Survival of the Fittest: Making It Through Your First Convention

Last time I talked about conventions, I talked about how to make selling at a convention a successful endeavor for you. Now, let's talk about convention survival from a panelist/networking standpoint. Sci-fi/fantasy conventions and comic cons often last multiple days, and let's be honest, you're going to want to be there for all of them, because there's usually something cool to see or participate in each and every one of those days. But if you're not careful, by the time the convention closes, you're going to feel like you got run over. Here are some tips for how to avoid that burnout.

Sensible shoes win the day

I mentioned in my previous piece that you should wear comfortable clothes and shoes you can stand in for a couple hours at least. The same holds true if you're walking around talking to people and moving from one event to the next. I can tell you as someone who has done the Dealers Room + the panelist circuit, there's a lot of fast walking involved if you want to make it to everything on time.

Don't over schedule

Do yourself and your fellow con participants a favor, and don't schedule yourself for back-to-back panels, if you can avoid it. If you are scheduled for back-to-back panels and can gracefully bow out of whichever one you're less interested in, do so.

Otherwise, you put yourself in the position of having to make a run from one conference room to another. Depending on the size of the convention, this could be quite a task, and you risk being late. Nothing makes a worse impression than being the panelist who is late.

Remember to eat

On one panel I participated in, a fellow panelist was asked which were her favorite cons to attend. After she rattled of a handful that she looks forward to each year, she laughed and said, "I'll warn you - if you start doing conventions, be prepared to have a lot of one-meal days."

I thought that was the most ridiculous thing to tell someone. Eat already!

To be on top of your game, you need to eat and get plenty of fluids. If you're doing a table at the Dealers Room, bring a cooler, like I did. At that con, I ate a lovely orzo salad with fresh veggies that were still crisp when I wanted lunch, and I had bottled water to last me all day. The panelist who made that comment didn't eat until that particular panel was over, and by then, it was 6 o'clock in the evening. She was probably starving. Not a good way to be.

But if you're not doing the Dealers Room on top of participating in panels and networking, make sure you schedule meal breaks throughout your day.

Find the good restroom

In keeping with the tip above, know not just where the bathrooms are located at the event site, but also which ones are the cleanest. There's nothing worse than having to shimmy into a less than tidy stall to do your business between panels and events, all the while trying not to touch anything.

But just in case there aren't any "good" bathrooms at the con (shudder at the thought), also bring a little bottle of hand sanitizer. This also comes in handy when you've shaken 6 or 7 people's hands.

A.M.

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