San Diego Comic Con will soon be upon us and, as the schedule starts to release, attendees will begin to frantically fill their calendars with panels, talks, and activities. With such a huge convention it is easy to try and plan every second of every day in order to get maximum results. It does not help that the convention schedules often overlap with outside events, forcing attendees to pick and choose lest they chance not making it somewhere on time. 

I understand the hustle and bustle. San Diego Comic Con is a huge investment of time and financial resources so it makes sense to try and pack out the four days (plus preview night!) with back to back activities. This urge to use every hour in a 24-hour period is heightened when you don’t have a full 4-day badge and have to try and smash all your experiences into only one or two days. Despite all of this, I have a suggestion: leave time to be spontaneous. 

I have been attending comic book conventions, big, small, and in-between since 2009. My first time at San Diego was when I was 18 years old and I ran myself into the ground and right into a cold, double ear infection, and sinus infection. It was worth it and I made the most of it, but the next time I went to a convention I realized the pressure to do everything made me kind of miserable. Not sleeping, getting up at ungodly hours, and trying to do everything and anything left me a hungry, tired, cranky shell of a person who could not focus during panels. 

As the years have gone on, I have come up with a few tips to alleviate those moments of exhaustion and as a result have had cooler experiences than anything I could have ever planned. Sometimes it meant bailing on Hall H after being in line since four in the morning in order to go back to my hotel, shower, and do something offsite. Other times it meant people watching while grabbing a bite to eat and overhearing something about another event I was previously unaware of. 

Take care of the basics of being a human. 

I know there’s a certain “if you’re not exhausted you’re not doing it right” mentality around big conventions, sort of like hell week in college. I don’t believe that to be true. I think even at conventions it is important to attend to basic needs like sleep, food, and moments of peace. When that balance is lacking people tend to become irritable and adopt tunnel vision, unable to see outside of their limited pre-planned view. 

“But I’m going to miss ____!” I hear you say and I get it. I used to be that way too, but a lot of years and a lot of conventions later I can without hesitation say that I have never once regretted catching a few extra hours of sleep, showering instead of rushing out the door, and stopping to eat. My ability to experience cool things goes up exponentially when I’m in my right, peaceful mind. 

Keep your options open.

Having a plan is good, but clinging to that plan may result in missed opportunities. If your whole schedule is based inside of the convention center then you might miss opportunities to meet actors, win prizes, or participate in cool activities that pop up outside. If your whole goal is to sit outside and hope for something cool to happen, odds are you are going to miss out on some cool panels and events inside. 

So the key is, again, balance. Balance your scheduled, structured time inside of the convention with free time outside of it. Indulge your sense of whimsy and leave part of your day up to chance. Maybe Clark Gregg will ask you for some of your french fries, or perhaps an unscheduled photo op with your favorite actor will happen off site. The point is that you don’t have to be rigid in order to get the most out of San Diego Comic Con, or any convention at that. 

Be “present-focused.”

Okay, I’m sorry, this is where my inner social worker comes out. Being present-focused means accepting the moment you are in as you are experiencing it as opposed to focusing on what is next. At a convention, focusing on what is next seems to be the natural state of things. You sit in one panel and plan how you’re going to get to the next, but do you see the issue here? In being so focused on the plan for the next panel, you miss out on enjoying the one you’re in. 

Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves, at conventions and in life in general, is accept that we are capable and will figure out the next challenge when it actually presents itself, as opposed to trying to anticipate anything and everything while simultaneously trying to enjoy what we are doing. The human mind is not good at multitasking and I can guarantee that you will get more out of the comic con experience if you take a deep breath and tell yourself, “Right now I’m here and I’m going to enjoy this, the rest will come.” 

I’m a relatively anxious person by nature, and big conventions tend to put that into overdrive. I worry about missing out on key experiences but have learned over the years that my worry keeps me from enjoying those experiences when they are actually upon me. My biggest regrets come from moments where I was overtired, underfed, and so focused on adhering to a strict schedule that I missed out enjoying what was around me. My hope is that these tips will keep anyone else from making the same mistakes. 

Do you have any good tips on how to make the most out of your convention experience? Sound off in the comments.

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