The New York Comic Convention, the last big comic convention of the con season, is an amazing thing. Quite simply, it is organized chaos that is well attended by thousands of con goers every year. It’s always amazing at how many people we meet who are awestruck by the size of the convention itself; the exhibit hall, artist alley, the panels and more.
Many times, we meet people who are coming to this con for their first time. If you missed it this year and want to go next year, this guide (similar to what we did for Dragon*Con) is for anyone that wants to try to tackle this con as well as any comic/ media convention for that matter.
Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance
Let’s get to brass tacks with this one. When going to a con on the scale of NYCC and even a few others, you simply will not be able to see everything at the show. Even if you attend every day of the con, you will always find out later about a panel you missed, a celebrity signing, or a giveaway. Before you go, check with the website or con app to plan out the panels you want to make – including day, time room number and so on. Also be mindful that things may change – even the day of – so try scouting out the location ahead of time to ensure that you can make it. Also: arrive EARLY. There’s nothing worse than arriving for a signing that is just about to start and being in the back of the line only to be told that the line cutoff is about 10 people ahead. Although it’s hard to say when you need to be in a line for certain things, you need to plan accordingly to be there. Speaking of lines, to be blunt, NYCC (and SDCC) are not well known for line control when it comes to actually getting into the con. So, if you have something meaningful that you want to do, do not arrive there at the time the show opens. The earlier you arrive, the better your chances of getting what you need done upon entry.
Which leads us to…
Prepare to plan for patience
Many have heard this old adage of “Hurry up and wait”. This rings most true at many large venues, and NYCC is no exception. Whether it’s the entry line, a celebrity signing, or a panel for a popular TV show, anyone going should be prepared to wait. Sometimes your wait may be a few minutes, others a few hours. Again it all depends on how you worked out #1 above. Most of all, be prepared to sacrifice. Depending on what you are waiting for, you may have several things you wanted to see and do, that all occurred at the same time. You may or may not make it to some of them, so make the decision about what you may want to miss.
You are going to do a lot of walking so get comfortable
If you planning on trying to explore every last inch of NYCC, make sure you are comfortable. Most of all, make sure you have not only comfortable shoes, but comfortable insoles as well. The last few large cons I have gone to, in the space of 8 hours, I have averaged about 7 miles on foot. Be mindful that a lot of that walking may be on hard concrete and it wreaks havoc on feet and knees. So ladies, no heels (unless you are cosplaying of course), and one other piece of advice: during the course of the show, unless you are already going to a panel, plan to actually stop and sit down to rest. Your body will thank you! Also, if you have any kind of pain that requires medication, before you go is a great time to get your prescriptions filled before you go.
Speaking of cosplay…
Should I cosplay if this is my first time?
From my point of view I would say your miles may vary for many reasons. It really depends on how much time you plan to be there, your costume and so on. My first time going, I was only there for a day and to a degree, I regretted it because I would have loved seeing the reactions of con-goers. On the other hand, I would have missed much of the show. My advice is, if you are planning on being there for a day, either don’t cosplay so you can see as much as you can, or if accommodations allow, split your day up in and out of costume to allow you to walk about the convention center unimpeded. If you are going multiple days, pick one day that you will not be in costume for that same reason.
How can I avoid con crud?
“Con crud” is another way that many con goers express getting sick from anything as small as a cold to sometimes getting a full blown flu. Let’s be blunt, a closed-in environment like a comic convention is a breeding ground for germs. There are people coughing, sneezing and sniffling everywhere at these cons. While there is no 100% foolproof way to stop yourself from getting sick, there are ways to minimize the likelihood. The first way is simple: if you are sick, STAY HOME. NYCC and other cons happen every year. If you are going to miss out on something, too bad – but please don’t be Patient Zero just because you need to meet John Bernthal or Stan Lee. Heck, you run the risk of making them sick too! Next tip: bring Vitamin C drops along and also some Airborne drops to take before and after a show to boost your immune system. Also, use common sense and dress appropriately for the weather if at all possible to minimize getting sick. Another item that you may want to have is hand sanitizer. Remember, a lot of people you may meet may not have washed their hands so it’s good to have to minimize the spread of germs.
Take snacks and bring a bottle of water
Thankfully, most large cons, NYCC among them, don’t have too many issues with con-goers bringing in their own foods especially if t’s prepackaged. The price to eat at a con is expensive and the lines can be long. If you keep enough snacks on you, you can get through a good portion of the day without resorting to eating con food, and instead wait until later to go out to eat. Also, a water bottle comes in handy, since when you run out, you can always refill from a fountain (if you are not averse to doing so).
Get your cash early, and keep it handy
One of the biggest issues of being a consumer at a con, is that you may see something that you want to buy, but either the vendor takes cash only, their card reader may not work, or there is a surcharge for using your card. So, it’s best to have some cash just in case. If possible, try to get cash at an ATM before going to the show because some ATM lines may be long, out of cash or charge exorbitant fees to use. Also, always count your money before walking off and remember to put it away. Many people lose their money at shows by being careless.
Network, network, network!
Remember, you are now in your element! You are around thousands of other geeks just like you who share the same passions as you do! This is time to make new friends and contacts that you may see at future shows. You may meet a prop maker who can finally build you that armor you wanted for your costume. You may meet someone who is really interested in your artwork or comic and who can spread the word about your work. If you are really lucky, you may find the love of your life there as well. So go and make some new friends while you are at the show!
Share your experience with others
When you come home and coming down from your con high, be sure to share your experiences. Write a blog, share pictures or just simply tell others about your experiences. Many will be inspired by what you tell them and may want to do the same. Going to NYCC or other cons can be an exciting experience that others will want to know about, so spread the word.
These are just a few basic ideas on how to make it through not only NYCC, but practically any con that you go to. Again, your miles may vary based on the show and your approach to it, but if you go with the right expectations, you should have fun. If there is anything you think we may have missed, please let us know, and feel free to share your own con advice in the comments below.