San Diego Comic-Con: A beginner’s guide

1:00 pm EDT, July 17, 2014

Everything you need to know about San Diego Comic-Con from a one-time attendee expert.

Last year I attended San Diego Comic-Con for the first time. Actually, it was the first time I had attended any real convention. It was also the first time I had been to San Diego. But I knew what to expect: I was going to see all the best panels without sleeping outside for hours (because really, surely that was an exaggeration). I would have serendipitous encounters with the cast of X-Men, become Joss Whedon’s new BFF, and come home with a suitcase full of free swag.

Needless to say, I was a little green. But armed with my four and a half days of experience, and a healthy dose of self confidence, I have now declared myself an expert. Here are the Comic-Con tips I wish someone had told me before I attended San Diego Comic-Con, from one newbie to another.

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1. You won’t get to see everything, so don’t even try.

2. Everything is far away from everything else, so factor this into your plans. Plus, remember that you will be moving at a glacial pace due to the hundreds of thousands of people around you.

3. You have to work out your top priorities before you get to SDCC because once you are there everything seems amazing and interesting, and decision making suddenly becomes impossible.

4. Once you have your priorities, strategise the best way to see as many of those things as possible. If everything is too overwhelming, take comfort in the fact that you can sit in your hotel room and follow it all on twitter.

5. Accept that the two things you are most desperate to see or do will inevitably overlap with each other.

6. Remember that they don’t clear the rooms between panels. Seriously, they do not clear the rooms.

7. This means, if you want to get into Hall H, Ballroom 20, or any other event with a large fanbase (at SDCC, that means anything at all), plan to be in the room way ahead of time.

8. To get into Ballroom 20 or Hall H, it is likely that you will have to camp out overnight. If you don’t want to camp out, you are not allowed to complain that you didn’t get in to the panel – you obviously don’t want it enough.

9. Camping out involves sleeping outside on grass or concrete for many hours, in the cold. Make sure you know what you are getting yourself into before you start, and applaud those who do this every single night.

10. If you are camping out on behalf of a group and will be letting other people into the line later, tell the people around you so that they know to expect this. Basically, don’t be the jerk who has 10 friends show up at 9:55 a.m. And remember, the San Diego team have introduced new rules that state everyone in line has to pick up a wristband.

11. You would think that getting into the panel rooms would be your biggest problem, but at Hall H getting outside again can take a very long time. Don’t panic, you will soon breathe fresh air again.

12. You should prepare yourself for a lot of time spent sitting in a dark room listening to panels you aren’t interested in.

13. This is not an excuse to be rude; remember that there are people in the room who are interested, so don’t ruin it for them. That means please turn down the brightness on your computer/phone/tablet. And don’t snore.

14. Even if you think you are going to the most obscure event on the schedule, there will be (at least) several hundred other people who have had the exact same thought.

15. It is okay to be nervous about going to events by yourself, but you shouldn’t let that stop you. Your friends won’t want to do everything that you do (it’s okay, you have better taste).

16. Take comfort in the fact that everyone else lining up is a big fan just like you! You already have something in common, so start from there.

17. Serious tip: don’t forget to look after your own well being, both physical and emotional.

18. You will be operating on very little sleep and a diet of rubbish foods. Stay hydrated, and carry snacks with you for when you need a boost of energy. Also, strategically steal your roommate’s hotel keys so that you can nap in peace without them disturbing you.

19. If you are a person who does not like crowds, schedule in some alone time each day to give yourself a break. Or, maybe don’t go to Comic-Con.

20. If you have dietary restrictions or requirements, consider bringing your own food with you or buying it before the convention starts; food in the convention centre is limited, expensive, and gross. Do not eat the nachos.

21. Exhibitors might have free things to give away, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask nicely. You are not entitled to these things. And although it is very tempting, don’t take things just because they’re free, remember you have to get it all home at the end.

22. Everyone will want the same The Hunger Games pin, or The Avengers shirt as you. As with everything at SDCC, get there early and expect to line up.

23. Cosplayers are everywhere at Comic-Con. A lot of them are happy to have their picture taken, but you should still ask. And don’t be the person who says, “I don’t know who you are meant to be, but everyone else is taking a photo” – at least not out loud because we’re all thinking it.

24. Do not count on the convention centre wifi or the San Diego phone reception. There are thousands of people all using it at once, and it will cut out. Make plans beforehand if you are meeting people, and always have a backup (like smoke signals, or maybe a carrier pigeon).

25. Comic-Con is not cheap, which is why you have to make sure you are getting what you want out of it. Prepare to come home exhausted, broke, sick – and with a huge smile on your face.

Hypable will be bringing you full coverage from San Diego Comic-Con from July 24-27.

Will you be attending San Diego Comic-Con? Share your hints and tips in the comments below.

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