention floor, especially the exhibit hall or dealer’s room floor, is crammed with, easily, a couple thousand people. Look around you before you go whipping that backpack off. Don’t just step back from a table and start walking without seeing who you’re walking into. Be aware of your surroundings, your fellow con goers, and life will be grand.
Food and Self are two things that are very important. However, there are a few extra things that I want to throw out there, that you need to keep in mind, about experiences that are fairly exclusive to conventions.
- Cosplayers – Cosplay has become HUGE at Gen Con, especially on Saturday, which is host to both the costume parade and the costume contest. Back in 2012, I posted a little piece about cosplay at Gen Con that is still relevant. A couple of points to remember: DO NOT TOUCH THE COSPLAYERS. Cosplay is NOT consent! Do not sneak pictures of cosplayers in compromising positions. One of us will see you, we will report you to security, and we will call you out, not only out loud to the crowd, but also on social media.
- Celebrities – Celebrities like gaming. Celebrities like going to Gen Con. The only time it’s cool to approach a celebrity to fanboy out a bit, is if they are at a table signing autographs, or at a panel doing a Q&A. If you see them sitting and grabbing a bottle of water, or trying to demo a game, stop taking pictures of them, don’t harass them, just go on enjoying your own con.
- Be Flexible – You’re not going to do everything you wanted to. Events and panels will be full. A game will go too long. Friends will insist you join them for lunch, tempting you with a tasty adult beverage. Go with the flow, and just have fun.
Conventions are great experiences, and a bit of forethought and planning will help you, and your fellow convention attendees, have a great time!
Is there anything I might have missed? Shout out in the comments!