Geek Etiquette: Convention Etiquette

The Geeky Hostess is gonna help you get your manners on! Each Monday, we’ll focus on a topic of etiquette. We’ll take a look at the classic rules (using Emily Post as a guide), and then evaluate the rules for our daily lives, creating a guide to “Geek Etiquette.” Have an etiquette question or topic suggestion? Email!

Emerald City Comicon, Norwescon, PAX East, and tons of other conventions are just around the corner. Are you ready? Here are some tips to make sure you have a safe and fun time without pissing anyone else off.

  • Get Some Sleep. Conventions often turn into an all day/all night adventure, which means you should stockpile your sleeping hours the few days before the convention. Try to get at least 8 hours, and eat well and exercise while you’re at it. You’ll feel better about those convention nachos and 10 hours on your feet if you’re prepared.
  • Drink Plenty of Water. Water will keep you feeling full, hydrated, less sluggish, and less hungover. It will prevent you from getting sick. It will make you popular when your friends don’t have any. Always make sure you have some on  hand! Water can be expensive and rare at conventions, so bring your own bottle or mark all of the water fountains on your convention map.
  • Wear Deodorant. Let’s get real for a moment. Geeks have gotten a bad rap for being smelly. Geeks aren’t smelly. Thousands of people stuck in one room that are on their feet all day and seeing really cool things that make them sweat with excitement are smelly. Including me. Wear deodorant. You may even consider picking up a tiny travel version to keep in your bag. Alternatively, don’t wear too much perfume/cologne. A lot of people have allergies.
  • Bring a Bag/Backpack. You’re going to be bringing a lot of stuff with you, and probably collecting even more at the con. Bring a sturdy bag/backpack/purse with you that you’re comfortable holding for a while. You may consider bringing a smaller portable bag to fill up once your main bag is full.
  • Bring Antibacterial Gel. Conventions, like airports, are a breeding ground for germs. If you’re at a convention where you’re touching the same thing as everyone else (think of the game controllers at PAX…), antibac gel is a must. You can find travel sizes at any drugstore, or you can pick up a nice-smelling one from Bath and Body Works.
  • Bring A Charger. Your phone/camera/DS/iPad WILL die. Be prepared with a charger or extra battery.
  • Bring Something to Keep You Busy. If you’re planning on trying out the newest game, attending that sweet panel, or shaking the hand of your favorite celebrity, you’re looking at waiting in line. Bring something like a book, Kindle, DS, or even a card game to keep you busy in line. If you bring a game that plays more than one or two people, you may even make friends with those who are in line with you!
  • Dress Appropriately. Make sure you’re comfortable at all times. This is no time for high heels. Wear comfortable shoes you can walk/stand in and dress in layers. These hiking shoes in review are as comfortable as shoes of those kind can get. I’d recommend a fun, geeky tank top or t-shirt with a sweater/sweatshirt/light jacket in case it gets cold. Cosplay is great if you want to get a lot of photos taken, but you may want to be prepared with a comfortable outfit to change into in case you get uncomfortable or want to go incognito for a bit. If you’re at the convention as Press or plan on talking more seriously with a celeb or convention representative, don’t cosplay. As awesome as you are, people may not take you as seriously. I’d recommend picking one day to do cosplay, and spend your other days wandering around in normal apparel.
  • Know how to talk to the celebs. Celebs are people too. Seriously! If you’re meeting a celeb, feel free to introduce yourself, tell them what you like about their work, and then allow them to move on to the next person. You will probably not end up their best friend, and probably won’t be able to take them out for drinks after. Whatever you do, avoid acting like a stalker. I once met Nicholas Brendan at a con and told him that his character on Buffy reminded me so much of my husband (then fiance), that it felt like I was engaged to him. Although I meant to tell a funny story, the stalker alarms were definitely going off. Learn from my mistake.
  • Take Plenty of Pictures! These pictures will end up being your Facebook profile pics for the next year. Take tons of them! Everyone at the con wants sweet pics, and most people will be willing to take a pic for you. Don’t be afraid to ask! If you take a great picture of someone else, ask them for their email address so you can pass it off to them later. If you see an adorable child in cosplay, make sure you ask their parents’ permission before taking their pic. You don’t want to be the creepy person photographing children.
  • Children First. This convention may be their first foray into geek culture. Let them have a good time! If they can’t see, let them go in front of you so they can. If the DC booth only has one free comic left, let the kid have it. They’ll be learning about con behavior based on how they’re treated; help create a generation of thoughtful attendees.
  • Set a Spending Limit. Comicons can be a scary place for your wallet. There will be limited edition art, sweet t-shirts, books and more to purchase. Decide before you attend how much you want to spend, and keep an eye on that limit. Some people just take out that much in cash, and will only use that at the con.
  • It’s Free Stuff, Not the Antidote. I’ve been pushed away and practically run over for free stuff at cons. I’ve heard of children getting toys ripped out of their hands. GUYS. STOP IT. It may seem cool in the moment, but what are you going to do with that tiny plastic tank or that XXL branded t-shirt once you get home? Assess the free stuff being handed out practically and only take what you’ll actually use.
  • WWWWD? If all else fails, remember the words of the wise Wil Wheaton: Don’t be a dick.

Do you have any tips I missed? Leave them in the comments!

What conventions will you be at? I’ll be premiering Job Hunters at Emerald City Comicon this Sunday, April 1st. Check out our panel in room 2AB at 2pm!

The next week, I’ll be speaking on some panels at Norwescon. Find me at “Gaming and Community,” “How to Sell Yourself,” “Privacy in the Age of the Internet,” and “New Media DIY: Video.”


  1. Awesome advice, as always! Thanks for this, I espescially like the ‘how to talk to celebs’. Though I get so nervous sometimes, I’m not sure if I’d pull it off very well. I know I’ve rehearsed exactly what I wanted to say in line before and still didn’t get it quite right! I think you might’ve missed a tip though, something about Wolverine claws and throats, but not sure on that one 🙂

  2. Ha! So true. No matter how cute, protection against Wolverines should be taken.

    And for celebs, as long as you’re earnest and mean well, they’ll pick up on it. Just be conscious of the amount of time you have with them and the fact that you’re one of hundreds they’ll be seeing that day.

  3. I attend a lot of wine tasting events and all of your advice here applies. (Well, except for Children First, since these are 21+ events.) Great tips; thank you for sharing them.

  4. Oh goodness! Children definitely shouldn’t come first at wine events. 🙂

  5. In general, celebrities don’t want to hear your crazy stories; simply telling them you appreciate their work (“I loved you in…”) will suffice. Nathan Fillian (Captain Mal Reynolds, Captain Hammer) has asked that fans just nod once and say, “Cap’m” and he’ll know what they mean.

  6. If you’re getting comics signed (at a signing or at an artist’s booth in artist alley) get those books OUT of the bags and boards before you get up to the creator.

    Nothing more maddening than watching some geek fumble with carefully removing 30 or 40 bagged and boarded comics and you’re stuck behind ’em.

  7. That is an ADORABLE picture!

  8. I love this article. I use a travel organizer, for makeup and jewelry, for my chargers. It has various pouches and snaps close. It save from yanking one cable out of your backpack and ending up with it’s entire contents on the floor.

  9. Corrections and additional tips:
    Antibacterial gels are a poor alternative to simply washing your hands with soap and the overuse of these gels are a hazard to all of us-
    Remember there is such a thing as GOOD bacteria!
    Wear Deodorant should probably be TAKE A SHOWER as this tends to be more of an issue than simply sweating. Also consider switching to a stronger sports/ athletic deodorant for the convention as you may getting more of a workout than your normal, day to day brand can handle.
    EAT RIGHT, like a marathoner who goes to a out of town marathon, a convention goer risks exposing themselves to food they are not used to and becoming ill because of it. Make sure to keep track of what you are eating, if you are eating, it’s easy to forget to eat when you get to running around a lot and that bag of candy does not equal good energy.
    LINE TALK, I disagree with your suggestion of standing in line with a DS as some how being a good way to meet people. A better way to meet people in line is to just start up a conversation. Ask them what brings them to this line, do they like the game/ a panelist? Just be friendly, we need a lot more of this at conventions.
    DONT TAKE PICTURES!!! Okay don’t read this the wrong way but there are some things you just shouldn’t take pictures of. Going back to the “don’t be an ass” rule, it may be funny to you to post a picture of someone doing something stupid, in a fail cosplay, whatever, but keep in mind that that photo can hurt the person. The same can be said of photos of you! If you don’t want the boss seeing a photo of it, don’t take a photo of it, or smarter, don’t do it.

  10. Love it! I used a lot of hand sanitizer while at Comicon today – lots of people! That photo is great; cute kid.

  11. Beth, the travel organizer for cables is a fantastic idea!

    Alice, definitely, everything (especially hand sanitizer) should be used in moderation. It’s great for when you can’t get to a bathroom for a while, but washing hands is always the preferred method.

    A DS is great if you have games that you can play with others–I know many people bring theirs to PAX just for the opportunity to challenge other people in line. Otherwise, strike up a conversation or bring out a fun card game!

    Thanks for the additional suggestions all–keep them coming!

  12. Better to have a book, a game, or a pack of cards available if you need them, than to get stuck in the one spot in line where there’s no one interested in talking with you and not have anything to do. Sometimes the people around you are already in groups, and they’re engrossed in their own thing, which may be completely uninteresting to you.

    A great card game for any crowd is “SET.” It’s simple enough that you can use it to entertain the bored child in the family behind you, yet challenging enough that the Mensan ahead of you is probably quite fond of it!

    Along the lines of showering and not wearing too much perfume, if you smoke, do it at least fifteen feet from the doorway, *downwind* from the doorway, so that people who are allergic, have asthma, have emphysema, etc. can continue to breathe. And stay outside for a few minutes after you finish smoking, so that the scent isn’t clinging to you quite so strongly before you return to the convention. Many of us who have trouble with tobacco smoke *will* get sick standing next to someone who smells strongly of tobacco, even if they’re not actively smoking just then. It doesn’t matter if you think we *should* be okay with it, what matters is how our bodies react, and we don’t have any control over that. Please, have pity. You could ruin someone’s entire day if you set off an attack!

  13. Pingback: It’s Emerald City Comicon! | The Geeky Hostess

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