Convention Attendance FAQ
- I want to attend a con. What do I do first?
- How can I tell if a con is any good before I go?
- Are bigger conventions better?
- Do I have to wear a costume?
- What are some common convention-related terms and what do they mean?
- How can I get my favorite actor/artist/etc. as a guest of honor at a convention?
- I have questions for a convention. How do I contact the organizers?
Convention Attendance Questions and Answers
I want to attend a con. What do I do first?
The first thing you'd need to do is find a convention to attend. For your first con, you probably don't want to travel far from home. Pick a local convention to try it out before you commit to visiting some large convention far away. Check AnimeCons.com's Convention Map to find out what conventions are located near you. You can also check the Convention Schedule or Convention Calendar to see what's coming up soon. Visit the convention's own web site and see what activities they have planned, what guests are attending that you may be interested in seeing, and everything else the convention has planned.
Once you've found a convention that looks good to you, you'll want to pre-register or buy tickets. (Some conventions simply refer to the process as "buying tickets", but others refer to it as "registration"...but it's basically the same thing. For the conventions that refer to the process as "registration", they'll often say "pre-registration" for the process of buying tickets online before the convention starts.) If you buy tickets in advance (or pre-register), you will sometimes get a discounted rate for paying in advance. However, make sure you're really going before you pre-register! Most cons do not allow refunds for pre-registration if you can't go anymore or if you decide that you don't want to go.
After you've bought tickets or pre-registered, start making travel plans. For your first con, you probably won't by flying, but if you're going to a convention that is several days long, you might want to make a hotel reservation rather than driving back and forth every day. For conventions that are held inside hotels or larger conventions held in convention centers, the conventions will offer discounted rates on hotel rooms if you book through their web site.
Now that you've picked a con, paid for tickets/registration, and figured out your travel plans, you're ready to go! You may want to follow the convention on social media so that you'll know about any future announcements the convention makes. Maybe they'll announce more guests or other programming planned for the convention.
Our AnimeCons TV podcast (which, despite the name, covers more than just anime conventions) has an episode titled "Your First Anime Convention" which talks about what you need to do before attending your first convention and what you can expect when you attend your first con. It applies to more than just anime conventions.
How can I tell if a con is any good before I go?
Take a look at the convention's web site. Does it look professional or does it look like something someone slapped together in 1998? Are they keeping the web site updated or does it still have outdated information from months ago? Look for their Twitter and Facebook accounts and see how active they are. Have they not tweeted in 3 years and their Facebook page is a ghost town? If you do a web search for "Convention Name con report", are people saying good things about prior conventions? (Watch out for some local TV news reports that talk about conventions in advance and may not be a good indication of how good the event will actually be.) Have any of your friends attended this convention?
AnimeCons.com has a section with User-Submitted Convention Reports where you can find photos and reports from many past conventions. See if there are any for past editions of the convention you're interested in.
Are bigger conventions better?
Not necessarily. While large conventions certainly have advantages such as more guests, more dealers, more programming, and more everything, there are also some significant disadvantages. Large conventions are often more expensive, have longer lines, and are more crowded. You might find that you've spent more time waiting in lines for events, food, bathrooms, and just about anything than you've spent actually attending programming! Large conventions also tend to have much more expensive tickets or badges, food, and hotel rooms. Small conventions tend to be more friendly and intimate gatherings where it's easier to make new friends and participate. They also tend to be a lot less expensive. If you're only attending large cons, you're missing out on some great conventions!
Do I have to wear a costume?
No. Wearing costumes at all conventions (even costume conventions) is always optional. While costumes are welcome and encouraged at most conventions, some comic conventions actually discourage costumes. (Check the convention's web site to see if this is the case.)
If you decide to wear a costume, many conventions also hold costume contests of some form. Check the convention's web site for their rules on what costumes are qualified to enter. Most conventions' contests only allow homemade costumes and prohibit store-bought costumes. Our AnimeCons TV podcast has an episode that discusses what to expect when entering a costume contest. (You probably don't want to enter a costume contest at your first con. Go to a con and watch one to see what it's like and decide if you want to enter next time.)
What are some common convention-related terms and what do they mean?
Here are some common terms you might hear when attending conventions:
- AMV - Short for "Anime Music Video". Anime conventions sometimes have competitions or screenings of videos of anime clips set to music. See also FMV.
- artists' alley - This is an area of the convention where artists are displaying their creations and selling them to convention attendees.
- attendees - These are the paid attendees of a convention. It's you!
- autograph session - Guests of honor usually have a designated time and place to sign autographs. Popular guests will usually charge an autograph fee that ranges from tens to hundreds of dollars, but some guests at some conventions will sign for free. At large conventions with many popular guests, you may have to buy your autograph in advance to reserve your spot.
- badge - Conventions usually issue each attendee a badge to wear around their neck which admits them to the convention. Some smaller conventions may use wristbands or event hand stamps instead.
- ball pit - In 2014, a convention named DashCon failed spectacularly. At one point, to make up for a cancelled panel, attendees were told they could have "an extra hour in the ball pit". It was such a ludicrous thing that it became a meme. Conventions don't normally have ball pits, but it's often referenced when talking about bad conventions. (DashCon wasn't even the worst con we've heard of, but that's a story for another time.)
- con chair - The person in charge of a convention is almost always the convention chairperson or "conchair".
- con ops - Convention operations, sometimes just referred to as "ops", is where the bulk of the on-site operations happen for the convention. It's not a place to hang out and not an info desk.
- con plague - It's common for someone with a cold or flu (or worse) to spread that illness to many people at a convention. Avoid con plague by washing your hands often, using hand sanitizer, not touching things, and wearing a mask. Never attend a convention if you are sick!
- con suite - This is an area of some conventions (particularly older, hotel-based conventions) where the convention has made some snack foods and refreshments available to attendees. Snacks from this room should not be considered a substitute for an actual meal. These snacks are often left exposed to everyone and everything that passes by, so it's a great place for con plague to spread!
- cosplay - This is a portmanteau of "costume" and "play". It refers to the act of wearing a costume around the convention space. meal. These snacks are often left exposed to everyone and everything that passes by, so it's a great place for con plague to spread!
- cosplay is not consent - This is a memorable phrase used at many convention to convey the rule that just because someone is dressed up as a character does not give anyone the right to harass or abuse that cosplayer in any way. "Cosplay is not consent" should never be considered to be any convention's complete anti-harassment policy.
- force majeure - This is the clause in most convention contracts that allows the convention to cancel without liability or financial obligation in an extraordinary event such as war, strike, riot, or pandemic. This clause played a major role during cancellations in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- dead dog - This is the end-of-con party. The dead dog party is often limited admission for only convention staff and guests of honor.
- dealer - This is a vendor that has come to the convention to sell their wares. They may sell toys, comics, art, collectables, or more. They're often located in a dealers' room or vendor hall.
- early bird - Some conventions, particularly conventions with many comic or toy vendors, will sell "early bird" tickets which allow admission into the dealers' room earlier than general attendees are admitted.
- FMV - Short for fan-made music video. These are music videos made with clips from TV shows and movies. See also AMV.
- gofer - Gofers are often the lowest level of convention staff and are unpaid volunteers. They're called "gofers" because they "go for" this and "go for" that.
- guests - This refers to a convention's guests of honor. "Guests" does not refer to convention attendees.
- info desk - The information desk is a place you can visit to ask questions about the convention.
- lanyard - A lanyard is used to hang your badge around your neck. Many cons provide them for free, but some will charge for them.
- line con - Conventions with long lines tend to earn this nickname.
- live steel - Nearly all conventions ban "live steel" as part of the weapons policy. This refers to cosplay props or weapons made out of actual metal.
- lobby con - People tend to hang out in the convention hotel's lobby and it's often referred to as "lobby con" and the act of hanging out is "lobby conning".
- masquerade - Not to be confused with masquerade ball, a "masquerade" at a convention is a costume contest. This is sometimes, but not commonly, referred to as a cosplay contest. Many masquerades include both walk-on entries (where someone simply walks on stage in a costume, does a spin, and walks off) and performances (where an individual or group presents a short performance in character).
- masquerade ball - This is a formal dance with masks. It's not a contest.
- muggles - A Harry Potter term, this refers to people not involved with the convention in any way who are often just passing by or happen to be staying in the hotel for other reasons. Also referred to as "normies" or "mundanes".
- panel - This is an event held in a room where speakers (or "panelists") will present a topic to an audience. Some panels may be lectures on a topic and others may be more of a Q&A session.
- panelist - A panelist is someone who presents a panel at a convention. They are often unpaid volunteers, particularly at fan-run conventions.
- peace bonded - Prop weapons that have been checked, meet the convention's weapons policy, and have been approved are peace bonded (often with a colored zip-tie) so that staff will know the prop has been checked and approved.
- pre-reg - Pre-reg is short for "pre-registration", the process of buying your convention admission in advance.
- program guide - The larger a convention is, the more likely they are to provide attendees with a printed program guide. This is usually a book with descriptions of panel programming, maps of the venue, guest of honor biographies, and other helpful information. Very few people actually open their program guides, much to the chagrin of staff.
- staff - These are the people that run a convention. At fan-run conventions, they're often unpaid volunteers.
- VIP - Some conventions sell "VIP" access for an additional fee. Perks of VIP access vary buy may include extra access to guests and/or autographs, priority seating for panels and events, and/or early bird access to the con.
- volunteers - These people are usually not "staff" and are often used to do menial tasks and run errands. They are almost always unpaid...except where payment is required by law. Often there is some benefit attached to volunteering such as earning free admission, food, a convention T-shirt, or maybe even a shared hotel room.
- weapons policy - For people dressing in cosplay that have prop weapons, they should check the convention's weapons policy to make sure that their prop is allowed inside the convention.
How can I get my favorite actor/artist/etc. as a guest of honor at a convention?
Your best chance to get a celebrity to be a guest at a convention is to reach out to the convention you plan to attend and ask them to invite the guest. Your request will be more likely to be taken seriously if the convention has invited similar guests in the past. You can increase the odds if you provide the convention with a method of contacting the guest (such as pointing them to the guest's official web site, Twitter account, or Facebook page.) You may also wish to provide a link to the guest's Wikipedia or IMDb page so the convention can see what the guest has done. If your are requesting the entire cast of a TV show or movie or if you have a long list of guests, your request will certainly be ignored completely.
Don't bother contacting the guest directly and asking them to be a guest at a particular convention. They will almost always say, "I'd love to go if they invite me!" The trick is getting the convention to invite the guest. Asking the guest to get themselves invited will almost never be successful, so talk to the convention directly.
I have questions for a convention. How do I contact the organizers?
AnimeCons.com is a web site that maintains a list of anime conventions. We do not run any of the conventions listed on this site! If you have a question for the organizers of a convention, you should visit that convention's own web site and contact the convention's staff directly via their site. If you cannot find contact information on the convention's web site, try contacting them via social media.