Socialize Wisely (or: Don’t Hit On The Guests)
Trying to make friends on the con floor is a mug’s game. Especially if the person you want to talk to is a cosplayer, a vendor or guest.
Straight talk: for a lot of people, cons are work. If they’re sitting at a booth or they’re at a table at Artist’s Alley, it means they’ve spent money and they’re trying to recoup it. They’re there predominantly to market themselves and sell their products – even when the product is themselves. Interacting with fans and/or making new friends is a secondary interest.
Now, to be sure, there are plenty of celebrities, pros, amateurs and everything in between who are incredibly generous with their time and will quite happily chat with you. Just keep in mind though: time spent talking to you is time not spent making back their table fees, and there will be plenty of attendees who will not come up to spend their money if they see that their favorite pro/artist/whatever is busy. Even if your intentions are among the purest, even if all you want to do is network, the likelyhood is that at the end of the day, you’re going to be a vaguely blurry memory in a sea of faces that they saw that day. The best practice here is keep it short and sweet and not to hog their time and attention.
This is especially true if the person you’re talking to is a woman you’re interested in. Women working at cons, especially comic pros, have any number of stories of dealing with amorous creepers who think that cons are the perfect time to hit on them. Now, in fairness, you may think that you’re not being creepy. From her perspective however, she’s cornered by someone she doesn’t know who won’t take the hint that it’s time for them to go bother somebody else and she has no real method of extracting herself from the interaction. This does not make for an effective way of picking up girls at the comic-con.
The same applies to the cosplayers, by the way. Yes, they want attention – that’s part of the appeal of cosplay after all. The fact that they’re enjoying the attention people are paying them however, does not mean that they’re there looking to get laid or find a boyfriend or appreciate being hit on. By all means, take their photo (with their permission) or get your photo taken with them (ditto) but as with the guests and vendors, keep it polite, simple and short.
Now keep in mind: I said “making friends on the con floor is a mug’s game”. Want to network with the pros or maybe flirt a little with the people you’ve met?
Simple: Find the con bar. Every convention has one: the default bar where all the guests and pros go to unwind after the convention shuts down for the evening. This is the time to chat people up and make new connections; you’re not interfering with their work and you’re not inadvertently trapping them at their table. The con bar is where the action is; this is where the deals are really made, the friendships are forged and the scandalous hook-ups happen. Play your cards right and you could be the blind-item on Bleeding Cool.
Dial Back The Geekiness
Yes. You heard me. Tone your levels of nerd back a notch or two.
Now, before you start yelling at me for missing the point of fan conventions, allow me to explain.
Yes, conventions are places for geeks to come together and revel in their nerdery with neither fear nor shame. And yes, you should be celebrating your geeky interests with your fellow travelers.
That being said: there is an unfortunate tendency – predominantly in poorly socialized male geeks – to go a little overboard, especially when talking to attractive women who may also have similar interests. When a male nerd meets a female geek – or at least a woman who is geek-curious – they tend to try to impress her by proving they’re an Alpha Nerd. They will attempt to demonstrate the breadth and depth of their nerdery like the tail of a spectacularly geeky peacock adorned with glittering Battlestar Galactica-branded plumage. He thinks that he’s winning her over by showing what an involved fan he is. She thinks that he’s acting like an asshole beating her over the head with the implied message of “You’re not a real fan like I am!”
Then there’s the ritual mocking of her perceived stereotypical fandom, since any female at a con has to be there for Firefly, My Little Pony, Twilight, Jem or anime in general and girls love it when you give ’em shit for the stuff they like, right guys? Right? Right?
Step back a little. Enjoy the fact that you’re both fans without trying to one-up everyone. Express interest in their fandom even if it’s antithetical to yours. And, critically, talk about things besides your geeky interests. Yes, you do have your geekiness in common, but even amongst your nerdy peers, having absolutely no life outside of your hobbies is not appealing.
Speaking of Conventions…
While we’re on the subject, I’m going to be a guest at AggieCon in College Station, Texas on March 23-25th. I’ll be part of a few panels, so if you’re in the area, be sure to come by!