A few words on panels and programming for SDCC first-timers

3 JULY 2019

These are exciting days if you have a badge for San Diego Comic-Con - especially if it's your first time. However, the next four days are going to be extra exciting because they're 2 weeks before actual SDCC - and that's when SDCC has historically published their programming.

If you're a first-timer, or you're used to other Cons/events, I think you'll be taken aback when you see how many options there are. So, assuming you're a complete noob, here are a few words of advice.

There is far, far more programming than has been announced already - so you do want to check the official schedule.
You know this, right? But I have met first-timers before who didn't; they genuinely thought Hall H was pretty much the only line-up at the Con, which is so adorable it almost hurts. If you're that new to Comic-Con, you should know that most media coverage is Hollywood-centric and ignores the other, less glamorous, 90% of SDCC: the comic book nerds, the hardcore collectors, the MTG fanatics, the backyard astronomers and robotics geeks, the anime fans and aspiring artists and game designers - and all the panels that cater to us.

So please don't think that the mainstream SDCC river streaming through social media is the whole story. It doesn't scratch the surface. Check out the programming because it's highly likely you'll spot something that caters to your specific fandoms or niche interests.

Document everything that catches your eye - even if they conflict. 
CCI offers an app for this, but you can also create your own spreadsheet, phone list, etc. If you're working with a group to split up line waits and nab Exhibit Hall items on Preview Night, you'll especially want some kind of coordinated reference point.

I know this may sound tedious, but once you're there in the thick of the lights and thunder and roaming Wookies, it'll be difficult to remember all your panel choices, times and locations. And because some panels will be too crowded to get into, or you'll realize your 1st choice panel eliminates two others and happy hour with your friends, you'll want to keep track of your 2nd and 3rd choices as well.

Attack SDCC as a team.
Attendees are a lot like spotted hyenas. We may not be the most charismatic megafauna, but we're bold and smart and we team up to get what we want.  Like scavengers we feast on other's leftover swag; we can go for long distances without getting tired. We target both the Hall H wildebeest and the obscure Exhibit Hall booth lizard.

And we take down our prey in packs, because it brings us richer spoils. Have someone save your spot in the Ballroom 20 line while you go pick up tickets to a Horton Grand screening. Make deals and trades, be generous and helpful. There are so many panels and tournaments and waits running concurrently that it's very hard to do it all alone.

Factor in travel time and line waits when you plan your schedule.
As a first-timer, you probably have no idea when to get in line for the Batwoman pilot or how far room 28DE is from room 7 or what a fulfillment room even is for that matter. You won't know how long it takes to go get a late breakfast at Broken Yolk and come back to the convention center. So for now, just assume that you won't be able to hop between back-to-back panels except in rare cases - that you'll need to build in some padding between events. The convention center is easy to navigate, but it will be crowded and some stairways/escalators/halls can be blocked for mysterious staff reasons.

Just something to keep in mind as you ponder lines and your choices.


Finally, don't write off panels as a whole because you think they're boring.
For one, they're a chance to put your feet up and escape the frenzy and fever of SDCC for an hour.  For another, they're a great way to expand your nerd universe and discover new comic books, TV shows, upcoming game releases and such. And panels aren't necessarily dry - many are interactive or instructive and some get quite boisterous. Just putting that out there, in case you assume the only worthy panels are in Ballroom 20, Indigo Ballroom or Hall H.

We'll see what tomorrow brings. Have a fun 4th of July Eve.

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