Around this time last year I wrote an article on Convention Etiquette giving readers some tips for attending their next convention after my first time attending MAGfest. (You can read it HERE.) It was pretty well received by the Retroware readership and I had a lot of fun writing it. So much so in fact that I have contemplated doing a follow-up several times. Well, I just got back from my second MAGfest, (This time as a guest w/ Retroware, woo hoo!) and the timing feels just right to write up another list of convention tips for you all. Without further ado, here there are:
1) Prepare for Con Flu
For those out of the know, Conventions are breeding grounds for all sorts of icky illnesses. With over 10,000 people shoved together in a stuffy convention hall, someone is bound to be sick and set off a viral shockwave leading to an epidemic of unpleasantness. The illness that makes it to the top of the grossness and body count chart is the Con Flu. The best way to counter the Con Flu is to stay on the offensive, even before you get there. Take something like Airborne or Emergen-C, bring hand sanitizer and wash your hands frequently. Don’t wait until you feel a bit funny or until you are on your way home- stay on the safe side. Con Flu is like a germy ninja; let your guard down for a minute and you’re doomed. Also, if you go to a Convention feeling a little sick, be sure to warn people before shaking hands or hi-fiving. No one likes patient zero. Ever.
2) Save and budget before hand
It’s easy to spend a lot of cash at any sort of convention. There’s always lots of unique trinkets and specialized booths to shop at and a lot of eating out. Depending on where you are and where you are going, even travel expenses can suck the dough out of your wallet before you even arrive. The key to a successful convention/travel/shopping spree experience is to start saving early. I mean early early. It can never hurt to have too much money in your savings. And if you are a weak willed individual when it comes to games/movies/ or anime, like myself, settling on a spending limit can help you stay in line and also weed out purchases you don’t really need or want that badly. After saving a little each month for almost a year I snagged a great selection, while having money left over (which is a first.) A saving schedule and spending limit make all the difference.
Save big, spend well
3) It never hurts to haggle
This one is simple; the title really says it all. It never really hurts to haggle at big gaming conventions, the vendors usually know what things are worth and generally expect some negations. The worst that will happen is the vendor will tell you no. It’s not like he’s going to ban you from the stall or call security. It’s always worth a shot to try and bundle items or go for a lower price. But, don’t try to do the impossible. If something is $400.00, like a copy of Earthbound in box, there’s no way he’s gonna drop it to $50. Use common sense and all will be well.
4) Talk to new people
This is one of the most important tips and also one of the hardest for me to follow. I tend to be really quiet around new people and hate being the one to initiate conversation. I’m a bit of an introvert so it takes a little out of me to go and chat up people I’ve never met face to face. But you know what? It’s soooooo worth it. I’ve made friends with people at cons and after a little while, it all becomes so much easier. And once you break through that barrier for the first time, it becomes much easier the next. On the way to the Hotel/convention center at MAGfest, my greatest fear was coming off as the Basket Case from The Breakfast Club to the Retroware people I hadn’t met, but after I got a rhythm going, It was a non-issue. And I just know that I would have been miserable isolating myself at such a cool place. I know there are a lot of people with similar struggles out there, but take my advice, chat up people who seem willing. Chances are they are attending your con for the same reasons.
5) Put yourself out there
This last tip ties in heavily to number four. If you are any sort of creative person wishing to get your projects or skills noticed and out to a bigger, (or any) audience, go for it. Make a sample portfolio, a demo disk, or a sample mix and share it with whoever will listen. That kind of determination takes guts and the people that run potential hosting sites realize this. David Lewis, who runs Saturnology on Retroware TV went to the previous years MAGFest with a stack of sample DVDs with his show. He strck up a conversation with the guys at the Retroware panel and booth, gave them a DVD, and now he’s a major contributor. Conventions are a great oppunrtunity to grow and gain an audience. Don’t throw the chance away.