Last year, I went to 5 conventions – my first ever conventions. Does this make me an expert? No, absolutely not. But it makes me experienced, so I thought I would pass on the things that I have learnt in no particular order. So, what have I learnt?
Tip #1 – Don’t Always Trust Google Maps
Google Maps is great. I use it a lot, mainly for going to places I’ve never gone before – i.e. conventions. Not only does Google Maps tell you where you’re going, but it also gives you different routes and times when you can get arrive there via different methods, such as buses and trains. And if you go far enough, planes. However, I learnt that Google Maps doesn’t always give you the quickest and easiest way.
Take my most recent convention experience – Hyper Japan Christmas Market. I simply input the places I was leaving from and where I wanted to go (it was held in the Tobacco Dock) and what time I wanted to get there. I did this for all 3 days. On Friday, Google Maps told me to get at least 3 trains to arrive at the venue just a few minutes after it started. It was the same for Saturday. However, on Sunday it was different – I only had to get 2. So, what did I do? I took Sunday’s route on the Friday, and guess what? I was late – but that’s only because the trains were running late. Had everything been on time, I actually would have gotten there a few minutes before it started.
The route with 3 trains was complicated too – I would have gone to one major station, then go back on myself to end up in London, then get the overground. But with the route I went, we got off at the first station that offered a overground service straight to Tobacco Dock. Sorry, but Google doesn’t always know best.
Tip #2 – Know Where You’re Going
A pet peeve of mine is when I’m stopped in the street or someone asks for my attention on a bus or train because they need to ask me if there’s going the right way. This might stem from a personal experience – on my first day at uni, I had a vague idea of where I was going but because I didn’t look for things that could help me see where I was – such as landmarks, road names, etc., etc. – I ended up going in the opposite direction and missed my introduction class (and ended up walking to the other side of town in the pouring rain).
Despite my previous point of Google Maps, for all my conventions (minus one – EGX, because I was staying at a nearby hotel with an experienced friend), I had print outs of where I was going and how to get there. Google maps gives you which train services you should be taking, i.e. when I went to MCM, it told me to take the Jubilee Stratford Line – basically, I had to take the Jubilee line that was going in the direction of Stratford, not the other way.
Also, if you’re taking public transport, most places tell you where to go, e.g. in London, the majority of the underground trains have maps of both services for which line you’re taking with all the stop names. Also, when you’re on the underground, they give you little bits of information of which stop has what, e.g. using MCM as an example again, the stop before Custom House (where the ExCel Centre is), the voice over tells you that you get get services to get there.
If you’re going to a convention in London, chances are that you’ll know when you’re on the right track to the convention because of the people around you – when I went to Hyper Japan, I saw a lot of girls in wigs and school uniforms when I changed trains to get directly to Kensington (the one in July).
Also, if you have an after-hours show – examples for me would be the ones the YOGSCAST often hold or people performing on the Hyper Japan Live Stage – scout out where they’re held before you go, then you know how to get there. Obviously.
If you get lost, go to your nearest station or information point and ask a member of staff – don’t be afraid to, it’s their job to help you!
Tip #3 – Accommodation
I’m quite likely in the fact that I live quite close to London, so when I have conventions, I often come straight home – it helps with buying merchandise at least! However, when I went to EGX, it was held in Birmingham. There was no way I could come back home everyday without it being time consuming and expensive. So, I stayed in a hotel.
This is a precarious measure simply, again, because of a personal experience. But make sure that if you have booked a hotel or made plans to stay with someone, that it is definitely in affect. I know it sounds stupid and simple, but it is easy to make a mistake but not realize you’ve made it until the last minute.
Tip #4 – Information Points
Usually days before conventions, they release a map. Equally, if you join Facebook groups in regards to your convention, people are helpful enough to upload it on there so it is accessible to everyone. It is important to know where the information and help booths are, especially if you’re like me and get overwhelmed easily! Staff are great and the majority of the time are looking out for people who may seem lost or anxious. They may also have free cool stuff!
This is a tip mainly for cosplay players – in the the conventions I’ve been to, there has been a cosplay area where you can repair your cosplay if it has been damaged on your way there, or even if you didn’t get it finished! And if you’re lucky enough, there will be people wondering around with supplies that you can use.
Tip #5 – Go with friends!
My first ever convention was MCM back in May and on the first day, I went alone. In a way, I’m kinda glad I did because even though I had friends going, I went for all 3 days compared to them going for only 1. This allowed me to get what I wanted to get done that they didn’t want to do but also to experience being overwhelmed and not worry about ruining it for everyone else. I won’t lie – before the doors even opened at MCM, I was very much overwhelmed and had I been with friends, they probably would have worried about me and/or I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself as much.
I went to the 2nd MCM in October and met up with friends everyday there,a nd I really enjoyed it. I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s good to go as a group but don’t feel guilty if you want to go off and do something different to them or by yourself – you should enjoy yourself no matter what!
Obviously, it’s go to go with friends more experienced than you too – they know where all the good stuff is!
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed! Let me know if you have any tips yourselves when going to a convention – maybe we can make a guide for newbies?
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