By C’Loni Bailey, Assistant Manager at Bookmans Mesa

Comic and pop culture conventions are gaining in popularity. Con season heads into full swing with Phoenix Comicon on May 28-31 and many others right around the corner. Once a niche market, geeks are now a dominant force in the entertainment industry and conventions are booming as a result. There is an abundance of things to see and do, so here are some basic tips and points of etiquette to help you survive Phoenix Comicon or any convention!

Geeking Out at Phoenix ComiCon


1. Don’t overload your schedule.
With all the panels, photo ops and exhibitors, it’s easy to cram your schedule and miss out on all the fun spontaneity that happens at a con. You never know who you’re going to run into or what unforgettable experience might pop up, so leave room for wandering and sight seeing. DO pick two or three panels and photo ops you absolutely must attend, then leave at least a 30 minute window for getting there on time. Depending on the location and how packed it is, you may not be physically able to make a panel that is immediately after the one you’re in. Make sure you give yourself some buffer time between panels. Leave the rest of your plans flexible because you never know what’s going to come up. You don’t want to miss out on memorable experiences because you were too busy dashing from panel to panel.

2. Stay hydrated and fed.
It’s easy to forget to eat or drink when confronted with the sensory overload that is a comicon and convention food is expensive. Keep water bottles and healthy snacks (trail mix, protein bars) handy to munch on throughout the day. When it’s time for a sit down meal, leave the convention space and find a local restaurant. You can experience a new place without breaking the bank on convention hall food.

3. Support local and independent artists and artisans.
While seeing celebrities and attending panels is super fun, the Exhibitor Hall is the main attraction at any con. Nearly every convention has an Artist Alley where local and visiting artists and artisans show off their work. You can buy prints, commission sketches and purchase all manner of geekery, some of which can only be found in the Artist Alley. Be sure to save some money to support your local artists and show them love!

4. Explore local bars and restaurants.
Phoenix Comicon takes over much of Downtown Phoenix and while the con itself is full of things to do, take some time to leave the con space to explore local restaurants and bars (see item 2). You’ll never know who you’ll run into and it’s no secret that celebs love hanging in local bars!

5. Bring cash.
While some vendors accept credit cards, for smaller artists cash is the way to go. Bring plenty of dollars and avoid paying convention ATM fees. The big risk with cash is losing it, so keep it secure.

It may seem like the convention crowds have little rhyme or reason, but there are some general rules that con goers should keep in mind to make the convention experience enjoyable and safe for all.

1. Ask before taking photos.
This is common courtesy and it lets the subject, be they cosplayer or exhibitor, know your intention and prepare for the shot. If someone declines a photo, respect their wishes. Refrain from taking pictures of cosplayers while they are sitting or eating. Cosplaying is entertaining but exhausting and even cosplayers need a break. Respect their space and wait until a cosplayer is finished resting before asking for a photo.

2. Take care to not block booths or tables if you are not shopping.
The Exhibitor Hall is the place for artists to exhibit their work, so it is important that people can see what is on their table. If you need to stop to chat with friends or take photos, move to an out of the way area so that you’re not blocking an exhibitor’s display. Also, be mindful not to set personal items (bags, purses) on top of an exhibitor’s table or merchandise as you could damage their items.

3. Keep your questions short and sweet.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement when meeting an artist or celebrity you admire, but artists and celebrities are on limited time. They have many other people itching to ask questions, so keep your questions short and to the point and avoid monopolizing their time.

4. Be respectful.
Conventions have a casual atmosphere, but it’s important to mind your manners and treat your fellow con goers, cosplayers, artists and celebrities with respect. Be polite and courteous with your questions and inquiries, and respect people’s personal space by asking for permission before putting your arm around a cosplayer or hugging an artist you admire.

Conventions are about having fun, making friends and celebrating the things you love with other people who love the same things. Do just that — have fun and make friends. You can sleep when the convention is over.