Ever had one of those days where you’re downtown and suddenly a Storm Trooper walks past you? Chances are you were near Fan Expo and very close to having the greatest weekend ever. Every summer the city offers up a weekend of entertainment and play that lets you feel like a kid again. Comics, anime, movies, horror, games – Fan Expo doesn’t discriminate but instead caters to everyone’s geeky desires. But not everyone has taken a trip to fan heaven, perhaps because they unsure how to brave such a massive event. For those of you who are finally ready to take the plunge we have your ultimate guide to surviving the weekend and having the most fun possible.

Getting Started

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Ok, you’ve decided to spend your weekend completely surrounded by everything that you love, sharing your enthusiasm with thousands of others. Let’s make sure that it gets off to a good start.

  • Buy your tickets online and have them mailed to your address – the lineups start early, with everyone waiting just to get into the venue. Having your tickets in hand will save a lot of time.
  • If you’re only going for 1 day then choose which day carefully. Saturday is the biggest day in terms of events but also attendance, so if you’re going that day be sure to arrive at the doors at least 2-3 hours before they open.  Next in order of craziness is Friday, as for many it’s the first day they can attend. Thursday and Sunday tend to be a bit less busy since they are during the week and the last day of the weekend.

Supplies

"My cabbageeeees!!"
“My cabbageeeees!!”

You don’t plan a trip without packing, and since you’ll spent most of your day in the convention centre it’s best to be prepared.

  • Get a program guide when you walk in and keep it with you always. Even if you know what you want to do and when it is someone else might not and need your assistance. Pay the assistance that this article gives you forward.
  • Take a portable charger for your phone or camera. It can be very easy to run out of battery power if you are taking lots of pictures or videos.
  • A lot of booths give out shopping bags (with purchase, or promotional), so you may not have an issue carrying your loot – but your hands may fill up quickly, making getting photos difficult. A backpack might be your best option if you are planning to come home with a lot of stuff. It also reduces the chances of setting something down and forgetting it.

 

Autographs

Angelina meeting Helo (aka Tahmoh Penikett)
Angelina meeting Helo (aka Tahmoh Penikett)

One of Fan Expo’s largest draws is the amazing assortment of guests that they are able to lure to our city. Actors and artists from all manner of popular media will be present, and chances are there’s at least one person on the list that you’ve dreamed of meeting. Use these tips to have the best chance of realizing that dream.

  • Get in line early – they often limit the amount of people that will get through, to manage the star’s schedule.
  • The lineups are typically in an open space, where anyone can stroll by. If you lack the cash for a signature you can still star gaze from afar. Just be careful taking pictures from the line, as they often have staff on hand to prevent that. After all, for many of these stars this is a major source of their income, so purchasing the glamour shots that they’ve brought to the con encourages them to keep attending events like this.
  • Keep your time with them brief,  despite how excited you are to see them. Avoid listing every work of theirs you’ve read/seen etc – they fact that you are in their line implies that you are a superfan. Also limit the amount of items you want to have autographed, that can be more time consuming than you expect. As well it’s about being considerate to others. Going over your time may mean someone else doesn’t get to meet them at all.
  • Don’t worry about getting tongue tied when you do get to their table – it happens to the best of us when faced with our heroes. They are used to it, so just try to enjoy the experience.
  • Have cash on hand to purchase a photo/pay for the autograph.

 

Panels

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The guests aren’t just there to smile and sign things, they are often also there to talk to you! And as much as you are dying to sit in that panel, there will be hundreds more like you all competing for seats. Plan accordingly.

  • Check the schedule in advance and make sure you know when any of the panels you want to see are happening. Be ready to sit in line for a minimum of an hour ahead of time.
  • Ask a volunteer if you need help finding or starting a line if you are first there. Panel lineups start very early, so you’ll be there for a while. Bring a bottle of water and a snack if you have a lot you’re willing to wait for, unless you have a friend who can keep the place in line while you make supply runs. Also be advised that you’ll be camped out in the convention centre halls, and sitting on the floor is painful after a little while. A small camp stool might be a good thing to have.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask someone for help if you are lost. The convention centre doesn’t have the most intuitive layout, and if you’re rushing to a panel you don’t want to get lost.
  • Once you’re in a panel be polite and treat it like a movie theatre. That means cell phones on silent, keep conversation to a minimum and don’t blind everyone with your camera flash.
  • Just as in the autograph lines, if you get a chance to ask a question try to keep it brief so others have the same chance. In fact, see the link to our TIFF Q&A DOs and DON’Ts guide for more suggestions on how not to be That Guy.

 

Shopping

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The Fan Expo dealers room and Artist Alley are both beautiful and terrible to behold: the sheer vastness of your purchasing options can be overwhelming, and perhaps a bit more enticing than you are prepared for.

  • Be sure to budget your money. It’s amazing how quickly it’ll disappear on you as your bags fill up with collectables. Autographs, photo ops, food, anything from Artist Alley or the dealers room – none of it comes cheap. Be sure you know how much you want to spend and can spend. Shopping can be a bit addictive, and you don’t want to spend your post-Fan Expo days feeling financial regret.
  • That said, try to bring cash. Some places will take credit/debit, but many will be cash only. There are ATMs scattered around the halls but they have long lines and tend to run empty from so many people using them.Having cash in advance will also help you set a firm spending limit.
  • If you are looking to buy many items be sure to walk around the dealers room and see who has the best prices, rather than panic-buy the first thing you see. Also by Sunday most tables have better deals because the vendors don’t want to cart everything home. But at the same time, by then you might not be able to find what you want depending on how popular it was.

 

Cosplay

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You’re going to see a lot of people in some very elaborate costumes, all around the convention.  Cosplay is a longstanding tradition, and some people have spent all year perfecting their outfits. Fan Expo is their time to shine!  You’re also going to see a lot of people taking photos of cosplayers, but there are some very important ground rules everyone should know.

  • If you want to take a picture of someone in cosplay, be polite, you are not the paparazzi. If they are in a rush and say no  to posing for you, just remember that they are a con guest same as you.  Sometimes they can’t stop for a pic because they are off to a panel. If you want a picture with them then do ask if they are with that. Again some might say no, and that’s life.
  • There will be women in skimpy outfits, as most character options for ladies trend toward to skin-tight and low-cut. However, try to be conscious of the fact that those women may not want a bunch of random drool-y dudes getting into their personal space.  Do not get grabby with anyone. Being in cosplay doesn’t mean you can cop a feel. Do so and expect to be kicked out. Cosplay is not consent.
  • If you cosplay, be sure to plan for wardrobe malfunctions. Bring a small sewing kit as well as anything else you might need to fix or patch your costume if there is a break, rip or tear. It happens to the best of us. It also helps to have a friend with you in case you need someone to help you walk or lean on if you get tired. If your costume obscures your vision at all, then definitely have a guide. With so many other people rushing around, and dealers tables jammed in close together, it would be too easy to take a nasty tumble.
  • Try to wear shoes that you can comfortably walk in for hours at a time, or if possible incorporate them into your cosplay. If you can’t hide sneakers easily then have a spare pair of shoes on hand that you can change into to give yourself a break.

 

Best Practices

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With so many people crammed into one space, all hurrying to their own personal destinations, it’s easy to frustrated. You can also run yourself (and others) ragged if you’re not careful.

  • Be kind to the con staff and volunteers. They work very hard all weekend long.
  • Be courteous to other con-goers. They paid just as much money as you did to be there, and are just as excited to see/do/buy everything.
  • There are lots of choices for food in the building but the prices can be a little high and honestly it’s not all the greatest stuff to be eating constantly. Eat a good breakfast before you go in the morning and be smart about your meal choices (try not to live only off of Pocky and Mountain Dew).
  • Be patient if you do leave the convention centre for meals – often the event space can reach capacity around midday and you may be held up from re-entering the building, to meet safety regulations.
  • Please shower and use deodorant. I don’t want to be a nag but the funk from all the people can build up to bad levels otherwise.
  • Get plenty of sleep after each day. If you’re exhausted its easy to miss out on an event you have been waiting for by sleeping in or crashing part way through a day. As well staying healthy and well-rested can help you avoid getting sick after the con is done and you spent so much time breathing strangers’ air.
  • Be good to yourself and those around you. Have a great time and enjoy everything Fan Expo has to offer.

Hopefully this gets you well on your way to having an absolutely fan-tastic weekend!
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