Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Eight Tips for Better Conventions

Convention season is almost upon us. Later this week I'm flying to the Nebulas, and 4th Street and Readercon are right behind it. I'm excited to hang out, be on panels, and to see panels. Conventions are a source of joy, but also a source of anxiety. Over the years I've compiled a few tips on how to handle cons. They could help us all have a better time when we nerds congregate. Please consider, and thanks for reading!

Instead of: interrupting the panelists with what you think are insightful comments...
Try this: ...spend this time writing down your question so that, when the panel opens to audience interaction, you have something clear to say and don't ramble. People will remember a succinct question.

Instead of: walking ten feet outside the panel room and continuing your conversation in the middle of the hall, blocking everyone else trying to get to their next destination...
Try this:...invite your chat-buddy to an empty row of seats, or the bar or cafe, or to walk out of the hall and find a nook elsewhere that won't block traffic. Then talk to them for as long as you like as everyone else passes.

Instead of: disappearing immediately after the panel you were on...
Try this: ...look around to see if any panelists or audience members are waiting for a word with you. If you don't the time or mental bandwidth, excuse yourself for now, but offer to chat later in the con, or hand out cards with contact information.

Instead of: avoiding actors/writers/artists you love because even though this is the only weekend all year you could possibly see them, you're nervous...
Try this: ...tell them. Practice one-sentence of praise if that's all your introversion allows. You can't fathom how much even one sentence encourages creative people.

Instead of: touching anyone without permission, no matter how they are dressed, or how funny you think it is...
Try this: ...ask them. If it feels wrong to ask, then just don't make physical contact.

Instead of: only talking to your friends for the entire convention and then complaining that you never see young people at conventions...
Try this: ...invite new strangers to chat. It can be one-on-one, or you can invite them to sit with your group in the lobby or con suite. We all know how hard it can be when you're new and alone at a convention. Look outside your social pod for people you can include.

Instead of: putting up with unwanted attention that the other person won't stop, no matter how minor or major it is...
Try this: ...report the offending party to con staff. Codes of Conduct are becoming more common for good reasons. And if you feel uncomfortable extracting yourself, grab an ally. Even if you don't know me, just saying, "Excuse me, that person is making me feel unsafe," will be enough to get me to hang out with you until you're clear of the offending party.

Instead of
: letting someone harass or otherwise give unwanted attention to someone else who looks uncomfortable and simply ignoring it because you feel awkward...
Try this: ...step in and ask the uncomfortable party anything. You can ask if they're okay, but you can also throw them a lifeline by asking, "Do you know what time it is?" or, "Do you know where the con suite is?" Those kinds of questions are invitations for them to disengage from the other person. They are also easy for the person to decline if it turns out you misread and they don't need help. 

None of the above is that hard, right? Yet it slipped the minds of so many people across the three conventions that it seemed worth writing down.


  1. Shame you have to worry about someone bothering you or making you feel that uncomfortable.
    Good tips and have a great time at the con!

  2. Love your suggestions. Which have a MUCH wider application than conventions. Have fun.

  3. These are great tips, and different than the ones normally posted. When I'm a panelist, I LOVE people coming up to talk to me afterward. But I know I can be distant right before the panel starts, because I'm typically in my head thinking about the upcoming discussion (no one wants to look like an idiot when they're on a panel!), so I've gotten better about explaining that to people if I feel like I'm in my head too much, and asking them to talk to me afterward, when I will be more present.


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