Safety and Health Tips for Convention-Going

I’ve probably written this once or twice before, but there’s no telling where that was, or when it was, and with Dragon Con rushing toward us like a runaway freight train, I thought it couldn’t hurt to give some of the better points a repeat.

Let’s start by saying this – I love conventions. I really do. They are hard work for both the organizers and the guests, and certainly for the hotel staff, but if done right they can be great places to get work done, meet new friends, reconnect with old friends, and have incredible, memorable experiences. Dragon Con is an amazing con, run almost totally by volunteers, with attendance in the tens of thousands! For a lot of us, it’s the biggest convention we do each year. And even if we do shows like NY ComiCon or SDCC, Dragon is an animal all its own. So here are some tips for properly enjoying Dragon Con, which may be extrapolated to any other con in the world.

1) Bring food and water. Not necessarily everywhere, and I don’t suggest toting a picnic basket through the Marriott, but I plan on taking a box of Pop-Tarts and some Lance crackers, plus a pair of empty water bottles. Breakfast can get expensive, so if you take your own Pop-Tarts, and some small snacks, you can save a ton on food through the weekend. Plus you never know when you’re going to miss a meal, or be up longer than any food place downtown is serving, so it’s a good idea to have some late-night snacks around. And water is crucial. There are water stations all over the con, USE THEM! Why pay $4.00 for a Coke when you can refill on water for free? I’ll certainly be drinking my fair share of sodas and other unnamed beverages during the weekend, but my backpack has two water bottle pouches on it, and I plan to make use of them.

2) Make a plan. There’s a ton of things to do at a con, especially at one as big as Dragon. So take some time to go over the app and the schedule beforehand, and highlight some things you definitely want to do. I try to do at least one thing each year that I’ve never done before. This year, I’m going to try to make the Saturday night dance, because my friend DJ Spider is spinning. I’ve also triple-booked myself with panels that I want to attend in some time slots, so which one I go to will depend on which hotel I’m in when they are ready to start. And be sure to save time for at least one walk through the Walk of Fame, if just to see famous people for a minute.

3) Stay flexible. I know, this seems to contradict the point above, but some of the best things in life are spontaneous. Even if you really wanted to see the third Supernatural panel, maybe your friend just heard about this awesome room party, and you want to go check that out. Go check out the party! Stay loose, and have fun!

4) Stay together. I’m a big dude. And I look like an extra off Sons of Anarchy. Nobody messes with me. My friend Andrea is less than five feet tall and if she tips the scale at a hundred pounds it’s because she’s soaking wet in combat boots with a heavy backpack on. There are people who look at her and see “target.” Frankly, there are people who look at me and see the same thing, but there are a lot fewer of them. Please don’t go anywhere in downtown Atlanta alone. Especially after dark. I write this for the women out there, but I don’t wander around any metropolitan area alone after dark. There are just too many whack jobs and assholes out there. Remember the buddy system, and text people to let them know where you are, where you’re going, and when you should arrive.

5) Be careful of where that drink came from. I have a friend who got roofied at a con. He (note gender-specific pronoun, men are not immune) took a drink offered to him by someone he didn’t know at a room party. A little while later he realized he was much drunker than one drink should have made him, and he got a friend to help him back to his room. Fortunately nothing bad happened to him, he got to his room safely, but things could have gone very poorly. This goes along with remembering the buddy system, but please don’t accept drinks from strangers.

6) Don’t stand by and allow harassment to happen. Fandom should be a safe environment. Conventions should be the place where we let our freak flag fly. Don’t let somebody ruin someone else’s good time because they are an asshole. If you see someone harassing someone else, get security or step in and stop it. Your choice may depend entirely upon your level of armament and your size.

7) Make a new friend. I do this at a lot of cons. I try to make friends with people I don’t know. It makes my life richer.

8) Give yourself more time to get from place to place than you think you need. I already know that I will be leaving my autograph session early, because I cannot guarantee that I will make it from the bowels of the Marriott to the panel room in the Westing in 30 minutes and not be a sweaty, drippy mess. So I will only do about a 30-40 minute autograph session. I know that I can get from the Marriott to the Hyatt in 30 minutes with plenty of time to spare, but not the Westin or the Sheraton. If I’m lucky I won’t set foot in the Sheraton all weekend. Nothing against the hotel, it’s just in the wrong location for me and none of my panels are there.  Especially from Friday at 5 to Sunday at 10, traveling through the Marriott and the gerbil trails connecting the hotels can be maddening. Allow extra time.

9) Obey Rule 125. No matter if you party all night and sleep all day, or panel all day and sleep human hours, make sure you follow Rule 125 of con attendance. Rule 125 – Each day must contain at least (1) shower, (2) meals and (5) hours of sleep. This will increase your (and everyone else’s) enjoyment of the con.

10) Wash your hands. I do a lot of fist-bumps at cons, because people are gross. And I don’t have time in my life right now for con crud. So don’t be offended if I fist-bump, it just cuts down on germs. I also wash my hands a lot.

11) Have fun! This is a work trip for me, but I’m still going to have a good time. I’ll be in the Westin lobby bar most evenings. If you see me, feel free to come up and say hello. I might not have a ton of time to give you, but I’ll share what I’ve got. And I’ll have books for sale, so you can buy my shit!

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