Sunday, 15 May 2011

Conventions: For First Timers

Hey guys!

Today I thought I'd take my mind off impending English GCSEs and write up this little guide. I made a video version of this a while ago that you can find on my youtube channel here, and I thought I turn it into a guide on my blog as well! Lets start shall we?

The Basics:
There are a few things that you'll need to know about cons before attend them.

Firstly, a lot of conventions require you to either pre-register (pre-book tickets), or buy tickets at the door. The price can range greatly from being free cultural festivals held in markets, to £5 per day, £10 per day, or £30 for the entire weekend. I've heard of cons in America costing roughly $50 for the whole weekend, which is about £30. The English equivalent of that would be around £70, which I think is pretty ridiculous! You could pay for travel, accommodation and food for that price!
You can buy your tickets on the door of some conventions, such as most English cons like London and Birmingham MCM EXPOs and Hyper Japan (but this can sometimes be more expensive than paying a couple of months or weeks in advance). You could also book tickets in advance, for EXPO I believe it costs £30 for the entire weekend, and that gains you entry to the vendors hall on the Friday as well, when it isn't open to those without weekend passes.

Secondly, conventions are busy places, and you're probably going to be doing a lot of walking. Which means you're going to get tired, and by default hungry. Make sure you have enough money on you to buy food. Once I decided to skip lunch and save my money for the vendors hall... bad idea! I had a piece of chewing gum which made me feel less hungry. And when I got back to my friends house a couple of digestive biscuits until we could be bothered to make dinner at 11pm. Needless to stay I was probably starving but after a while I got so hungry I didn't even notice it. >_<

If you're not going to be cosplaying or wearing lolita, make sure you're in comfortable (but cool!) clothes and shoes. As I previously mentioned conventions are often busy, and a lot of the time they cover huge areas. Whether that's hotels, university campuses or specially built centers, this means a TON of walking, and shuffling around in the corridors and vendors rooms. You get tired, you get blisters and these things lead to a grumpy you, and pissy friends. Not fun!

On the subject of grumpiness... some conventions in America (such as Sakura-con) have things called pre-reg days, where those who have already booked their tickets (those that bought their tickets months in advance) can queue up and receive their con badges. Which are the American equivalent of tickets. I actually like this idea more, as they're more permanent than paper bracelets and you can keep them forever as a record of the cons you attended!
But these queues can last hours, and hours, and hours. So take a DS, take an ipod, take a book, take a friend even. Take something to relieve the boredom! This will help prevent frustration and crabbiness later on. Occupied cosplayers are happy cosplayers!

Must haves:
Obviously there are things that you absolutely HAVE to bring to conventions, here's a list of things that you may or may not decide you need. Not all of them are essential, but some are!

Camera: obviously an essential! Cons are good times for doing photo shoots because you have all your cosplay buddies in one place, and if you don't have a photographer booked then you'll need your camera to take photos!
Also, a lot of people enjoy taking photos of other cosplayers, so it's a good idea to bring one to either do that, oooor film you and your friends being retarded con high idiots as you goof off and most likely injure yourself in some way or other!

Plasters: As I just mentioned injuries are common at cons, mostly due to your, or other hyper people being slightly retarded and doing something you normally wouldn't. Therefore a plaster or two may be a good idea. Either to patch up any possible wounds, to place over little toes or heels that are rubbing on shoes, or to cover some irritated skin if a costume is rubbing. I keep one in my camera case all the time!

Mobile/Cell phone: I promise you, you will DIE without this! I got left behind at the first convention that I went to, and if it wasn't for my phone I probably wouldn't have seen my friends again >_<
Cons are busy so it'll be really hard to find people again, or meet up with them in the first place if you don't have a phone. Don't forget to trade numbers with people who you will be meeting up with for the first time, though only if you trust them of course!

Notepad and pen: Often there are signings with voice actors or artists, and it's good to keep a notepad, and a couple of pens in your bag just in case they don't have paper or their trusty sharpies!

Safety pins: Or maybe even a needle and thread! To deal with any cosplay malfunctions that may occur!

Money: Well, this is kind of a no brainer! There's a vendors hall, obviously you're going to want to buy stuff! You're also going to need money for food, entry tickets and if you're taking public transport train or bus tickets if you don't have a pass or haven't bought them yet.

Pain killers: Some people like bringing a couple of pain killers with them to stop wig head aches in their tracks. Personally I'm the kind of person that dislikes conventional medicine and would rather rely on homeopathic remedies (WHICH DO WORK!!!! CHA!!!) to stop aches and pains. That or just ignore it. But wig head aches can be a right bitch when you want to enjoy a con so if you don't mind popping pills take a couple with you to ease the pain. OR go to your local health food shop and ask for/find some Arnica. This is a homeopathic remedy that works in much the same way as a pain killer. It's made from Arnica flowers. There are absolutely not side effects and the little sugary pills taste nice too! Though, you have to remember not to eat or drink anything (other than water) for a minimum of 5 minutes before and after you've taken it to get maximum results.
It relieves bruising and if you've fallen over and hurt yourself can help ease the pain and calm you down a little bit. I'd recommend Arnica at a grade 200, and if you can't find that, then grade 30, but take two pills instead!

Hand sanitizer: Yet again, not something I carry around with me. Not because I don't like it, but because I live in London, and have probably contracted many illnesses and diseases from just breathing in the subway air, let alone touching a railing at a convention.
But if that's the way you roll feel free to pop some in your bag!

Food: If you're stingy like me and would rather save your money then consider bring lunch with you. Whether you just bring a packet of crisps from home, or actually make a proper sandwich, bring something will help lower the amount your spend, or help you conserve money for another time!
If you're staying in a hotel nearby without any food this is kind of eliminated, but it might be an option to try finding a store of convention campus, which is often a WHOLE lot cheaper! Promise!

Contact lens cases and sterilizer: If you plan on wearing contact lenses with your cosplay, or fashion contact lenses in your lolita coordinate then it would probably be a good idea to bring your lens cases and sterilizer with you.
If you're staying nearby in a hotel you probably won't need to. But for those who commute from home to their local cons (for me it takes about 45 minutes to and hour) there's always the chance that you're going to be wearing them for as long, or longer than you're supposed to. It's nice to have the option to remove them as well they begin irritating your eyes.

What to expect:
In this section we'll cover the events and other things to expect at conventions.

Queues: We already really covered this, just make sure you've got someone to talk to, or something to do and they really aren't that bad! ^-^

Masquerade and cosplay contest: These are events that you usually have to enter a couple of months in advance, but basically a masquerade is a contest of skits! Cosplayers perform a skit that lasts roughly 5 minutes on stage and can win prizes, or trophies and certificates.
Cosplay contests run in a similar way, except they are more like a fashion show for you to show off your cosplay. Usually they have rules like 'you must have made the majority of the costume yourself. Shoes, wigs, headbands and other such items are exempt from this but you may NOT customize or alter other items for use in your costume!'
Pretty simple really!

Panels: Panels with voice actors where you can ask them questions, or panels run by other cons goers. Fighting Dreamers Pro have done panels on basic wig styling and cosplay on a budget. You can have panels for lolita, drawing, games or other fandomable things!

Signings: Either free ones, or ones where you have to pay £15 for a photo with the respective star or voice actor which they then sign.
London EXPO has played host to the cast of Merlin, the actress who plays Jackie Tyler in Doctor Who, many, many voice actors such as Yuri Lowenthall (English dub Uchiha Sasuke, and voice Ben 10!), and directors, producers and other actors from series' like Firefly, Stargate, CSI and Warehouse 13 (or whatever it's called >_<)

CMV/AMV contests: Contests where the best cosplay music video, or anime music video wins a prize!

Games corners: Often conventions have rooms or corners devoted to Yu-Gi-Ho, or Magic card players. Or places where you can test out new game releases (at the last EXPO you could test out the new Naruto game).

Cosplay picnics, cosplay olympics, meets and photoshoots: A lot of the time people attending the con will arrange their own fun and host events. They're all pretty self explanatory really, usually they are seperated/categorized by fandom (series).

Raves and formal dances: Yet again pretty self explanatory. Some larger conventions hold concerts where the bands or singers who sung opening and ending songs for anime or games will perform.
More common are raves and formal dances. A lot of the time people will just wear wigs, or other small aspects of their costumes with rave outfits or prom dresses. Or they'll make specially ball gown dresses or suits for the dances.

Artists Alley: A room or section of the vendors hall devoted to budding artists or those looking to sell their wares. Often lolita clothes, handmade jewelery, doujinshi, fan art, props or taking commissions on wigs or artwork.

These are just a few of the things you can expect from most conventions. You'll have to check out the time table for your respective con on your own because sometimes they offer other events like date auctions, tea parties, formal dinners etc that I have no experience of.
I hope this guide helped any first timers out, and maybe even gave those who've been to a few cons some new ideas!
If you have any questions or suggestions don't hesitate to ask!

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  1. Wow, conventions seem like a lot of fun! >w< I would've gone to my first one around this time last year, but it clashed with my family's vacation plans, so I had to miss out. ;A;

    Oh well! If I ever get another oppertunity, I'll turn to these tips again! X3 Thanks~

  2. that's kinda nice you put this up here since I may be going to a Scifi/Fantasy Con. I was going to Dress up as Nana,but my Husband said that ppl might not even be dressing up! so idk if I should just Dress in Normal Clothes or as Nana,though she's pretty Tame as Far as Costume goes,I don't want ppl to think I'm weird for Dressing up...

  3. Lol! I'm just glad I was able to help you!
    I'd recommend dressing up if you want to! I don't know what Nana looks like, but if you think you would like to cosplay her, go for it!
    Even if there is no one cosplaying (there probably will be though! ^.^) you'll still have fun! Maybe people will even start cosplaying when they attend!
    Trust me, no one will think you're weird! If they do they're obviously a weird type of anime/game/scifi nerd, because cosplaying is ridiculously popular. I don't know how they wouldn't know about it! XD

  4. They are! Amazingly fun! XD
    I recommend going to one if you get the chance!!! ^.^