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Con Man: Surviving Comic Con and other Shows

Martski here, and if you're like me you've got big convention plans this year. With the Convention season pretty much upon us, I wanted to share some tips I've learned over the years while attending many shows, including the grand daddy of them all, San Diego COMIC CON. Think of this as a survival guide for attending an event as small as your local Toy Show to something as big and grand as Comic Con. These are in no particular order.

Take care of yourself! These shows can be/are very exhausting. Never sacrifice comfort for style. You will be doing a lot of walking and standing so make sure you have comfortable shoes.  If anything get some Dr. Sholl's for your shoes. They are not very expensive and trust me, your feet will thank you. Stay hydrated, drink plenty of water. If possible keep a bottle of water on you at all times. Not sure how you feel about public fountains but refill as often as you can. Feel free to drink what you want but make sure to mix in water as often as you can. It's cheaper than most drinks and free if you use a public fountain. 

Backpack it. You'll get cool and sometimes HUGE swag bags (Warner Brothers) at the shows but it's best to try and keep your hands free. Double strap it! I carried a side bag for a few years and halfway into the day it was killing my shoulder so I would switch it to the other and sure enough that one started killing me to. With all the freebies and stuff you'll buy its gonna fill up and get heavy fast so why get your arms all tired. If possible and your hotel or car is close enough, make a few drop offs and unload some of that weight. The backpack isn't just for swag, there are a few things you should keep in there. Aspirin for possible headaches and body aches. Gum and or Mints (do you want to meet Stan Lee with stank breath?). Snacks like trail mix, candy bars, fruit snacks or even power bars. A pen and or Sharpie. A bottle of water (remember stay hydrated). Coins, I always find myself needing quarters at these things. Your phone charger or one of those portable power packs for your phone or other device. 

Have patience. Be prepared to do a lot of standing around and waiting. Remember your not the only one trying to get a sketch or book signed. Another thing to remember is just because you're in line doesn't mean you'll see the end of it. There are times when they will cut lines off for whatever reason, so make sure it's worth the time and effort. Ask the people already in line how long they've been waiting and if it's been moving. 

Be nice and polite! These things can get awfully crowded and your personal bubble may get popped every now and then. Accidentally running into people or getting run into can and will happen. It's very rarely on purpose so if and when it does happen simply apologize and say excuse me. Your favorite writer or artist would be happy to sign your books, but not their whole twenty issue run on X-Men. Remember there are other people who want to meet them too, don't be that guy or gal. If you see someone drop something and they don't know it, pick it up and give it to them. There's nothing worse than losing your badge, phone or wallet on vacation. 

Bring Your Own Food (B.Y.O.F.). Now most of the food at conventions is very expensive and not worth the price. Sure there may be plenty of spots around the convention center to eat but you can't leave to hit up Jack In The Box and be back in time for the Kevin Smith panel! Remember you do have some snacks in your trusty utility belt (backpack) but you should pack a lunch or at least buy something before you go into the show. Anyone who's spent all day in Hall H at SDCC know how important it is to bring a lunch and dinner with them. Eating throughout the day is just as important as drinking, you want to keep your energy up. Those snacks aren't just there to save you money, they also keep you energized. 

Knowing is half the Battle! Bigger shows like San Diego Comic Con are excellent at providing you with resources to help plan for the weeks events. Get to know and love the event guide they provide you with. There is a ton of useful information in them like a map layout of the main exhibit floor with booth numbers and aisles to help you navigate your way to whatever it is you want to see or do. The map also shows you all the bathrooms (remember all that water your drinking). They let you know who's gonna be at the show. Whether it's your favorite actors, writers, artists or companies like DC and Marvel, it tells you where and when you can see or meet them. 

You can't see and do it all. I know you have your heart set on seeing that Big Bang panel but you should have a backup plan in place just incase you can't get in. These shows don't clear the rooms out after each panel so you may have to show up early and sit through a few things you don't care for in order to see the panel you want, especially if it's to see some of the more popular stuff. I've slept outside overnight in the infamous Hall H line just to see that thirty second clip of Batman vs Superman and it was worth it! Ok there was a lot of other cool clips and stars there too but my point is, sacrifices must be made if you really want to see something. Make a list of all the panels and/or signings you want to go to even if they start at the same time. You won't know for sure which ones you'll actually get into, so it's always good to have a few back ups just in case. 

The Buddy System. If you're at the show with your friends the chances of you guys wanting to see separate things is pretty high. Sure we all love Superman but say he wants to meet the artist drawing action comics and I want to meet the actor playing him in the movies (Henry Cavil), we'll need to split up, but before you go your separate ways, there's a few things you want to establish. Be sure you know your buddies phone number, and I don't mean having it saved in your phone, I mean actually having it written down in your pocket or having it memorized because if you lose your phone or it dies you could find yourself in a sticky situation with no way of contacting them. Always establish a check in time or meeting place. For example, we will meet at the Marvel Booth in a couple hours or I'll text every half hour to see if you're ready to meet back up. Staying in constant contact is important. 

Venture Outside. It gets pretty crowded and stuffy in those halls not to mention ripe (yes the stories are true about "Con Stench") so take a break and get some fresh air when you can. Fresh air isn't the only thing outside either. Shows like SDCC have tons of things to see and do outside the convention center. If you thought there were tons of freebies in the exhibit hall there are just as many outside the convention center. Let's not forget there's a whole city out there. Unless you're in one of the twenty four hour Anime rooms, you might not want to go home when the exhibit hall closes. See what the city has to offer. Check out some of the local restaurants or maybe even enjoy some of the night life. Remember it's a vacation so make the most of it. I will admit though, some of those days can be long and exhausting, going straight back to the hotel room to get some rest is perfectly acceptable. 

I hope some of these tips help make your Con experience a little more enjoyable and I'll see you out there on the Exhibit Floor!

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