Thursday, July 10, 2014

San Diego Comic Con Tips & Tricks Part 3: Schedules & Stuff


What the Hell Should I do? 

The Panel Schedules: 

The countdown has begun, and the official San Diego Comic-Con programming schedule will be online soon. It usually goes up about two weeks before SDCC. They are posted one day at a time (Wednesday and Thursday panels are announced two Thursdays prior to the start of Comic Con, Friday is announced two Fridays prior, etc.).

You’ll find the official program on the San Diego Comic-Con site. [link] There’s an app you can use to plan out your schedule on their website. You can even upload it to your smartphone and Google calendar. 

There is a preliminary list of panels on the Unofficial San Diego Comic Con Blog. [link

The schedule is big. I mean HUGE. There are too many panels for one person to see them all. The options are limitless and daunting. Which can make trying to figure out your own personal schedule a little intimidating. It’s important to have a plan of attack or you’re going to get so overwhelmed you’ll never leave your hotel room.


I use a three level system to prioritize my schedule. Top level is my must see (I’m willing to camp out or sit in line for hours for this panel). Mid-level is a panel I’d like to see. Min-level is a panel I’d enjoy seeing, but I’m not going to cry if I miss it. Using this system I construct three panel schedules for each day. I make them in a document that I keep on my smart phone (thanks to Google docs). This allows me the flexibility to know my options while on the move in and around the convention center.

Other Stuff

To this daily list I add offsite events, signings and other interesting things I can see or do beside panels. Not to mention any items I’d like to check out or buy from the Exhibit hall booths. Comic Con is far more than the panels going inside the convention center. Downtown San Diego goes geeky for the whole weekend and there are many FREE events and activities to be enjoyed. 

The Exhibit Hall
You can find a map of the Exhibit Hall map and list of all the exhibitors on the main SDCC site. [link

It’s huge and equally daunting as the panel schedule. I don’t recommend trying to tackle it all in one day. In fact, it’s better if you walk the floor a few times in small bursts to get a feel for things you want to see or buy and then come back later.

Tip: Check out the Exhibit hall when popular panels are going on. Everyone will be in line or in Hall H/Ballroom 20, leaving the floor a little less crowded.

SDCC Exclusives

These are special collectables/arts/items being offered exclusively at comic con either for sale or for free. No matter what you like there is likely to be at least one or more items you might want. The Unofficial SDCC blog tracks all the SDCC exclusives. [link]

While the temptation to BUY ALL THE THINGS is ever present I caution you to do your research and look carefully at the fine print. A lot of these “exclusives” will be available online or in stores later in the year. So unless you have a lot of money and are a “have to have it now” kind of collector, most of these items can wait. Though it doesn’t hurt to spoil yourself a little. I always buy myself one collectable item I just have to have. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive, just special for you. 

There is also lots of free swag to be had at many of the booths. Again you can find info on them at the Unofficial SDCC blog and the official SDCC site, but also keep your eyes and ears open when you’re on the floor. If there’s a line join it and ask the people in it what it is for. A lot of the time it’s for something free. 

Important note: Only big name booths have free stuff. Many of the other smaller vendors are there to sell stuff. So don’t ask every booth what’s for free. Go to the big names you know (Marvel, Random House, HBO, Lionsgate, etc) and grab all the free swag. Don’t forget to browse the smaller vendors booths and spend your money there too.

Swag Etiquette
Remember Wheaton’s Law “Don’t Be A Dick!” Be polite. Remember the people at the booths are human beings too. They’re working a job with long hours and very few breaks. Say Thank You no matter what free stuff you get. Don’t demand more or throw a fit if they run out. It’s not their fault. Most booths have a set schedule and rules around how and when they hand out swag. They could get in trouble for not following those rules. So don’t ask them to do it.

Special Note: There are often models in costume at big name booths. Many people call them “booth babes.” I hate that name, I prefer to call them models or just ask their name. They are their to draw people to the booth and will happily pose for pictures when asked. Remember many of them are fans themselves, so don’t try to check their geek credentials. Most are not in charge of the booth or involved in giveaways. So don’t harass them for free stuff. 

Book Signings and Autographs

There are books signings and celebrities autograph signing scheduled through out the convention. For details you can check the SDCC site. [link] They will post a schedule close the start of the con. The Unofficial SDCC blogs has a handy guide too. [link

Book Signings & ARCs
For book signings go to the publishers booths and ask about their schedule. Most will either have a paper copy to hand you or will share it with you happily. Some even have it posted on their websites. The publisher booths always have free stuff: bookmarks, pins/badges, temporary tattoos and of course free books. 

Book Booth Etiquette 
Many of the booths have books on display, but DO NOT just grab them. Always ask about what ARCs or free books are available. Be nice and thank them for whatever you get. Remember the people minding the booth are not only in the business, but they love books too. I like to talk with them and ask for recommendations. I get the BEST book recs from people working the publishers booths.

Autographs
There are celebrity signings going on all weekend too. Some are at booths and some are in special areas. They all have specifically scheduled time and rules. 

Please note: Some of the autograph signings cost money. The price is usually posted and is not negotiable.

Autograph Etiquette
If you’re involved in one be prepared to wait awhile for a few minutes or seconds with the celebrity. There are a lot of people who want that same “moment” you’re hoping for, and they’ve all been standing in line for hours too. When you get your chance with the celebrity keep your words brief, take your picture quickly and move on.

Tip: While you wait in line coordinate with your friends to make a game plan. Decide on who will hold phones/cameras for the pictures and who will hold your stuff while you pose. If you’re by yourself make friends with other people in line and help each other out. Also use the time to think of what you’ll say to keep it brief and impactful. Also don’t forget to breath.

If you’re not involved in the signing don’t loiter around. At big signings big crowds can become a problem, they slow down foot traffic and it’s a considered a fire hazard. Security will usually let you know to move on, but don’t be that person who has to get yelled at. If it’s a big name celebrity at a big name booth (Tom Hiddleston at the Marvel booth) snap a quick picture and move on. 
However, if it’s a lesser known celebrity at a small vendor’s booth signing autographs for money DO NOT take pictures. Most often someone will tell you about this, but sometimes they’re busy running the booth. Part of the draw of paying for a celebrity’s autograph is to also get your picture with them. Taking their picture “for free” is considered rude and taking away from money they could be making.

You’ll find the official program on the San Diego Comic-Con site. [link] There’s an app you can use to plan out your schedule on their website. You can even upload it to your smartphone and Google calendar. 

There is a preliminary list of panels on the Unofficial San Diego Comic Con Blog. [link

The schedule is big. I mean HUGE. There are too many panels for one person to see them all. The options are limitless and daunting. Which can make trying to figure out your own personal schedule a little intimidating. It’s important to have a plan of attack or you’re going to get so overwhelmed you’ll never leave your hotel room.

I use a three level system to prioritize my schedule. Top level is my must see (I’m willing to camp out or sit in line for hours for this panel). Mid-level is a panel I’d like to see. Min-level is a panel I’d enjoy seeing, but I’m not going to cry if I miss it. Using this system I construct three panel schedules for each day. I make them in a document that I keep on my smart phone (thanks to Google docs). This allows me the flexibility to know my options while on the move in and around the convention center.


Offsite Events

There are a ton of offsite events going on all weekend long. There are even events that happen before Comic Con officially starts. So even if you don’t want to wait in lines all day, and all night, for the big must-see panel, you can still find stuff to do. 

James H. Hay hosts a Facebook page for SDCC Offsite facebook events. There are posts for everything from offsite book signings to night clubs events where Elijah Wood is DJing. That’s right, Frodo Freakin’ Baggins is spinning records at Comic Con

The Unofficial SDCC Blog also has a very useful Offsite Calendar. [link]

NerdHQ is one of the biggest offsite events. Nerd HQ is set up in Petco Park and has video games, food and alcoholic beverages (you have to pay for), but they also host special panels with tons of celebrities. These panels are announce on the day they happen, usually via the NerdHQ site and Twitter account. You buy tickets on the site and they go fast, so watch them like a hawk.

The easiest way to find offsite events is to just walk around. There is always something going on. This year there’s a Godzilla statue setup outside the convention center (behind Hall H) available for fans to get their picture with the classic monster. On Thursday night MTV is hosting a huge, FREE, party in Petco Park featuring live music, food and celebrity appearances. In fact, there is always cool stuff happening in the Petco Park parking lot. Take a break from the crowds at the convention center, get some fresh air and sunshine, and see what free swag and fun activities you can find in downtown San Diego, most don’t even require you to have a Comic Con badge. 

Don’t Forget to Take a Break 

Get out of the convention center from time to time. Check out the restaurants in Gaslamp district. Remember you’re here to have fun. 

Sit down and have a margarita. 






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