A primer for the oncoming convention season, including Shinbokucon this weekend.
With winter (hopefully) put away for another year we can begin looking forward to greater entertainment options. The warmer temperatures often create the ability to travel more and visit all manner of conventions. Being a veteran of many conventions as attendee, vendor, and panelist/event coordinator alike, allow me to give you some pointers. Parents, this will be especially important if your children want to go to something like an anime or comic convention and you've never been nor are familiar with the culture they have.
Conventions are busy places. Even something like a professional convention of insurance agents can be bustling with workshops, speakers, and events. Be sure to check the schedule and, if necessary, preregister for the events. It's a courtesy to those putting on the show and helps guarantee you a seat when things fill up. Bear in mind that things can change. Presenters get sick, the facility has a problem, or there was a mixup. You may need to have a backup plan.
Parents, if this is your first time going to (or allowing your child to go) to a convention it may behoove you to determine all this ahead of time. That way you will know where they are and what they are doing. Often the schedule will also have programming notes (or they will be next to them in a pamphlet) to go into further detail about what a panel is about, who's presenting, or present an age threshold should one be necessary.
All conventions should have some form of security available to the guests. Sometimes they are off-duty officers hired to watch for suspicious activity. Other times they are volunteers with skills or backgrounds in first aid or some kind of security duty (such as a military background). The venue may provide its own private security and don't forget that on-duty police and EMS are always an option.
Most security staff will be easily-identified by a colored shirt or uniform of some kind. Always know on the convention map where the security station is. It is a great place to rally if you become lost or lose an item. Be sure to report suspicious behavior or activity including someone appearing sick or intoxicated as they can make a literal mess and be a danger to others. While not security per-se, there can often be found at conventions "go-fers" or information/help desk volunteers who can point you in the right direction.
Every convention has its own culture that comes with it. Going to a gun show is going to be different than going to a boat show. That said, you shouldn't be afraid of either if you have never been. While there are many "in" references, dress styles, and terms, ultimately they are events that are open to the public and should be able to interface with those unfamiliar with how things usually go.
Parents, another note. If this is a convention about something your kid is into but you may not have much experience with, it will pay off to do some research up front. There are plenty of resources to do just that including the "Contact Us" option the organizers should feature. Those who go through the time, trouble, and expense of arranging a show will naturally want to ensure that you are comfortable with whatever it is that is happening.
Conventions are very fun and can often breathe new life into a hobby or profession that has lost its shine. That said, please be sure to enjoy them responsibly. The more you know about what's out there, the less fear you have about participating yourself or letting your kids do the same. These events are great places to socially meet people like you, learn something new about the subject of the convention, or even make professional network contacts. As a vendor it is a great revenue booster and a way to find out what your aficionados are looking at or forward to so that you can adjust your business appropriately.
Do you have convention stories? Tips? Want to share upcoming events with others? Please share them here!