When Cons Go Bad: Dealing with a Disappointing Convention

At least your convention will never be as disappointing as Dashcon.

When you’ve gone to enough conventions, you’re bound to have an experience that just doesn’t live up to the hype. Maybe you don’t know anyone or no one is asking for commissions. Then to make matters worse, everyone around you is gushing about the ‘GREATEST CON EVAR’ while you’re sitting alone drowning your sorrows in a cold pizza from the cafe. It’s the sad reality, and sometimes can’t be helped. But often it can!

We here at ProudToBeAFurry.org prefer to look on the bright side of things, but sometimes looking for the positive first involves dealing with the negative. So over  a few articles, we will be going over conventions that can go bad– not just attending, but also disappointing experiences that artists and dealers might have. But we’ll also tell you how to avoid them, and what you can do to improve your con-going experience!

In the few years I’ve been going to conventions, I’ve had experiences that ran the gamut from truly epic to “Why am I even here?” In the moment it may have felt like there was nothing I could do to turn the experience into something positive, and sometimes there are things that can’t be helped. But more often than not there was something that I could do to actually make things better for myself. Sometimes we need to change our perception of what to expect at a convention to make all the difference.

The No Friend Zone

Have you ever been to a convention where you just don’t know anyone? In a world of furry social media where it feels like we know practically everyone, it can be a humbling experience to come to a furry convention and not know a single person! It can also be a very boring one. Not knowing anyone at the convention means that you’re probably not going to have anyone  to talk to when you want, to share stories, or to wander through the Dealer’s Den with. It can be one of the most difficult and even heartbreaking issues that will instantly bring a convention into the realm of being a dud.

No one wants to be the furry sitting all alone at a convention. But when your friends are all hundreds of miles away, what can you do? The default answer that most people will give you is “Make some friends!” or “Go volunteer!” But that’s not always easy, especially for introverts and shy people. It gets worse when you check your social media only to watch people you follow having the time of their lives. So what can you do?

First things first, put the phone away. Many of us have become conditioned to check our social media regularly, even when we’re at a social function. When you put the phone away, you don’t know what the people you follow are doing! For all you know, they might have gotten into a sewing competition. This helps you focus on your own experience, rather than what others are doing. With the phone away, you also notice more around you. You may hear an open conversation to join, or you could spot someone interesting you’d like to talk to. One thing is for sure, you certainly become more approachable without your eyes on the screen.

My favorite cure for this zone is the Game Room. Most furry conventions have a room for video games and/or board games, and there is usually something always going on in them. From card games to board games, it’s a great place to not only sit down and relax away from the crowds, but also meet people. And of course, there are the games. One of the greatest ice breakers you will often find in these rooms is Cards Against Humanity: not only will you draw a crowd quickly once the game comes out, but you will connect with other players at the table as you try to weird each other out. (Nothing makes friends faster than a shared laugh!)

The No Fursuit Zone

Fursuits are a prominent, flashy, and cuddly portion of the fandom. On Twitter, pictures of fursuits get dozens if not hundreds of likes. At conventions, their presence is only more noticable! Many interesting panels and events are even focused on fursuits. Sometimes it can even feel like everyone around you has gotten their own fursuit, or are planning to get one. Then when they have it, they’re swept away in some sort of mystical adventure full of parties and fawning furries.

Here we see an updog.
Sometimes your con experiences are just flat!

Well, not exactly.

But it can easily feel like you’re the odd-fur out when you don’t have a fursuit at a convention, especially when you have many fursuiting friends. To the non-suiter, it can appear as though fursuiters not only get easy and immediate attention, but get invitations to all the best parties and enjoy some sort of ‘secret fursuit club’. Some people believe that they must have a fursuit in order to go to a convention, and that not having one means that the convention will not be fun.

However, fursuits are not the end-all of conventions. Most convention goers don’t even have a fursuit, or don’t want one, yet still manage to have a good time. The misconception that fursuits are essential for conventions likely comes in part from stories of shy people being able to come out of their shell due to fursuits. If you’re shy, and don’t like to show your face, there are also other options. Many dealers have items that will cover your face, such as bandanas with animal faces, or other inexpensive half masks.

There are also many other things to consider about fursuits at conventions in general. Fursuiters have a difficult time attending long panels due to the heat, and often need to leave long events early. They may also tire easily due to the stress of fursuiting, and spend most of their time relaxing rather than being at any non-existent club meetings. When you’re in a fursuit, it can be difficult to attend gaming events or to be truly social with other people, and could make it difficult to connect with friends. There are positives to fursuiting, but don’t forget about the negatives before you consider them to be essential.

The Broken Promises Zone

Okay, so you have friends at the convention that you want to spend a lot of time with. You may have even set up a Telegram or Discord group to help organize! You schedule and plan, and make sure that you have everything set up so that you get to be around them as much as possible. Then when the time comes? … No one shows up. Everyone is off doing something else, sleeping off the night before, or are just incommunicado. That’s okay, stuff happens, right? So you try again. And again. And again…

Excitement turns into frustration and frustration turns into anger. Where has everyone gone? Didn’t they promise that they would hang out with you? What’s more important than connecting with friends and enjoying a good time? Before you know it, you’ve fallen into the Broken Promises Zone. Nothing is coming together, everyone is scattered to the four corners of the convention, and the convention is completely ruined.

At small conventions, it is easy to communicate with friends and get together. But as you start going to larger and larger conventions, friends begin to drift apart. The times that you spent with one another seem fewer and far between. But before you blame your friends, you have to keep in mind the size of conventions and the sheer enormity of the number of people in a small space. Your friend may want to spend as much time together with you as they can, but at the same time they want to spend time with this friend, and that friend, and they want to hit that panel…

Plans can really make a small convention go smoother. Larger conventions are a completely different beast. When considering plans, don’t just focus on one person or one event. Large conventions have many things going on at any time, and you’re more than likely to have more than one friend hanging around. Keep your schedule flexible, with plans penciled in rather than trying to etch them in stone. Your friends have their own plans as well, and try as you might to get them to sync, many times they just won’t. And that’s okay! If you keep your plans open, you may just find yourself swept off into something just as cool that you didn’t even anticipate.

Editor’s Note: After nearly twenty years of going to conventions, I’ve found this Herding Cats aspect of it causes the most frustration, and the most hurt feelings. But I’ve also found that the best approach is to do your best to come at it without expectations. Instead of finding The Perfect Friend™ to go to an event with, go with whoever’s right there at that moment. Panels run long. Dinner lasts until midnight. People’s phone batteries die.

Attend the convention you are actually at, not the one in your head, and you will open up a whole new world of possibilities.

The Conclusion Zone

Conventions are hyped up a lot on social media. It always seems like furries are having the time of their lives! But when you don’t have the same experiences, it can really put someone off of conventions entirely. It can be difficult to admit, yet sometimes we need to adjust our own perceptions of conventions so that we can enjoy them better. Only then can you really figure out what makes conventions the most fun for you.

There are other things that can ruin a convention though! Stay tuned for further articles as we cover things you can’t control, as well as issues that may ruin a convention for dealing.

In the meantime, what are some of your own dud convention experiences that required you to change your own perception? How did it work out for you? Leave them below in the comments!