With less than two weeks to go, we here at Nerds And Beyond are happy to bring you some exclusive content leading up to ACE Comic Con Midwest. We are lucky enough to attend the event as press and have some exciting interviews and detailed coverage coming up! Today I’d like to give all the first-time attendees some advice and tips on how to make the most out of your convention experience if you’re lucky enough to attend this event or will be attending any ACE events in the future!
1. Before you arrive
All your tickets have been either sent to you via e-mail or you have them directly on your phone in the form of QR codes. You will have to redeem these QR codes in order to receive all your paper tickets, badges, and potential VIP swag. VIP ticket holders are able to pick up their tickets a day early (time and location will be announced soon, so keep an eye out on the ACE social media channels), which I recommend because it saves you time on Friday.
2. Preparing for the convention
If you – like me – have only attended smaller and fandom-specific cons in the past, ACE will be a much bigger and differently organized convention. If you’re used to multi-fandom comic cons, apparently it isn’t as overwhelming as it was for me in the beginning. If you have a weekend ticket, make sure you attend the Friday to familiarize yourself with the venue and see where you need to go for photos, autos, and panels. ACE will release an app before the con where you can plan your schedule and see floor plans.
3. At the convention
I recommend going on Friday even though there might not be many panels and only a few guests (granted, at the Midwest event some of the biggest celebrities will be there Friday already), Friday is the perfect day to do your shopping. A lot of the popular artists and vendors will have exclusive prints and other limited merchandise that will definitely sell out over the weekend. So if you’re looking to buy a specific print or shirt, don’t wait until Saturday (as it’s the busiest day!) or Sunday to do so. I learned the hard way that popular prints and fanart sells out fast. If you’re a VIP badge holder, you can even enter the venue earlier and enjoy shopping without the masses of people ascending to the convention center that weekend.
If you have a VIP admission for a certain guest, that guarantees you a seat at their panel in the first couple of rows. Still, you need to make sure to arrive early, as people start lining up for the next panel almost immediately after the last one ends – fans will be asked to clear the panel room after each panel, so there’s no seat-saving or blocking the front row all day. Even if you don’t have VIP access, you can still watch the panels with all other tickets, just be prepared for a seat a little further in the back. The great thing about ACE is that they live stream all their panels and you can re-watch them anytime on their Facebook or YouTube sites! Panels will be moderated, but fans will be given the chance to ask questions – just be prepared to run as soon as that opportunity is announced, as fans have to be quick in that microphone queue.
5. Photo ops
There is a designated photo op area with additional security checks and with screens that show you the exact time of your photo op and when you should get in line. Have your tickets ready for inspection and be prepared to wait a little.
If you’ve never attended a convention and have no idea what to expect at a so-called “photo opportunity”, be prepared beforehand that this will be quick. You get a couple of seconds to say hi, do your pose and then walk out of the room again. ACE works with Celeb Photo Ops, who is a well-established and professional company, they have the print ready when you walk out of the photo op room and the digital download (which is included in the price) will be available less than 30 minutes after your photo gets taken. In Chicago last year it took mere minutes until I could download a high-quality JPEG, at smaller cons sometimes you have to wait months!
As far as poses go, even though there are handlers pushing for time (there are hundreds of people to go through, remember!), it’s almost always possible to get a pose other than a simple hug, as long as you don’t bring ten props and start a five-minute conversation with the guest. Be considerate towards the other fans! Things that have helped me before are: having your pose ready as a reference picture on your phone or just go with “classic” poses that need no explanation.
Autographs work almost the same way with photos, they’re in a small area and you will line up according to the little booths – there’s no possibility to “take a glimpse” at the celebs as they are sitting behind a curtain. However, this makes the autograph experience a little more private and quiet, which I enjoyed.
7. Everything else
The classic convention advice: wear comfortable shoes, hydrate and bring snacks. And a portable charger. If you don’t have too many photo ops or panels, make another round of the vendors’ area! I was surprised last year because I recognized so many of the popular fan artists and had great little conversations and interactions with the people whose work makes fandom so much more fun. You will be waiting in lines some of the time, so bring a book or make friends in line.
All in all, ACE makes sure to have a smoothly-run event and there are always staff members you can ask for help and advice. Even though my schedule was busy last year, I still never felt stressed or like I couldn’t make one of the points on my program.
Stay tuned for more coverage and interviews leading up to ACE Midwest in a little under two weeks!