In 2017, I attended 11 conventions.
As you might expect, I love conventions! I attend all types of them – comic cons, pop culture conventions, gaming conventions, and fan-run conventions. I’m involved in all different aspects of cons, too — I’ve been as a writer, as a panelist, as a volunteer, as program staff, and as an exhibitor .
I’ve watched comic cons specifically evolve from comic book shows to the pop culture fests they have become. Of course, there are growing pains as we welcome more fans into the fold. As comic cons continue to change in 2018, here are some easy ways on how we, as a community, can make our collective experience even better.
- Keep the “comics” in comic con. It’s true that comic conventions have evolved beyond comics, but if you’re using the word then you should at least be paying some homage to how it all started. Consider elevating the way you promote comic creators to the same way you promote celebrities, whether it’s how they appear on your website, how they’re promoted at the convention and where they’re located on the show floor.
- Look beyond “diversity” panels. Marginalized voices belong on more than just your “diversity” panels. Ensure that you’re including a balance of female, people of color, and LGBTQ creators on all your panel programming.
- Offer a Quiet Room. I’m an extrovert but even I’ve had convention burnout. Remember that conventions of any size can be over-stimulating and overwhelming to attendees of all ages. A Quiet Room gives attendees a chance to stay onsite, but take a little mental break. At its most basic, all a Quiet Room needs is dimmed lighting, chairs, and signage asking folks to be respectful. Have a little extra in the budget? Consider adding a water station, coloring books and coloring supplies, phone chargers, or comfy seating options.
- Take your accessibility services up a notch. A good start is creating a sweet all-in-one page* on your convention site that doesn’t make attendees visit multiple places (including the convention center website) to find out basic info on things like parking, wheelchair rentals, etc. By putting it all in one handy place, you’ll also see what services might be lacking or areas for improvement, like an accessibility station being a far walk from the entrance.
- Be part of the experience! Be aware that the general public uses the word “comic con” synonymously with any other kind of fannish convention. Outside of the dedicated convention community, the general public doesn’t really understand the difference between all of the conventions. They don’t necessarily know the difference between San Diego and your hometown show. They’re looking for the experience. How you interact with attendees impacts their positive or negative experience of the convention.
- If you’re offering commissions, put up a sign! As I mentioned above, comic cons are drawing all kinds of folks and those folks don’t necessarily know “how things are done.” If you want to see more at-con commission sales, for the love of all things, PUT UP A SIGN!
- Consider selling comics that you’ve worked on. For non-comic book readers or readers who might not know your work, it can be a great introduction. Meeting the creator and having a signed comic can get you new loyal fans.
- Head over to Artist Alley. Even if you don’t read comics, take a stroll through the artist section if only to ohh and ahh over their work. Feel free to chat with creators whose work you find interesting, too. Just be aware of their time, especially if other attendees are looking to make purchases while you’re there.
- Get yourself a sketchbook. Comic cons attract amazing artists! Get a sketchbook and start collecting art commissions from your favorite creators. A sketch book is a great way to collect art if you’re running out of wall space, but feel free to get commissions you want to frame too. I wish someone had told me about this commissions thing years ago. For me, I buy the paperback trades and have artists do a quick sketch inside. That way, every time I read it, I can remember the experience.
- See something, say something. Even before the onslaught of celebrities, comic cons were a place to find your people. There’s something very special about hanging out with thousands of people who share your love of all things geek. Protect that community vibe and if you see something off (harassment, etc), alert the convention staff to the problem.
It’s an exciting time for conventions, so let’s keep the momentum going! What suggestions do you have for making comic cons even more amazing? Share them in the comments.