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How to Prepare For your First Convention

 I'll admit that I'm no expert at conventions, although I've had my fair share to understand what are the "dos" and "not-dos." I've had somewhere around 30 under my belt, including E3, TwitchCon, BlizzCon, MLG, IndieCade, Playstation Experience, Gamestop Expo, and even some renewable energy conventions. Some of these I've attended as a journalist, some I've attended as an exhibitor, and others I've just attended personally. The intents of attending a convention generally determine what you'll bring with you and other details, but as a whole I think that this can suffice as a guide for how to prepare for your first convention.

how to prepare for your first convention

Preparing For Your First Convention: What to Do and What Not To Do

Water--And Very Little Else

how to prepare for your first convention


My absolute worst mistake when I attended my first E3 was immediately going for an energy drink. 
Often times outside of a gaming con there will be Bang, Monster, Red Bull, Rockstar vendors just giving out cold cans and so it's a pretty easy go-to, but stay that thought--an energy drink early in the morning, or at any times is just a bad idea
how to prepare for your first convention
Remember these? They were great, but you don't want them in the morning.

My first E3 I attended as a journalist and I was stressed to hell, exhausted, sweating, and in pain. That's not the best side to present when interviewing CEOs and executives about their latest games. 
Combine being on my feet all day, walking several miles, going in and out of cold and hot environments, carrying equipment (not much, but it's there), constantly bouncing around from booth to booth, and working most of the time--you get the idea. It's ugly.
Add to that an axiety edge provided by an energy drink, and it gets uglier.
So, the best advice I can give you is just drink water.
Most cons are friendly to that, but sometimes you'll need to buy water in the convention itself. 
Security can also be sticklers, but I usually bring a bottle the first day and see if they're okay with it, then bring more throughout the day.
A funny story--I was given an entire 24-can case of Rockstars one con and was shitting yellow for a week. Probably not healthy.

Protein--And Very Little Else

What better way to start out the day than to eat a 5-stack of pancakes, a scone, hash browns, 6 strips of bacon, and 3 eggs? 
No.
Tanking up on food might seem like a fantastic idea to give yourself the energy you need, but carb-heavy, calorie-boosting meals will make you bloat and slow you down. 
I lightly snack here and there, starting off with a protein bar. Maybe an apple a few hours later. Water, again. Keep it light, keep it simple. 
Save the heavy meals for when you're done for the day and you want to relax. 
Your body will thank you later for eating less early on and more later.

What to Wear

Admittedly it's tempting to wear the latest gear to show off to your fellow gamers, but on the con floor, nobody cares
Wear comfortable shoes. This is a no-brainer.
Hoodies are sometimes a good option, especially if you're in a sparsely-populated area. Convention halls are intentionally cold because there will be such a rush of people that the temperature rises.
One E3 I attended was so horridly overrun that there was a literal air problem in one of the halls. 
Remember, the con floor will get hot, but not always.

Equipment

If you're a video crew with a ton of equipment setting up a jib to get a high-angle shot of some awesome booth, I'm sorry. 
I've never done that before, and bringing in a truckload of equipment among a high-traffic area isn't very easy. 
However, if you're just a journalist or you're attending personally for your first time at a convention, pack light
I can tell you from personal experience I packed far too much and walked around with an excessive load on my back. As before, it was ugly. 
You'll be on your feet all day. You don't want to add weight to yourself to make it worse.

Merchandise

Typically what happens in a gaming con is the opening keynote. Someone important (CEO, ambassador, head honcho) will come out on a stage of front of the entire con and touch on what's important. 
For example, one Twitchcon Emmet Shear announced Twitch Prime subs (much to the dismay of everyone at the convention, since everyone at home pimped it out while everyone at the con couldn't promote it).
Shortly after the keynote, however, everything opens up. Including the merchandise store.
If you spent your time at the keynote, I'm sorry, but the line for the merch store once you're let out of the keynote will be at least 5 hours long.
If you're lucky enough to shirk the keynote and find your way to where the merch store will be at, congratulations, you've saved yourself several hours of time. But not money.
Keep that in mind when you attend. The shiniest items will likely be sold out before you even get a chance to step into the merchandise room. And they're typically exclusive, expensive items you won't find in online stores.

On Alcohol

how to prepare for your first convention


If you imbibe and are of the age of doing so, you'll come across alcohol at some point. 
I'm not your parental unit so do whatever you want, but I'd advise to keep those minimal. If you're attending as press, it's even more likely you'll be handed a drink to enjoy.
I would definitely not recommend consuming alcohol when you're dog tired, because it will make you even more sleepy. And for obvious reasons, don't consume if you're going to travel shortly thereafter. 
I had two beers once after my work was done, and I'll share that I'm not sure how I made it home.
In addition, nobody likes to be interviewed by someone drunk. Save your drinking for the after-parties, which brings me to my next point...

On After-Parties

how to prepare for your first convention
Yes, Darude. He did not play sandstorm.

Parties are when the best experiences happen. 
The first TwitchCon I ever attended, there was a Monstercat party where I found a random streamer and hugged him. No idea who it was and I still don't, to this day. If you're that guy, that was an awesome moment.
I've heard stories about hookers and party favors at some parties before, although I've never personally seen that.
But for your first convention recognize that if you're out noodling around until 3 AM, the next morning isn't going to be fun. Nor will it be productive for those that need to work.
As before, I'm not your dad--have fun, but recognize consistent parties night after night will take a toll.
It's a good idea to offer to get rideshares for others too, if you can find some folks looking to jump ship--I randomly was offered to go to an invite-only party just by offering to call for rides for others. 

Time

Your first convention will be overwhelming and probably overstimulating. 
Tons of booth to see, panels to attend, faces to get selfies with, similar ilk. 
What I can definitely recommend is take your time
You will not be able to attend everything that's available to you. 
Prioritize what you want to see the most. Accept that you may miss what you want. And if you aren't able to attend a panel, they're typically broadcasted and archived anyhow, so any information you want out of a panel will be available for a long while.

Relax

With such an overstimulating environment with awesome things to attend, people to see, free stuff to grab, and selfies to take, please take a break from it all. You're basically exercising all day. 
Many gaming cons now have "chill out" rooms that are set aside from it all so you can sit and refresh. I make a note to try and do that twice a day.
If you're unsure of where a chill-out room is at, download the convention app to get a map of it and that should assist you in finding the room--or generally anything in the con.

Food

Convention food, while easily accessible, is definitely expensive as hell. 
You'll pay an average of 15 dollars per meal either at the convention itself or a food truck. 
My advice? Walk a block and get something cheaper and healthier. 
Hopefully the snacks and light food you've consumed at this point is enough to tide you over to a more chill dinner. For your first time at a convention, opt for smarter choices. 
It'll take you away from the con floor (which can be saddening with all the awesome things to check out), but you'll save money for better food.

People

how to prepare for your first convention


Sometimes, especially at Twitchcon, there will be celebrity streamers you'll meet, either via a meet-and-greet or casually coming across them. 
They're people just like you and I, so don't hog their time
If you want a selfie and they're willing, grab it, say your thanks, and go.
Some people have even gone as far as following said streamers around in order to "get in" with them. Don't do this.

Don't.

Stalking celebrity gamers is a gigantic no-no. 
I'm sure you'll want to network as much as you can with others, but Swiftor, Pokimane, or Ninja aren't going to host you just because you've been cool with them. 
Some of these people literally have security around them, and the last thing you want is to be pulled aside and questioned by security about your obsession over celebrities. 
It's your first convention, so accept that you may not be able to meet the people you want to.
Not only that, but misbehaving around other streamers will probably get your name in circles you don't want to be shared in. 
Believe it or not, the gaming industry is small and word gets around about who to avoid. 
I've even alerted others to some unsavory people that would cause a stink in several communities.

Casual Encounters

These sometimes happen. 
I would definitely not recommend to go looking for any sort of close encounter with another person (or group of people if you're into that) for your first time at a convention.
But as a general rule, meeting someone in their hotel can lead to drama, even sometimes later down the road.
If you're consenting adults and you trust each other to have fun, go for it. 
Otherwise, sorry, but the extremely attractive individual you had a conversation with hours before is not smiling at you to get in your pants.

Have Fun

I've said this numerous times and I'll keep saying it--you'll never have an experience that you do at a convention.
You'll be tired, in pain, probably broke, overwhelmed, and probably even restless.
But to prepare for your first time at a convention, just remember to have fun. 
I know people who have built lasting friendships merely by chance encounters and fun experiences.
Of course, this doesn't cover everything that may happen at a convention, but I think I've covered enough basics so that you'll be prepared enough to have fun and ultimately be safe.
If you see me on a convention floor, say hello!
And here's a final note: me with a banana.

how to prepare for your first convention






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