San Diego Comic-Con was held recently and it got us thinking: the biggest problem when you’re attending an expo that huge is that it seems impossible to cover all your bases and see everything you want to see. To help out with that, we put together a checklist for those preparing for a major expo (like GenCon at the end of the month) to ensure you get the absolute most out of your experience.
The goal is to be extremely efficient—to get in a high volume of stuff but to also enjoy it. And that, friends, requires planning. Here’s our contribution to your expo experience.
Go through the program in detail.
Get access to the program asap, and note what you want to see and do in three tiers for each time slot: tier one are the most interesting, first-choice things; tier two is contingency in case the tier one events are full, cancelled, or boring; and tier three is contingency in case the tier two option doesn’t work out either.
Know the rules.
It’s worthwhile to know the rules about things like picture-taking and what you can and can’t bring onto the premises, if only for the sake of not getting tossed out or turned away at the door.
Sign up early.
Is there anything you want to do that requires or allows early registration? Do it. Now.
Make a bucket list of things that aren’t scheduled events and/or aren’t listed specifically on the program.
Is there a game designer you want to meet? An autograph you want? Something you want a photo of? Nail these down in order of priority so you don’t forget.
Download the conference app.
Get the lay of the land.
Look at the venue map beforehand, and if you arrive early, have a quick recon to figure out what’s likely to be where. This just saves you the hassle of getting lost among the crowds on the day of. It also gives you a chance to make yourself aware of the transportation and parking situation.
Pre-order your swag.
If there’s a certain thing you want to walk away with, figure out where the vendors are and get it by the end of the first day. Pre-order early and reserve if you can.
If there’s someone you want to meet, make sure to go to their talk, position yourself to meet them after, and try to connect via social media beforehand to let them know you’ll be coming.
Bring a phone charger.
Skip the Keynote.
This might sound crazy, but bear with us: don’t go to the keynote just to go—only go if you genuinely wanted to hear that person speak. Often the keynote will be available later on video/transcript (esp. if it’s someone famous), so you can use the time to see other things while things are quiet.
To help you remember things you see for posterity and for reference, take lots of photos with your phone or other mobile device.
Have more than one thing you really want to do in a single time slot? If you’re in a group or have friends at the event, make plans beforehand to attend simultaneous things and share notes after, videoing them if possible.
Eat on the go.
Unless there’s a special reason to have lunch, like you’re a diabetic or you have lunch plans with Shigeru Miyamoto, skip it and snack on energy bars and bottled water instead. This will save a lot of time by avoiding lines for food and nearby restaurants rammed with attendees.
Use social media.
Tap into expo-related conversations on social media, like tweeting and following hashtag conversations on Twitter. This can be extremely helpful in getting real-time reviews and updates, so you can alter your plan as needed.
Go to the social events at the expo, even if just for 15 minutes. Talk to people, and get numbers and email addresses if you feel like it—after all, when’s a better time to meet like-minded folks? Also, while you’re doing to inevitable waiting in line thing, chatting to people you meet is helpful to getting the skinny on things they’ve seen that are worth seeing, or things that might have been overhyped that you should skip.
Use our app!
If you’re planning for an expo coming up, set up a SquadUP event for your group as an awesome way to share photos, videos, and have conversations across social media throughout the event.
Do you have a suggestion for something we didn’t think of? Let us know in comments below or tweet us!