2014 – San Diego’s Comic-Con International – Getting Ready, Random Thoughts We Hope Will Help
by Kay Kellam, with John Mayo of ComicBookPage
Planning ahead becomes more and more important each year, as the panels spread out over a wider geographic area. Hall H is the largest venue for panels, with the longest line, and frequently the most die-hard fans. The Hilton Bayfront’s Indigo Ballroom and Ballroom 20 are, I believe, roughly the same size, and fall next in line for capacity. After that is 6BCF, followed by 6DE. What does any of that mean to con attendees? The lower on that list the room you want appears, the fewer seats there are.
Go through the panel list and be realistic, it can take 15 minutes to get from 6BCF to the Indigo Ballroom, and that does not count standing in line for entrance. Have a backup plan for if the room you want is full — and do not just think in terms of panels, know what is going on near the panel rooms that you might want to check out. If you can not get into 6BCF for instance, what is on that end of the exhibit hall that you might want to see??
Most of the aisle numbering on the exhibit hall floor is easy to follow and pick up upon arrival… there are two aisles you may search all over for, and have a problem finding — because they are rows! The one along the Bayside (do yourself a favor, call it bay side when agreeing to meet friends) which is the back side of the hall, and the one on the street side (the front side.) Referring to the bay side as the Harbor Side, and the Street side as Harbor Drive side can cause you endless headaches, especially in a venue where cellphone reception can drop out as more and more people are making calls, and calls can generally be hard to hear.
When you are at the front of the exhibit hall, facing the bay side, with the lobby behind you, to your far right is aisle 100 in Hall A. The aisles are numbered consecutively in 100s going towards Hall H. The aisle numbers can be fairly easy to read, hanging high above your head, from several points along each aisle and can be useful in helping to meet friends. (Suggest you will meet them at the aisle x corner of booth y. Some booths are larger and you may not see your friend even though you are both there and just 10 feet apart, but separated by countless people and con fun.)
Download the con app (sponsored this year by NBC), it is incredibly useful, but keep in mind those busy cellular circuits, and have a hard copy list of the panels that mean most to you, and when and where they are. On the off chance 100,000 other people decide to check the app, or all use their phones at the same time, you will still know when and where you want to be.
Have an Index Card and pen in your pocket, near your cash, so you can track your spending. Cash flies from your wallet with the greatest of ease during con. Not only are there a million and one temptations on the exhibit hall floor, but when it comes to dividing checks for meals, cash is the simplest way to go. Write down the booth numbers of any vendor you want to go back to, and why. Fear not, is true, you can find almost anything in the convention center, even an ATM, and yes, it too, always, has a line.
Take some time to walk through the sails area during the day. Early in the morning each day it is typically used to hand out tickets for autographs and special ticket required events going on. After that has happened, it transitions into being the autographs area (and having a decent size seating area for people to have a bite to eat.) Actors from a variety of television generations come to San Diego’s Comic Con International. This is a place where you will not just see the current stars, but those who first got you hooked on tv and entertainment may be up there as well. If they have a lull in their crowd, go up and say “Hi.” Talk to them for a moment and thank them for all the great entertainment they’ve given you, they are generally very nice people.
Also plan some time, mid-day, to tour artist’s alley. If you go when the hall first opens you will likely find a lot of the artist’s have not yet arrived, give them a little while to filter in, and set up, and you will be amazed by the art you will see, and the people you will meet. Here is you chance to interact with the creators, get a sketch, and flip through original art on display and for sale.
Whether or not you plan to buy a snack, stop at the mezzanine level in the convention center at least once during the con, and wander over to the windows that look out over Halls A/B/C. This is how big the Convention was back in the 90s. From here you can get a sense of the crowds you have been moving around as a part of, see cosplayers interacting with con-attendees and posing for photographs, glimpse booths you have not been able to get near because they are so popular, and take a moment to catch your breath and plan your next move.
Above all else, have fun! You may miss opportunities, but you will also experience things you were not expecting. Embrace the positive, and enjoy the amazing moment that make up the San Diego Comic-Con International experience.
John Mayo and Kay Kellam will be recording a podcast about San Diego’s Comic-Con International, getting ready for it, and getting the most out of it, for release the morning of Preview Night. Wednesday July 23. Give it a listen and let us know what you think!