Advice from a 2023 first-timer

  8 JULY 2024

Last year, a first-timer was part of my larger friend group at SDCC - which of course put me into Jane Goodall mode for all 5 days. I love seeing the Con through fresh eyes, especially because I had few expectations when I first showed up years ago, whereas the now-massive SDCC brand bestows so many expectations on new attendees. It fascinates me to see how the reality confirms (or blows to smithereens) their Comic-Con dreams. Hence the round-up of first-timer experiences I publish every year.

The below first-timer, however, distinguished himself in one important way. He went to Comic Creator Connection as other friends have in the past - but where they came away unimpressed, he (artist) met a potential collaborator there (writer) who was already active in the business. Today they are writing a graphic novel together. Success story! (He also began working with me, for which I am very grateful, so it was a score for me too.)

Here's his insightful advice for you brand new attendees.


As a new attendee to pretty much any large-scale comic/creator convention, I think it can be daunting pretty quickly. In this environment, the amount of stuff you want to do is pretty insane. My approach was to choose a thread that dictated the kinds of panels that I thought would be really valuable, but also was dealing with the subject matters that I knew to ask questions from people that had already done it. And then I wanted to get in some fun stuff as well.  

Last of all was networking, which was lower on my list because I just wasn’t sure how much time anyone had to really connect with so many people vying for attention.



Memorize the Major Building Locations

This just keeps you from getting turned around.  The best thing I think you can do is determine where your directions are so that when you see your next timeslot coming up you have a rough idea of which building at the very least it’s in.  Knowing where certain rooms are in relation to the showroom floor, or if it’s the North or South side, really shaves time off figuring out where to go.


Build a Quick List

Do this either on paper or as a separate note on your phone. Don’t use the con schedule as your guide. The loading times alone make it really difficult to effectively use and you’re stuck in your phone almost the whole time between panels.  

Personally, I’d suggest going through the schedule and make a pretty big list of everything you might possibly want to attend by day and by time. Then begin whittling down those down until you have 2-3 panels in each time slot you’re interested in going to.


Overlap Your Lists

Don’t just pick one thing that’s happening at a certain time or room. Choose several panels or workshops that might interest you that run congruently. You’ll invariably step into a room that within 5 minutes it’s clear that the content isn’t going to be helpful or what you thought it was going to be. Don’t feel bad for ducking out; you’re there for you and to learn things you’re interested in. Bailing out of a panel that isn’t any good to hit something else on your list that’s at the same time could end up being just what you wanted to know.


Read the Descriptions

I think a lot of great panels suffer from bad titles. Skim the descriptions to make sure you aren’t missing something you really wanted to learn about. <Editorial note: this is an accurate observation and valuable piece of advice.>


Pay Attention to the Panelists

Do a little research on panelists for learning opportunities based on their work.  I found a number of people I never heard of were doing things I was interested in, and through the discussion had really specific questions about what they did in their career I wouldn’t have known otherwise.  Research also helps you make sure you’re not wasting time on a panel.


Build in Some Fun

Don’t ignore what’s happening in the hotels around the venue. I missed quite a few cool events that were going on because I just was focused on what was happening in the main convention center. Making some padding to do events or workshops like tabletop gaming or whatever I think go a long way to make sure you aren’t just burned out by the end of the con.


Networking Events

Honestly, these can be exhausting. But I don’t regret doing them. I attended 2 of them and they were quite long, but I did make some good contacts out of it so it was definitely worth it. I’d suggest looking for a networking event that best matches what you want to do, or the kind of work you are interested in, and attend at least one.  If it turns out successful, maybe consider doing another one.



So there it is. From the mouths of babes: his observations on panel titles and not being afraid to walk out of a bad panel are gold. (I always feel self-conscious and guilty walking out of a panel after a few minutes.)

If this is your first San Diego Comic-Con, you'll have your own agenda, of course. Maybe you're a creative too, or a gamer, or cosplayer, or someone's significant other getting dragged along, or some kind of hybrid. So your goals and destinations will be your own. But basic advice about studying the layout and making daily goals are applicable to everyone.

That said, we have far more checklists and fireside chats and shopping lists to get through in the next 2 weeks (!) - so I hope you're not sick of people giving you advice yet. Trust me, it really will make you more powerful once you're there. Study up!

No comments:

Post a Comment