Lessons Learned From C2E2, Part 2

Now that the con is over and I’m back to the real world, here are a couple more hints, tricks and lessons to maximize your con-going experience.  I had a lovely weekend and can’t wait for next year – C2E2 is one of the best cons I’ve been to for a lot of reasons, and from what I can tell, that’s not going to change any time soon.

(Read Part 1 here!)

5. Pay attention to social media

When I’m going to a con that I know Gail Simone will be at, my priorities for what I want to see are usually: 1. Any panel she’s speaking on; 2. everything else.  So it behooves me to check her twitter feed occasionally, because Simone uses it to announce what panels she’ll be on and to promote panels she’s attending.  This is important because the con schedule doesn’t always have a complete list of the guests that will be speaking: as far as I knew, Simone had one panel on Friday and that was it (the panel was on Dynamite Comics and their upcoming projects, and if you’re not excited about the Aliens/Vampirella crossover happening, I don’t think I want to know you). If I hadn’t checked twitter on Saturday morning, I wouldn’t have known that she would ALSO be sitting on a panel on the Trickle-Down Theory of Diversity (which I had had on my schedule but was ready to bump to see a Scott Snyder Q&A). I’m not saying you should spend the whole con on your phone, but there will be updates and changes that will impact your schedule, and social media provides a really convenient tool for keeping track of them.

6. Plan time to eat

Frequently what happens to me is that I’ll realize I’ve planned panels back-to-back-to-back, and haven’t left myself any gaps to get food or even just to rest my brain for a while. Cons are strenuous! You need time to recharge, relax, and eat in order to maximize your enjoyment of the experience. Prioritize your events, or, if you absolutely cannot miss something, plan ahead and pack your lunch. Note that this might involve looking up whether the convention allows outside food (some don’t; McCormick Place does).

7. Stick to your budget

I have trouble with this one, but I’m getting better. The thing about cons you want to go to is that they’re usually full of things you like, including art, books, merch and other swag. Unless you have unlimited resources (I do not), it’s good to decide your budget BEFORE getting to the exhibit hall, and making the effort to stick to it. How I manage it, is I withdraw in cash the amount I’ve decided is my budget for the weekend, and once that’s gone, that’s it! Remember that you’ll have to plan for things like food, parking, beverages, and other unexpected expenses. (Also remember that if you’re getting signatures and sketches in the artists’ alley, that it’s a good idea to tip if you’re not buying other merchandise.)

I was holding off on posting this to think up a couple more bullet points, but honestly, going to cons doesn’t have to be that complicated! Pick some stuff you like, try something new, be flexible. Remember to plan for downtime, keep your eye on the schedule for changes, and remember: anything you miss you can probably read about online.

Lessons Learned from C2E2, Part 1

Hello friends! I am resting my feet at the moment because I just got back from Day 1 of C2E2 (Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo).  I’ve been going to this con for a few years now, because it’s local for me and because lots of writers and artists and other people I respect and whose work I enjoy are always there.  For the next three days, I thought I’d share with you some keys to getting the maximum success out of your con experience, while also sharing some stories of my own.

(These hints will apply to any con, not just C2E2!)

1. Get a Pro Pass, if you’re able

Starting last year, since I was actually employed at a library, I was eligible to apply for a Pro Pass to the con, which I HIGHLY reccommend you do if you qualify (to qualify you must be one of the following, as per the C2E2 website: an artist, buyer, creator, editor, educator, librarian, licensor, producer, publisher, retailer, or writer. As you can see, it’s a pretty open category). In addition to making the weekend cheaper, it also gives you access to the exhibitor floor one hour before the general public on Friday (10 am as opposed to 11 am).  One hour may not seem like a lot of time, but it was AWESOME – I wasn’t able to enjoy that perk last year, but this year I was on that floor as close to 10 am as I could make it.  I got to walk around the hall with no crowd, see exhibitors setting up, and chat with some lovely people from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and Quirk Books.  I was going to try to use it to get some comics signed before the creators I wanted to meet grew huge lines, but even though that wasn’t possible, the rest of Artists’ Alley was also wonderfully uncrowded. It takes a lot of the stress of the first part of your day.

2. Plan for a lot of options, but don’t try to see everything

I always note down a ton of panels to go see, which frequently end up overlapping; obviously this means I don’t get to see everything I might want to, but it gives me lots of options. This is important because something might happen which prevents you from getting into a panel; for example, I had Scott Snyder’s Q&A on my schedule, but I dropped that real fast when I saw the line and realized I’d spend the first ten minutes just waiting to get in. No thanks.

3. Don’t be afraid to make conversation with the people you’re there to see

There might be creators out there who are brusque and more interested in moving people through their line than actually meeting their fans. Luckily, I’ve never encountered one. Just today, I met Gail Simone (writer of DC’s Batgirl, Birds of Prey and Secret Six; Dynamite’s Red Sonja; Dark Horse’s Tomb Raider; and others); Greg Tocchini (artist of the incomparable Image series Low), Nick Dragotta (artist of Image’s East of West), Ant Lucia (he did all those amazing DC Bombshell covers) and Jonathan Hickman (writer of East of West and Image’s The Manhattan Projects), and they were all not only extremely nice people, but more than happy to answer my questions and chat a little while they signed my books. Dragotta answered a question I hadn’t been able to ask at the EoW panel I saw, Gail Simone and her husband were happy to chat about my work at the library and my friend’s experience playing Tomb Raider, and so on. Don’t be afraid to let creators know that you appreciate their work and are happy to see them.

4. Be conscientious about their time 

At the same time, be aware that they are professionals and their time is valuable. Tip well if the sketches and signatures are free. Buy some art! Don’t overstay your welcome! Simone is well known for signing as many things as people bring her; don’t be like the guy in front of me who brought 25 issues and had her sign each one (and didn’t tip for her Hero Initiative fund jar). They’re people, not machines!

Tomorrow I’ve got more panels on the schedule, and I’ll be in cosplay (Gogo Tomago from Big Hero 6!), so expect some words of wisdom about those topics tomorrow night. If you’re in the Chicago area, consider checking out the con!