So many conventions to attend, but not enough time and money to experience them all. How do you decide which ones?
Many cosplayers know exactly which conventions they want to attend. But for those who are unsure, here’s a few different ways we choose our conventions:
Location – The most important factor in my opinion. Even a bad convention will do well if it’s located in the right area. Event organizers attempt to place their cons in areas where it’s easily accessible by public transit and by car. Most people won’t attend a convention if it’s not within their city or geographical area. (Some people won’t even attend if it’s not in their neighbourhood, although I think that’s stupid). Another aspect is if you’re an international visitor. The con is definitely more appealing location-wise if it’s near the airport (e.g. Anime North, Anime Central) or located in a major city (Anime Boston, Anime Expo).
I live in Toronto, so I’ll attend any convention within an hour drive if it looks interesting. I’m open to visiting any U.S. cons around the East Coast, but more reluctant if it’s on the West Coast, simply because of distance and more time needed to book off work.
Size of convention: Most people prefer attending large conventions full of programming, big guests and generally more activities. However, some choose to attend smaller, local conventions. Why? It’s easier to chat with attendees, the atmosphere is more laid back (whereas a big convention it can feel chaotic). And smaller cons tend to be cheaper, which brings me to my next point:
Cost and budget: Some don’t have a lot of money to spend, so they will not attend a convention, even if it’s in their hometown. For example, there’s lots of people I know who don’t attend Anime North because of the weekend pass price. Although to be fair, AN is one of the cheaper big cons out there.
That’s the advantage of a small con. At most you’ll spend $20-$30 on admission, and perhaps an extra $20 on food and merchandise. Much cheaper than a large 3-day con that may cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars when you include travel and hotel.
Programming: I’m not talking just about panels. I’m talking about the activities that the convention has to offer. Attendees love conventions that are different from the others.
For example, one of the reasons why Atomic Lollipop was so successful at the time was the programming: Burlesque show. Fire dancing. Bouncy castles. Lightsaber battle. There is no other convention that featured programming like this! It’s too bad Atomic Lollipop no longer exists.
Everyone loves great experiences, and conventions that feature unique programming are bound to get attendees every year.
Time of year: Unless it’s during Christmas holidays or a large national holiday, the date doesn’t really matter. I find most will attend any con at any time of the year, as long as it’s not during the same time as another convention.
Guests: A big-name actor/actress will draw in attendees for sure. Personally I never really cared for guests. It’s never been the deciding factor for me when choosing conventions. Especially when you have to PAY for their autograph! But I digress.
Friends – I was surprised to see so many cosplayers base their decision on their friends. Whether their friends will go, if their friends say it’s good. With that said, your enjoyment of a con should never be dependent on someone else. And you’ll be missing out on amazing conventions simply because your friends don’t agree with you, or don’t want to attend.
For instance, I love attending Anime Central in Chicago. None of my cosplay friends have Acen on their bucket list; some never heard of it. But I don’t care. Chicago is one of my favourite cities to visit, and Acen has great programming and activities.
On the other hand, all my friends go to Fan Expo, but I myself don’t attend. I hate extremely crowded conventions – something Fan Expo is well-known for. The admission fee is very expensive, and that’s not including the extra fees you pay to see the guests. So despite all my friends attending Fan Expo and having fun, I know I certainly wouldn’t.
So if I were to only attend cons where my friends went, I would have been stuck with Fan Expo – a con where I would truly not enjoy myself. And I would be missing out on Acen – a convention where I always have fun.
To summarize: Have good reasons why you want to attend any convention – especially for the larger, more expensive ones that are farther away. Being sure of yourself is important before you start deciding to book the hotels and flight tickets. Might sound crazy, but as the convention date gets closer, you’ll have doubts in your mind if you want to go. I’ve seen so many people cancel their convention plans because they’re unsure whether it was worth the money or not. So ask yourself why you want to go in the first place? Is the convention really that different from the ones in your area?
When I went to MAGFest a couple of years ago, I had a lot of reasons why I wanted to go! First off, it’s a convention dedicated for video games, and I love video games. Secondly, I enjoy traveling and sightseeing, and it was my first time in Washington, DC and the National Harbour Resort. So even if MAGFest was disappointing (which definitely was not), I still could hang around the city and have fun. That’s generally why I choose to attend out-of-state conventions that are in large cities – I get to sightsee and attend a convention!
How do you decide which cons to attend? Let me know in the comments!