The Official Pullbox Guide to Conning, Episode 2
Welcome back for round two of the Official Pullbox Guide to Conning! This week’s topic: Planning the Perfect Con.
Depending on budget, available time, attention span and event parameters (and more often, the esteem in which your spouse/life partner currently holds you), the typical con is anywhere from a 2- to 4-day event, populated with such exciting offerings as fan group meet-ups, panel discussions, movie or show screenings, art and collectibles auctions, cosplay contests, celebrity autograph signings, artist alley and both industry exhibits and vendor tables. And, somewhere in there, lunch. And likely a bunch of other stuff I’m not even thinking of right now.
What you don’t want is a con where you feel rushed and always a few minutes late—to this signing, or that panel. Where you have to stand in the back of the room, because every chair is full. Where you are at the back end of the wrapped-three-times-around-the-convention-hall-line for that Nathan Fillion autograph you have to get to complete your Firefly poster—or worse yet, where you miss the cutoff altogether.
Conversely, you also don’t want a con where you end up “giving up,” and don’t get to do any of the things you’d envisioned yourself doing, because you either just didn’t have the energy or awareness to do any of them, or because you sat in line for Matt Mercer’s autograph for 5 hours, only to find out that they cut off the line.
Clearly, some planning is necessary. Let’s chat.
My comments here reference my experiences at C2E2, which is my fave convention, and the one with which I’ve got the most history; however, from Gen Con to Wizard World and most points in between, the same general tenets should apply. First things first, you’ll want to monitor the event’s website in the weeks leading up, and make a general list of the shindigs/guests/panels you can’t miss. I know this sounds obvious to the bulk of you, but you’d be amazed how many folks stumble through the gates of McCormick Place every year without the faintest idea of what they have the opportunity to experience. I know. Criminal.
So, as you’re making your list, then checking it twice, keep in mind a couple important bits, the attention to which have improved my con experience considerably.
First, attend to your legs and back. Conning invariably means a whole heapin’ helpin’ of walking around and standing in line, meaning your tootsies are going to need a break…ideally, several. Panels, in addition to offering a nice combination of education, entertainment, and social connection, can be a nice break-up to the day and allow you a chance to sit down a bit. Also, attending panels provides the hard-working and dedicated folks who put them on some warm fuzzies about their work; I try to attend 2-3 home-brewed (as opposed to the massive industry sell-a-thon) panels each con.
Second, timing is everything. If you’re one who (like me) likes to get their books signed by their fave artists or writers, or likes to hire a commission or two, you want to do this the first day of the con wherever possible: the talent tend to be less harried, have more energy and are in better moods overall, and the lines are nowhere near as long. Sundays/the last day, on the other hand, are great for bargain-hunting, especially when you’re talking about larger, heavier or difficult-to-sell items. Vendors who wouldn’t budge on Friday tend to be a little more motivated when the clock’s ticking on their chance to unload merchandise (more on shopping strategies in next week’s episode). Saturdays, by contrast, tend to be the highest-attended days and are usually the biggest cosplay day, and offer great people-watching (as well as long lines for…well…everything).
Third, anticipate your need for food, and how you intend to acquire it. Most cons will have food vendors, but they will typically entail long lines (especially around lunch time) and be rather expensive. As suggested last week, I always recommend carrying a protein-enriched stash with you (at the very least, some good jerky)—but take the time to look at what restaurants are nearby and might be a good option, for both food and air. Over the years, my bud Tom and I have found several downtown Chicago joints that have become nearly as much a destination for us as the con itself.
Finally, consider your anticipated nightlife. Cons will often offer some cool options—Tom and I have made the St. Jude’s Charity Art Auction an annual must-do for our C2E2 trip, and I’ve had the chance to take in a screening of the original Evil Dead hosted by Master Chin himself, Bruce Campbell. There’s also cosplay contests, nerd speed-dating, stand up comedians (saw Brian Posehl one year), more adult-themed panels…you name it. But don’t limit yourself to the con—we always check up on what concerts are in town, or local sport events: last year, we scored some cheap, last-second tickets for a Blackhawks game at the United Center. Be resourceful, and have fun!
Well, that’s enough for this week—hopefully, you’ve got some decent ideas for your next adventure. We know we do. Anyway, next week, we’ll talk a bit about the art of the deal. Till then, keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars!
Original Content by Andy Patch, thePullbox.com