Monday, July 20, 2015

Geek on the Street: Tips for Attending Regional & Local Conventions

Epic-scale conventions like New York Comic Con and Dragoncon are certainly key events on any nerd calendar.  Yet, what are we geeks meant to do the rest of the long months, when these events seem eons away?  Well, we are in luck: this is probably the best time in history to be a convention-goer!  There are actually many smaller conventions throughout the United States for us to attend during the downtime between the larger-sized events.

Perks of these events?  They are often much cheaper to attend, with lower costs for badges and, because they are in our own local areas, we may not need hotel rooms or lots of meals eaten out.  Additionally, because they don’t accommodate or attract hundreds of thousands of fans, they give convention-goers a much greater chance of meeting that favorite comic book artist and snagging some autographs.

As a Long Island-native, I do my best to check out as many local and regional conventions as I can in the greater-metropolitan area of New York City.  Because this is such a culturally rich locale, I get to attend around a dozen conventions every year.  If you want to get in to attending these smaller events, here are my five top tips for making the most of the experience:

(1)  BRING CASH!  This is probably my top tip for ALL convention-going, but it particularly applies to these smaller shows.  There may not be ATMs on-site (or they may have massive service fees) & many vendors do not take credit cards.  It is far more likely that you will get your hands on that must-have collectible at a show of this size; make sure you have the capital so that you can bring it on home and add it to your collection.
(2)  Be patient with convention organizers: Smaller conventions are often organized by local individuals who share your love of geek culture or of a particular pop culture product (I attend an excellent Doctor Who convention on LI every year).  These people probably also have full-time jobs and lives beyond running this convention, unlike those who are able to make a career of working for the corporations who bring you the larger national events.  Be patient when schedule changes happen or panels begin late and so on.  Believe me, these people are working very hard to give you the best experience possible.
(3)  Check in with the event on social media.  This is a big one.  Make sure you know what celebrities are appearing which days and keep yourself in the loop regarding the schedule of events.  Often, Facebook and Twitter are better sources for this information than a convention’s homepage; in many cases, they may be more regularly monitored and updated.  Feel free to tweet at or message convention accounts; I have found this an easy and stress-free way to get my questions about an event answered.
(4)  For Comic Book fans: Know who is appearing and prepare what you want them to sign.  Have books ready for each creator you want to meet and remove them from their bag and board before you reach the front of the line.  Be fair to others who are also waiting in line; if you have lots and lots of things to be signed, after you get five or ten done, go back to the end of the line and give someone else a turn.
(5)  HAVE FUN!  Remember, these smaller events may not be able to bring you the awesome announcements and A-level stars of San Diego Comic Con.  But they can provide you an incredible opportunity to get up close and personal with comic creators and up-and-coming artists alike.  Embrace the experience; you can learn a lot about new geeky things that you may want to get into just from spending some time hanging out a con.

Hope these tips help you navigate your next convention experience.  Looking forward to meeting my fellow Geeks on the Street at the next local convention!

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