DragonCon is a ton of fun but it can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve seen a few people asking for tips on how to survive and while I am not an expert I have learned a few things during my times there.
Make a plan
Before you go to DragonCon, get the print program or go online and find all the events you want to attend. Highlight them or create a calendar in Google or Outlook. Make a chart if it helps. A good plan will go a long way toward fun and drama free convention.
Ignore the plan
Now that you have a plan that you can feel good about, forget all about it. The moment you arrive at DragonCon it will be useless. You will have better luck herding cats than you will have keeping to a schedule. I talked to a couple of volunteers last year about convention planning and one them said, “This is DragonCon, chaos IS the plan.” It doesn’t matter if it is a time change, a cancellation, fatigue or hunger. Something will make your plans change. Just accept it.
Food: Sometimes the trip is worth it
Speaking of hunger, many of the food places downtown will be packed or somewhat expensive. There will be times when traveling away from downtown could save you time and/or money. As someone who has had to wait over an hour for a seat at a diner I can tell you sometimes a $6 Uber ride may be worth the cost. This is especially true if you are prone to getting hangry.
Water: Beat the heat
I am a Southern Boy and I LOVE the heat. I’m so cold blooded I may be part snake. What people consider “hot as hell” I describe as “a little warm.” So believe me when I tell you that Atlanta in the Summertime is HOT. You are going to want to hydrate and I don’t mean with adult beverages. I’m talking water or at the very least a sports drink like PowerAde or Gatorade. Invest in a good water bottle and use it.
Social Media: An extra set of eyes and ears
Chances are you already follow a boatload of social media accounts and some are more useful than others. While you are in Atlanta, the Daily Dragon’s account should be on your must follow list. They are good about posting any last minute room changes or cancellations. That information can save you a lot of unnecessary walking. They are also good for reporting lost and found items.
Panels, workshops, etc.: Something for everyone
There is way too much going on for me to tell about any “can’t miss” events. It’s almost impossible to pick a favorite. I will say that I have always enjoyed panels with the cast of Firefly. The show was only on for a season several years ago but they still talk about it like it was yesterday. They are funny, make jokes at each other’s expense and answer questions they’ve been asked a thousand times before with a smile. I also try to attend anything from the Adult Swim team. They are about as weird as you would expect and I mean that in the best way possible. Also anytime you can see sneak previews of their new shows you should take it.
The last couple of years I have been all about photoshoots. I am not a professional photographer but I like taking pictures and I love all things geeky so it makes sense. Just about every fandom there has one so chances are you’ll find on that interests you.
Masquerade: A must see
If there is a “must see” event at DragonCon, it is probably the Masquerade. Part of the reason is the variety; people who are new to cosplay can go up against pros in a contest that values presentation as much as design. I think everyone should watch it live once. It is huge and you need to see it in person to appreciate it. After that, I recommend finding someone with in a host hotel and watching it in their room. And now, if you purchase an online subscription, you don’t even need a host hotel.
One of my favorite DragonCon moments was sitting in a room in the Hyatt with some random people watching the masquerade while playing card games. There may or may not have been alcoholic beverages involved but that is beside the point. Watch the show, relax and when it ends you will be ready to go out and enjoy the rest of the convention.
Brand New: Get out of your comfort zone
DragonCon groups their event in one of many fan tracks. If you are into it there is probably a track for it but don’t think you are confined to just one. I strongly encourage people to check out one or two things on tracks they wouldn’t normally be interested in. I consider myself a “geek of all trades” but I’ll be the first to admit I am weak in some areas. My anime knowledge is limited so this year I am thinking about sitting in on a couple of track events there. Some friends got me into board gaming awhile back so I am sure I’ll spend a little time in the gaming area testing my skills.
Don’t be afraid to mix it up. If you are into robotics check out something on the costuming track. If writing is your thing then swing by one of the Amory’s presentations for a change. This is a chance for you to experience some new things. By all means take part in what you like but don’t be afraid to experiment a little.
Big finish: Three golden rules
I’ll be the first to admit that not all of these rules apply to everyone so your results will vary. If you take nothing else away from this or if everything above seems like too much to remember just stick with the three rules for DragonCon that I always follow.
- Don’t judge (You not liking it doesn’t automatically make it wrong)
- Let some $hit go (Accidents happen, lines will be long, people will not show up. Don’t get bent out of shape because of it.)
- Don’t act a fool. (Look but don’t touch, pushing and shoving won’t get you into an event any faster, know your drinking limit, no one likes a complainer)
See you all in Atlanta.