Geeky conventions were surging in popularity up until 2020, when COVID-19 abruptly put a stop to all of that. Now that the pandemic has somewhat subsided, those conventions are coming back.
These fan-centric gatherings have been central to pop culture fandom for years, with major announcements and guest appearances core to the huge draw that these stages have.
Of course, given that we now live in a post-pandemic world, conventions aren’t exactly the same as they used to be. While many fans are excited to see the return of geeky conventions, it’s important to understand what has changed before you start attending again.
If you’re looking to check out a geeky convention this year, perhaps for the first time since the pandemic struck, you might be out of practice for the chaos and expectations of modern conventions.
While some convention tips are evergreen—like making sure you test your cosplay fit beforehand and getting there with enough time to obtain your passes—there are some new tips based on how conventions have changed since the two years they were gone.
1. Check (Multiple) Mask Policies
Most conventions have dropped mandatory mask policies for guests, leaving it up to individuals to decide if they want to wear one or not. But not every convention has done so.
It’s important to check the rules for every convention you attend. Furthermore, keep in mind that enforced masking rules make no accommodations for cosplayers, so be sure you can fit a mask over any wigs or headgear that your costume might require.
Even if a convention doesn’t require masking everywhere, celebrity guests may require masking at their panels and their signings. They may, understandably, ask you to wear a mask when talking to them.
And don’t forget public spaces outside the convention venue. If you’re running out to grab a bite to eat at a local place, or if you’re taking public transportation between the venue and your lodging, you may be required to mask up in those areas.
All this means that you should probably keep a mask on hand at all times even if you don’t plan to wear it all the time.
2. Respect the Heat
If the last time you went to a convention was pre-pandemic, you might be shocked to realize that things have gotten warmer since then. Much, much warmer. Nearly all around the world.
Most of the US and Europe are experiencing annual heat waves, with summer temperatures higher than ever. Add in the pressing crowds at a convention and you’ve got a recipe for heat-related illnesses.
Plan your outfits and costumes accordingly. If it’s getting too hot for you throughout the day, don’t feel like you need to push through for the sake of cosplay. Take a break, or even finish for the day.
Many venues offer free water refill stations and allow you to bring in outside drinks to make sure you stay hydrated. If you aren’t keen on the idea of paying upcharged prices for drinks, bring a water bottle.
Check the event’s policies ahead of time and know how you’re going to get water before you hit the convention floor. Lost in a sea of strangers is the last place you want to be when you’re severely dehydrated.
3. Be Willing to Step Back
Even before the pandemic, being in a room with 100,000 other fans could be an overwhelming experience.
Now, after two years of social distancing and self-isolation, many geeks have noticed that their tolerances for being in large gatherings has significantly declined. This can lead to increased social anxiety, and some even leave hating an experience they once loved.
Be mindful of how you’re feeling as you walk through crowded stalls, line up for popular panels, and take endless photos with cosplayers. If you (or someone in your group) need to step away from the convention floor for a break, don’t hesitate to do so.
If the idea of large groups still fills you with dread, consider hitting the convention on a Sunday (assuming that’s one of the days) because that tends to be a much quieter day.
There are plenty of hours in the day. It’s more important to pace yourself rather than push through and have a bad experience. That item of merchandise or that celebrity guest will still be there after you’ve taken time to clear your head and center yourself.
4. Don’t Rely on Phone Service
More and more geeky conventions are now offering mobile apps that you can use for convention schedules and panel information.
However, when thousands of people are active at a single venue, there’s a huge problem that can often rear its head: overloaded cell towers.
You’ll probably experience cellular outages, poor reception, and/or slow service when using mobile data—to the point where you might not even be able to make calls or receive text messages.
Prepare ahead of time by downloading everything you might need to get into the venue (e.g. passes), to find your way around the venue (e.g. maps and schedules), and be sure to have vaccination status on hand (if the venue requires it).
If you’re with a group, make sure you all have a predetermined meet-up point, in case you get separated and can’t contact each other. Plan ahead to avoid losing anyone in the crowds.
5. Be Flexible With Your Plans
Conventions have always been chaotic events, particularly in the weeks running up to the actual event dates.
Back in the day, you’d really only have to worry about celebrities dropping out of panel appearances due to scheduling conflicts. Now, panels might get changed or canceled on short notice due to someone testing positive, so be ready with a backup plan.
Take this opportunity to get a drink, browse the stalls, scope out the rest of the venue, or step outside for a breather. Maybe consider stepping into another panel, where you might discover something new that you didn’t know you loved.
If you go to any geeky convention with a strict itinerary in mind, you’ll often find yourself disappointed by the experience. The coolest highlights usually come when you do something least expected.