Anthrocon’s panel and events schedule has been released, so what better time to start thinking about what you’ll be doing at conventions. Some people come to conventions just to hang with friends, but for most of us there are a lot of panels and other events to do and see. It can be a bit overwhelming, especially when there are multiple events that you want to be at happening at the same time. Time travel is not permitted at conventions, so you’ll need to learn how to schedule yourself.
Even if you aren’t going to Anthrocon, check out the online event schedule for reference. There will be a quiz later.
Most conventions officially begin with the Opening Ceremonies. This is held by the lead staff for the convention and its chairman. At the opening ceremonies they will introduce who is running the con but also introduce the convention charity, any Guest or Guests of Honor, and any other important information that you’ll need to know. This includes any major changes to programming, important contact information or changes to the convention rules. It’s not essential to go to the opening ceremony, but it’s useful and can help jump start your convention.
You may notice some events before the Opening Ceremonies, but things don’t get into full swing until afterwards. Panels and events begin, and the Dealer’s Den and Artist’s Alley open soon after.
For first-time convention goers there is one panel at most conventions that we suggest to hit: Your First Convention. This panel will cover some of the basics that we’ve already talked about in previous articles, but will also go more in depth about the kind of things you can do at that specific convention and offer more con specific tips and pointers. It’ll help you to have a more smooth and enjoyable convention overall.
Artist’s Alley and the Dealer’s Den are where many people spend a good deal of their time at the convention. Both run throughout the prime time afternoon and evening hours, and provide a good way to blow your hard-earned convention cash. Artist’s Alley is where artists can sign up to have table space to offer commissions. This is usually free to artists, but space is limited, being “first come, first served” or having a lottery system. If you are interested in Artist Alley space, you should definitely check out the convention website beforehand, in case you need to pre-apply. Dealer’s Den (a.k.a. “Exhibit Hall,” “Sales Floor,” etc.) is where merchants have paid in advance to have a table or stall where they can offer their wares. Some dealers offer commissions as well, but they will mostly have pre-made items for sale.
Panels take place throughout the entire convention. Many of these are informational panels, such as learning how to commission or care for a fursuit or cosplay, to how to write or draw characters and worlds, but there are also just as many social and entertainment panels. Meet and greet panels are focused around certain sub-fandoms or professions, such as a canine meet and greet for people with dog fursonas.
Many conventions also host live entertainment. Depending on what the convention can book there may be live musicians, live comedians, or convention goers will be the entertainment themselves. Game events such as “Whose Lion is it Anyway” are popular and have a lot of audience participation. There can also be open-mic comedy events, games, and furry-specific traditions, such as the much-anticipated Fursuit Parade, which features fursuiters walking the convention floor to strut their stuff.
Want to socialize more or get your groove on? Conventions typically have some type of dance going on either throughout the day, or later at night when panels start to wind down. If you’re really confident about your dancing ability you can check out the dance competitions. For furry conventions there are fursuit dance competitions that you can try out for, and some have a dance competition called Floor Wars, where fursuit and non-fursuiter competitors dance off against each other.
If you just want to relax and talk with friends, conventions typically have a con suite (or “Zoo”). This is a place set aside where people can sit, relax and just socialize. There may also be snacks available, if the convention provides them.
But what if you’re not much for socializing? You may find video game rooms where consoles have been set up and games are available to borrow out. There may also be card or board game rooms set up, and you can usually find at least one Cards Against Humanity game at any time of the day at larger conventions.
The things that you can do at a convention are not limited to what you can find in the panel schedule. There tend to be unofficial meets or get-togethers throughout the convention, and room parties are a common thing. But anything that is not on the official schedule is not technically part of the convention, and so go to them at your own risk.
After three to four days of exploring the convention and hanging out with friends, it all comes down to the Closing Ceremonies. There the convention staff all get together again to go over the major events of the convention, staff changes, promotions, and other business, announce how much money was raised for the convention charity, list the stats of how many people came to the convention, and announce any information they have about their next event.
But that’s not the end of the convention! Although the panels are usually all over by the end of the Closing Ceremony, and people will start to head home, some will stick around until the day after. Social rooms may remain open for the remainder of the day, and the last event, known as the Dead Dog Party or Dead Dog Dance (depending on the venue), often goes on well into the morning hours, where tired con-goers may shuffle on until they drop.
Part of a good convention experience is knowing ahead of time where you want to be and when. It makes the convention go smoother for yourself, and lets you focus on the important part; having fun! Curious about a type of panel or looking for suggestions? What are your favorite types of panels, and why? Leave them in the comments below!
And if you’re stuck looking for something to do at Anthrocon this year, come by DLCC 317, Friday the 30th at 4PM where myself and several members of the ProudToBeAFurry.org team will be hosting our first panel! Hope to see you there!