Going to a convention can be a very fun experience and a frightening one. While you’re happy to go to dig further into your hobby or interest you’re going to have to talk to people. Here are a few tips to make going to conventions easier.
One of the key things that you need to get through your head with convention is this: these people like the same things you do. A convention is set up precisely so that you can meet!
That makes talking to people at a convention a lot easier than just talking to a random stranger. At least at the convention you know that you have something in common.
Second thing: people who are showcasing something at a convention are excited to tell others about their thing, whatever that may be. Whether it’s a boardgame, a new comic, their costume, whatever: they are happy to tell you all about it!
And third: there are people at the convention who are just as terrified or as awkward at talking to other people as you. If you see a fellow loner at a convention just walk up to them and ask one of the conversation starters that you can find down below.
They will probably be very grateful to finally have someone to talk to!
Keep those three things in mind at all times. Save them in a text on your phone if that helps you!
A – You have something in common
B – These people WANT to talk to you about their interest!
C – There are always others like you. Find them and make them your ally
Starting a conversation
Ok, with the mindset issue addressed it’s time to move on to actually talking to people.
Let’s say you’re going to a games convention that focuses on boardgames, RPGs and tabletop games.
You’ve spotted a game that looks interesting and you want to know more about it. But here’s the problem: people are already playing it.
You don’t have to immediately step in and start a conversation or see if you can join the game. Just walk up to them and ask if you can just watch.
Just ask: hey, your game looks interesting, mind if I just watch as you play and maybe ask the occasional question?
That’s all that you need to do. Barring a few assholes virtually everyone will agree. They might even invite you to play along next round/next game (if applicable of course) or they’ll start to explain the game to you.
By asking this question you also avoid the “third wheel” risk of interrupting a private session or special situation. You show that you don’t want to interrupt and that you are interested.
And again: these people are very happy to tell you about their game! Otherwise they wouldn’t be showcasing it at a convention.
What if you have to wait for other people?
Let’s say you’re going to a convention with some friends. Maybe you arrive early or they arrive late. Now you’re stuck without a squad. Crap.
Not to worry, this is perfect practice or observation time!
Get a drink and park yourself somewhere where you can just watch others. Take some time to watch people’s body language for example. You can watch:
- Their feet – these indicate intended direction of travel
- Their general posture – are they nervous?
- Their face – what expressions do you see?
Now don’t be a stalker about this. That’s not the point here. Just be a fly on the wall and see what interesting behavior you can spot.
The best time to practice social skills is when you do not have a buddy. That’s when it comes down to you and your actions. Try a conversation opener:
- Hey! What interesting games have you seen so far?
- Hey, what’s your favorite game at the moment?
- Hi, I’m looking for <insert game type>, have any good suggestions?
Those three can start a very interesting conversation about all sorts of games that you might have heard of yet. And who knows, by the time your friends (finally!) show up you might have made a new friend.
The key thing
The most important thing here is to have fun. Have fun practicing, have fun talking to people with the same interests and laugh along with others.
Yes, a convention can be exhausting, but it’ll only be as awkward as you make it.
Good luck and have fun! 🙂