Of course, a con virgin isn't going to know what to expect when going to these events. And trust me, I can only do so much to prepare you. Any description I give will only be half of what you will experience at a convention, and each genre convention is going to have a different take on things. But there is some general advice I can give, since I have been to everything from Horror writer conventions to gamer cons. So here it is folks:
Kweeny's Tips for Convention Virgins
1. Make sure you got registration handled in advance. It's not a major big deal, but it will save you time and money to do it early. You will beat the lineups too if it happens to be a larger con like Gencon was. You dont want to spend half a day in line waiting to get your con badge.
2. Have your sleeping and feeding arrangements set before you get to the con. This is vital. You need to sleep, and you need to eat. As much as you might be dressed as a the god Thor, you really are not him so you better have a place to sleep and money to eat. Know where there is food around the convention center. You can usually ask locals or get advice right in the convention program book. If you got friends in the area, there's your cheap crash space. Otherwise you may need to book a hotel room.
3. Have a way to get to your hotel room/convention hall. You might need to put money away for a cab if you are not local, or if you are lucky, have friends in the area who can drive you around.
4. Make sure you pack ALL THE THINGS the night before. That includes toiletries, regular clothes, costumes if you got them, things you want signed, electronics, etc. You're going on a geek trip. Just think of all the things you'd need for a regular trip, and add your fannish toys, costumes, etc to the mix. If you are anything like me, you've obsessed way in advance over what you are gonna do and see at the con, so you'll know if you need that limited addition book/comic/poster/movie etc because some celeb you love is gonna be there. Make a check list if it helps and double check everything. Even if you are obsessive compulsive about packing, you will still forget something. Just make sure it's lame like toothpaste, because hotels tend to be awesome and have free ones they can give you.
5. Have LOTS OF CASH. Why? Because everything is gonna cost you money! And you will want EVERYTHING. There is nothing more depressing than having no booty to bring home from a con. Convention dealers rooms are like X-mas, your birthday, Halloween and Geek Disneyland all at once. For instance, if you go to a horror con, you will find EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED in the dealers room. The bigger the con, the bigger and more insane the dealers room. Loot that mother fucker with all that you have! Even if you must not celebrate Christmas this year. CHRISTMAS IS EARLY AT A CONVENTION!
6. Don't be a jackass! Be kind to people. They are geeks like you! Be polite and friendly to everyone, from the guy in the storm troopers outfit, to Will Weaton. Celebs want to be treated like people too! They dont mind if you are excited to meet them, but don't grope, grab, or be pushy with them or other con-goers to get at them! Everyone is waiting in the same line as you. Everyone is a fellow fan. Treat people like you want to be treated. You might make unexpected friends.
7. Dont be surprised if people want pictures of you. You might be interesting and you didnt even know it. Maybe your shirt is cool. Maybe you got awesome chops like my hubby. Hell, expect pictures taken if you are wearing a costume you made! People love cosplay at cons. And don't think horror fans don't cosplay. WE LOVE THAT SHIT!
Oh! Make sure you got a camera with fresh batteries. You are gonna need it. And always ASK before you take pictures of folks. I know it may seem silly, but you dont want to get punched out by Black Widows boyfriend, do you? Sure, her costume is great, but she may not take kindly to being on your film reel.
8. Expect...weirdness. Cons are a place people feel more free to be themselves. Free to explore things and get up to shenanigans. Hopefully its good clean fun, and not something you need to tell the convention staff to call the cops on. I have heard some VERY bad stories. But if it's the good kind, like random pirates sweeping you up into their crew, or the tiniest slasher demon wants to pretend stab you than cackle off into the night, well...go with the flow! I always do! I end up having some grand adventures that way.
9. Leave the place as tidy as possible. Whether you are in a panel and you brought some coke to drink, or you are leaving your hotel, clean your mess. No one should have to clean up after you.
10. Don't be surprised if you cant do everything. Especially if it's your first con. Just mark off all the things you really want to do.The things that seem the most important to you. If you miss a panel, don't sweat it. You'll have plenty of fun memories even if all you do is hang out in a room party with drunken pirates and slasher demons.
I think that covers the main things. Everything else you'll learn as you go to more cons. The main key is to have fun, so hopefully these tips will help make that happen easier. Nothing kills a con-buzz like worrying where you'll sleep and if you have batteries in your camera.