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Ask Jen: Convention Etiquette

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Between CW and Epbot I get a lot of e-mails, and I've been asked for advice on everything from careers to costumes. Though I can't answer them all, and I'm certainly no advice columnist, I thought Leilani's recent question (and my answer) might be of interest to some of you:


[edited for brevity]

You and your equally-amazing husband seem to be pros at the convention scene, so I would like any advice you can offer. I'm stupidly shy. I have a hard time approaching people, even people that are there for the sole purpose of being approached.

...I'm probably going to go to Comicpalooza and I don't have any idea what's appropriate behavior regarding the actors who sell their autographs and photos. Are we allowed to even approach them at their tables to talk to them if we don't intend to purchase an autograph? Don't get me wrong, I have no problem buying a picture or anything...but my bank account does have its limits.


And my reply:

For what it's worth, I'm an introvert whose MO is hugging the walls and staying in the background, so I'm right there with you on the shy thing! For each con we go to, the first few minutes are tough; I have to break the ice, grit my teeth, and [insert one more cliché here] to approach that first cosplayer for a photograph. It gets easier with every person, though, because con-goers are so nice. That said, I still haven't mastered the art of interrupting a conversation to ask for a photo - I just can't do it!

All that said, the celebrity guests are a whole 'nother ball of wax, and how you can approach them depends on the con itself. For really big and crowded cons, you'll probably never get near them without a paid ticket for an autograph, although you usually *can* tag along with a paying friend. Smaller cons are much more lax and easy to maneuver, so odds are it'll just be the guest and one handler (or sometimes no handler!) at his or her table, and if you see a break in the crowd you're free to go up and say hi. The reception you get will also vary from person to person: some guests are tired and really just there for the $$ (sad, but true) while others are genuinely interested in meeting their fans, paying or otherwise.

So, my advice? Go to the autograph room and just scope it out. You'll be able to tell from a distance if the guest is open to drive-by hellos, and whether they have time for one. And don't be afraid to say, "I can't afford a photo today, but I'm a big fan and just wanted to say hi." From what I've seen, most guests respond really well to this.

Have fun! And be sure to send me any good pictures!

- Jen

PS - And sometimes, if you're lucky (or dressed as characters from their show), you might even score a free photo with a celeb:

Felicia Day with The Guild cosplayers, via Felicia's Flickr account


So tell me, con-goers, does this line up with your own experiences? Anything you would add? Or any fun celebrity run-ins you'd care to share? Dish 'em up in the comments!

Posted by Jen at 3:03 PM Labels:

63 comments:

  1. At the Star Wars Celebration last year, most of the big names weren't even visible from the floor; the line eventually went behind some big black curtains, so you couldn't even see them, let alone talk to them. Very off-putting and unfriendly, especially considering how little they probably actually needed the money they were charging.

    And the sad thing is that most cons these days have simply turned into huge autograph-fests with people who would have signed for free ten years ago now charging up to $100 to scrawl their name on a picture. The whole thing has really turned me off of cons in general.

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  2. At the Calgary Comic Expo last year I was coming out of the ladies', and I literally came within inches of running over Paul McGillion (Dr. Beckett from SG: Atlantis), who was ducking in to the mens'. Another inch or two and I would have touched him (or knocked him down!), but I was too stunned to process what was going on until he'd gone into the washroom, and I'm not THAT rabid of a fan. :) That was my closest encounter though...the Calgary Con is too big to get very close and personal!

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  3. i don't really have advice for celebrity run ins, but i do have some advice if you want to approach costumed con-goers. i can't speak for everyone, but personally i love when people come up and ask me about my costume or want to take a picture. i put a lot of work into my costumes, so it's nice to see other people appreciate them. if you go to a con in a costume, you kind of expect to get attention for it, so don't feel shy at all around these people. even if all you want to do is snap a pic and run, most people are totally cool about it. just please be sure to say thank you at least. and keep in mind that they did pay money to be there also, so if you see them rushing off to go watch a panel or event, maybe wait until you see them again to ask for a picture. and if any of you are going to blizzcon this year, come find me, i'd be happy to take a pic with you :)

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  4. Good advice (I'm thinking of Comic Con here). I'd also say wear comfy shoes and bring something to hold your signed pictures (a binder in a bag so they don't get bent). Scope out which autographs you want most because it gets very pricey. Note that some celebrities will charge to take pictures with them, and some won't. Read the placards on their table carefully.

    Your caution that some people are there just for the money is valid. It's hard not to take it personally when a celebrity blows you off. We got an autograph from Lou Ferrigno, and really the autograph is worth zip if you don't have a good experience to go with it. Everyone else was great, fortunately.

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  5. thank you so much for this post! i'm hoping to attend the geekgirl con in seattle this fall - it will be my first real con, and i'm nervous about how to interact with people. this really helped :)

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  6. *zomg* I KNOW those people pictured in your blog with Felicia Day! How cool is that?

    ~E

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  7. I've actually had some celebrities gift me with signed 8x10s. Never EVER go in EXPECTING this but if it's someone who you truly admire and it shows in your politeness and conversation they may reward that.

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  8. NEVER be afraid to approach a cos-player. Trust me, I love knowing people appreciate the outfit and hard work as much as I do.

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  9. I've never been to a con but once I saw Bill Nighy at a train station but my brain refused to function and I just went HELLO! at him with wide surprised eyes and he sort of just chuckled and nodded at me and carried on his way. I wish I had thought to ask for a photo or something though but I was just in awe.

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  10. Sci-fi cons and comic cons are one world but anime cons can be very different.
    I work/ run autographs at several conventions and the majority of Voice Actors do not charge at all for a signature and will sign anything (within reason) you bring.
    Some do sell items as well but the vast majority don't require you to buy something for a signature.
    And politeness is always appreciated by both staff and guests and your fellow attendees in the line.
    When in doubt about how a session will run- ask staff before you wait in line and follow directions.

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  11. Absolutly with you on the celebrity thing. Some are there to sign pictures for money and thats it. True story - I got chased by private security at Fan Expo for taking a picture of Adam West from the side of the line and not paying for it.
    The good news is some celebrities (Im looking at you Felicia Day and Sendhil Ramamurthy) genuinely LIKE meeting fans, and will engage in actual conversations and will have breif chats (without you buying things) if there's no line. But if paying people come, step aside and let them earn some cash for being pretty.
    All in all, most of the time they're awesome, some arn't but you'll be able to pick those ones out pretty quickly!

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  12. Hmmm...I might avoid trying for autographs and just be the happy wall hugging stalker. I'm going in costume and would be super flattered if anyone besides my mom or the police asks for a photo. :)

    Oh! A T-shirt for Doctor Who Fans

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  13. I've been lucky in that I've had some marvelous inaction with celebrities at cons. Most really do want to meet their fans and are really wonderful with them.

    A recent (within the past couple of years) interaction I had was with Malcolm McDowell. I've been a fan of his for years, but the main reason I was going to see him was he is voicing a regular villain on Metalocalyspe (a cartoon on Adult Swim about the death metal band Dethklok).

    I got to the con a little late. Just about the time he was suppose to leave his table before his talk. As it happened, I wanted him to sign a screen cap of his character from Metalocalypse and had brought a couple of print-outs because I doubted there would be any at the con. Not only was I right about that, but Malcolm had never seen the character he was voicing! Did not know how he looked. As I happened to bring an extra copy and he traded it for a photo he then signed from a movie.

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  14. A few years ago (while SG: Atlantis was still on air), I worked at a small store and David Hewlett (Dr. McKay)was a frequent customer. Due to the small town it was and the fact that he lived there, I always treated him like another other customer, though I did let him know how much I loved the show. I moved before I ever worked up the nerve to ask for a picture and/or autograph and that's a regret I have. Some day I hope to run in to him again and get that picture.

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  15. I've been lucky enough to attend both HUGE cons and smaller cons and what Jen said it totally true.
    At the larger ones getting close to the "guests" without either buying a ticket or even in some cases a comic/book is all but impossible (and even at some cons I've bought both and STILL never saw the guest due to the con over selling). At the smaller cons I've walked right up to tables and just chatted with guests.
    The one thing I have learned from the smaller cons is these guests are just people and often as scared of us fans as we are of them. Most of them are just happy to have someone come up to them and treat them like a regular Jo that they are glad to talk to you.
    My husband and I also found a great way to break the ice with comic artist types is to allow them to draw whatever they want instead of asking them to draw what they are "famous" for. Honestly if all you draw day in and day out is spiderman wouldn't you just love the couple that says "hey we just love your art draw whatever you want" We have not only gotten amazing art (which I might add is often WAY better then the standard stuff they were drawing for others) the artists tend to take a little extra time with us.

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  16. Having spent my memorial day weekend, at Phoenix Comicon, dressed in various hats and one day as a pirate. I have to say I love it when someone asks for a picture. The person you want to take the picture of may be just as shy as you are.

    My husband stood and talked to Aaron Douglas,from the show Chuck and from Battlestar Galatica. He didn't ask for an autograph or a photo just wanted to talk to him. The line was short so he was able to stand and talk to him while he was there. If you see someone at the event around the celebrities ask if you can just say Hi! They will tell you what the rules are.

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  17. Never been to a con (although I'll be going to the Phx Comicon next year), but I have met celebrities in my time. I find that when you strike up a conversation that doesn't start with "I'm you're biggest fan" they tend to be more relaxed and willing to just hang and chat with you. This happened to me with Chris Isaak when I got a free backstage pass before the concert started (and this was before he was really big). He stuck out his hand and introduced himself (like I didn't know who he was) and I said he looked tired--and sadly, it was the first thing that came to my mouth. But we chatted for quite a bit because I didn't just go ga-ga over him, while the other ladies just stood and gawked and were too timid to come say something. This also worked well for me when I met NKOTB two years ago--I immediately told Joey I saw him in Wicked (which actually meant I watched clips of him in Wicked on YouTube, but like he would know). He really liked that I brought it up and said you're the fourth Wicked person I've met tonight! I mean, they know you're coming up to them because you're a fan, so ask a question or compliment them on a piece of jewelry they might be wearing. I find asking things like "are you tired of this yet?" or "I hope the heat here in AZ isn't too bad for you" with a big smile really breaks the ice.

    My parents met William H. Macy in Williams, AZ while he was filming his new TV show. They are cowboy action shooters and were there for an event, and they saw him eating dinner at one of the restaurants, reading a book. Everyone was all giggly and wouldn't go say hi, but my mom, being who she is, went in with her friend and walked right up to him. He saw them coming and stood up and shook their hands, then told them they were the best dressed women in the place. Then they told my dad, and he also went in there and said hi.

    My dad is also a pilot for Southwest Airlines and he's met all kinds of celebrities that fly with them. He does the same thing--just walks up with a big smile and asks if they're doing okay. But it also helps that he's the Captain of the plane, so celebrities tend to like that. And actually, most celebrities introduce themselves to him BECAUSE he's the Captain!

    I think your experience is awesome, Lexy. Someone like Bill Nighy isn't well known, so that's a real treat to recognize someone like him, IMHO. I know I would have said hi too!

    Holkie, I watch Metalocalypse too! I can't believe he didn't know what his character looked like! I would also take Metalocalypse stuff if I met Mark Hamill. :)

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  18. Currently my greatest wish is to go to Dragon*Con.. still working on that.. but I've never been to a *real* con before... I do know some people, like Felicia Day, are awesome with fans... and I know that I'd be happy with anyone asking for a picture of me.. Part of the fun of dressing up is having others appreciate your costume!

    I just want to comments because I've never met any one else named Leilani before!! :D

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  19. California AndreaJune 8, 2011 at 8:48 PM

    Some of the time, the guests can be really sweet and chill. I have a coworker who volunteers at the Long Beach Comic Convention. Last year, he was just relaxing and suddenly realizes that STAN LEE was standing nearby. He and his wife went up and started chatting, (Mr. Lee wasn't seated but was strolling around) had a nice conversation and even got a picture. Pretty sweet.

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  20. Wizard World's ComicCon 2003 in Chicago -- totally shared an elevator with Kevin Smith. He was so cool, and he took pictures with us. So, my advice is to stay at the same hotel as some of the celebs if it's within your budget!

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  21. Good advice. I'm usually not one to approach people either.

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  22. I can tell you my husband did an interview with Stan Lee last year at dragon *con (In his personal suite no less!! Swoon) And he said Stan really enjoys being at cons and talking to fans! So he's one you don't have to worry about approaching : ) He also said that he was super kind to everyone that came in the room during the interview. What a sweetheart!

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  23. Thanks for the advice, Jen! I just started going to cons last year, and I fear that the people I want to meet at this year's Wizard World far exceed the amount of money I can afford for autographs.

    At C2E2 this March I managed to get a picture with Eliza Dushku after I bought an autograph ticket. She said my costume was cool. I went as Action Princess Peach, with a giant Nerf gun. It was awesome. I got asked for a ton of pictures, which was very cool.

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  24. Ooo, that's good stuff to know for whenever I finally get around to going to a con!

    [insert one more cliché here]
    Gird your loins? XD

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  25. I haven't been to any cons with really huge name guests, but I have been to cons with musical guests. At the World Steam Expo, the musicians were free to enjoy the con when they weren't on stage. I shared an elevator with a number of them, and bumped into several in the merch room or just in the hallways. They are usually really cool if you say "Oh I saw your show, you guys are awesome!" and a lot of times will sign something or stand for a picture.

    As someone who does cosplay, I can tell you that I at least have more fun having my picture taken and taking pictures of other cool costumes than I do in most panels at cons. As someone said earlier, it's occasionally annoying if you're trying to eat or trying to get somewhere in a hurry. But if I'm in costume and am just standing around talking, chances are I am totally cool with pictures being taken or questions being asked.

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  26. I've been to Dragon*Con 5 years now, and to a couple of smaller cons as well, and I've seen almost every sort of reaction one might expect from both Cosplayers and "Guests".

    Most cosplayers are more than happy to stop for pictures - though some times and locations make more sense than others. Running through hallways between events is obv. less conducive to photos than milling around in the bar in the evenings, for example. Generally I assume that if someone's taken the time to put together an awesome costume they're asking for people to pay attention to it; its the only way I can convince my shy self to ask for photos.

    As for Guests - most people will be happy to say hello and shake your hand. I have a friend who waits on the lines and does the "I can't afford an autograph, but I wanted to say hello and thank you because I'm a big fan" thing alot and I've never seen her get a bad reaction. Just don't cut a line to do something like that. If there isn't a line feel free to march straight up and say hello. Some people will be willing to chat, others not so much, but you should be able to tell that from their reactions. And yes, if you think you're going to get a chance to chat try to think up something other than "I'm a huge fan" to follow up the "Hello" with.

    Mostly, just try to relax and enjoy yourself. If you freeze up don't worry about it; you're neither the first nor the last to do so. Just blush, smile and carry on. :D

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  27. I've not been to any cons, but living in LA, I've run into my share of celebrities. One of my favorites was flying home from Chicago to LA. Being the good girl geek that I am, I had my laptop with my Star Trek: Voyager screen savor, puzzle, etc. I was doing a puzzle of Jennifer Lien (Kes) and she walked up the aisle and did a double take. I smiled at her and kept putting together the puzzle. She did walk up and down the aisle a couple of times and smiled at me each time, but I didn't speak to her because she was with her family (I believe) and I've always believed that celebrities need to have some period free from fans fawning all over them. She did give me the impression that she was very nice - she spent a long time chatting with the flight attendants.

    Another time my dad and I were in Seal Beach. I saw a cute pair of dogs and went up to pet them. As I was getting ready to go on my way, I looked up to thank the owner and it was Vicki Lawrence. I was too stunned by who she was, that it wasn't until she walked on, that I realized who she was. She is one I would have loved to tell her what a fan of her I was.

    Tara

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  28. My story isn't con-related. But about 7 years ago, my husband was working at the photo lab of a chain store when in walked country star Toby Keith. When he came by the lab, Aaron said hi and asked if Toby would mind prank-calling Aaron's boss. Toby grinned and was totally on board. Aaron called his boss and said he had an irate customer. Then he put Toby on the phone. His boss was a huge Toby fan and was completely floored! Hilarious. :)

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  29. Not really relevant, but I'd just like to say that the nicest celeb I've ever met at a con was Ernie Hudson. He could tell how nervous I was (Super Shy Lady over here) and he actually made an effort to chat with me a little bit and be extra friendly while we got our picture taken.

    Also, I was such a nervous nelly when I met William Shatner, that he mocked me, which is a hilarious memory that I treasure.

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  30. I listen to a podcast by some webcomic artists and one rule of etiquette they suggest is not to hover. They are happy to talk and sign and pass out high-fives, but once you have chatted, gotten an autograph, high fived, talk to someone else.

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  31. I'd just like to add my voice as another person who cosplays----I'm always happy to have pictures taken! I put a lot of work into my costume and it's nice when other people like it, too!

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  32. Avid CW reader, finally started reading your Epbot blog, and am now hooked after an hour of reading past blogs. While I'm supposed to be working. And, getting my kids dressed.
    Must...pull...away.

    Later.

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  33. Wow, I've never been to a con, but I wouldn't do well. Too many people and I have that shy streak (until I get to know people). But I would be ok just taking it all in. I did get to shake Spock's (Leonard Nimoy's) hand and get his autograph back in 1977 (before cons. He was at an autorama in Seattle with Jimmy Walker. There were three of us teenage girls and we had one friend scoping for him as he took a break. She very politely asked if we could shake his hand. He said yes. Then we got our autographs (but no pictures). And all for the entrance fee into the Autorama (we didn't care about the cars). It was quite the adventure!

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  34. I hope my fellow geeks will pardon my slight deviation from topic, but I thought another point of view might be useful. I'm a geek of the music variety, and attend large festivals regularly. I'm also wall-hugging shy when it comes to introducing myself to new people. Recently, my bestie and I attended Rocklahoma, and were privileged enough to meet some of the nicest people in rock music. (the guys from Drowning Pool and Art of Dying are adorable!)

    Here's the very best advice I can give....TAKE A FRIEND. Preferably, a friend who is less painfully shy than yourself. Even if you're both geeking out over the sight of your favorite singer (actor, writer, director, etc), just having the moral support of a good friend can give you enough of a boost to say hello. I have met some amazing people just because I have another music geek there to back me up.

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  35. Jen, Completely Off the subject, I just found this deathmetal band who bases all their song lyrics off Science fiction Books. I just had to share. Enjoy! http://www.bloodhag.com/index2.html

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  36. Can't say as i've had much direct interaction with celebrities; i once helped Jim Martin (who did a lot of award winning work on The Great Space Coaster and Sesame Street and is a total sweetheart, and a couple of friends once got to sing to Ursula K. LeGuin (a friend of ours done a lovely setting of the poem from A Wizard of Earthsea), which totally tickled her. In general i'm usually one of those painfully shy types who prefers to observe from afar, no camera, just private thoughts and a prayer that no one notices me.
    As for finding your place at a convention in general, i highly recommend volunteering. Most cons i've attended are chronically short on help, and will be only too happy to make use of an extra pair of hands. Plus i've met some fantastic folks that way (though volunteering often short-lists you for getting put on staff).
    And if general cosplayers are anything like fursuiters, trust me, most of the are total hams. Catch their eye, smile sweetly, hold up the camera, say "Please"; a lot of them are only too happy to oblige, and will let you know if now isn't a good time.

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  37. I've only done a large con twice - one WorldCon and one DragonCon. Mostly I do small, intimate cons, but some of the letters here tell me it's been too long since I've been to one - or maybe not if it's changed so much. Used to be that signing autographs was one of the things the guests were paid by the con to do, not something they charged the fans for. Sigh.

    Bruce Campbell was the GOH of a small con I went to in Atlanta back in '94 (sounds like one of your grandpa's tales, doesn't it?). He was scheduled to sign autographs from 1-2 pm, but the line was so long he stayed until almost 3. He took the time to speak to each fan, was charming and polite to everyone. The lady in line behind me was nice enough to take my picture with him, which turned out so well that I had it blown up and mailed to him, along with a very nice letter, asking him to autograph it for me.

    Six weeks later I got my picture back with the words, 'Kate, Marry Me!' scrawled across it.

    It's one of my most prized possessions now.

    Money can't buy something like that. When all transactions are commercial transactions, then they lose their magic. I would never pay for an autograph. What's the point?

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  38. As a veteran of 40+ cons, let me suggest that your best chances are at smaller, fan-run cons. My local con (*shameless plug* Archon in St. Louis) is over 2000 members these days, but I've been to cons with fewer than 500 (the smaller the con, the less likely they are to have "big name celebrity", so it does make a difference there too) The huge, commercially run cons are money making ventures - no more, no less. Fan run cons have fewer "big names", but more chances to get close to them.

    My best advice to the novice con-goer: find a local, fan run convention and volunteer! Working with the convention staff is a great way to make friends, meet people and get the inside track on all sorts of things!

    And my "con close encounter"? I've met a LOT of authors, and a few "stars", but the one that made me go weak in the knees was Marc Singer ("The Beastmaster"!). I was chatting with some other staff members, and he walked up to our group, put his arm around me and announced "Everyone having a good time?" I melted...

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  39. I have some tips on approaching cosplayers/costumers:

    Cosplayers actually prefer if you ask for their photo rather than trying to snap a candid. It gives us the chance to pose and show of the costume and make sure it looks its best.

    Try not to take offense if a cosplayer has to turn you down for a photo because they are on their way to do something. You can always ask again if you see them later. I promise we don't mind!

    Avoid requesting photos in crowded areas of the convention like a major intersection or the dealers room. You can always ask for a photo and request to step aside to a less crowded area.

    I completely agree with you Jen, that first step to breaking the ice is hard to do, but once you've done it you notice you are much more outgoing for the rest of the event.

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  40. A couple of years back at the Swedish Sci-Fi Convention, my friends dressed up as Batman villains (I don't remember how many they were, but maybe five or six of them). Anthony Daniels, who was there, was so impressed he asked them to wait around so he could talk to them and they had a picture taken with them. ^^

    And some years before that I was there until pretty much they closed, and then went up to the celebrity guests to talk. Sean Astin was one of them, and when my friends went to talk to him (just to say hi), he grabbed a piece of paper and signed it for them.

    Although these cons are really small compared to US ones I think!

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  41. Wow! Reading you guys' stories is way fun! What a great way to share who we've met!

    I was once in traffic school with Geoffrey Owens (Elvin from the Cosby Show). No, I'm not that old, but when I was in college I had to go to traffic school. He was in town doing a Shakespeare festival (he played Romeo) and he was in a minor fender bender. No one else recognized him but me. He was very polite--he asked me about the book I was reading at lunch, which was Pet Semetary, and why I liked it. But I think he's an evangelist because he started talking about the Bible and gave me his name and number to come to one of their "meetings," and I think it was to "save" me from Stephen King! But I still have his autograph and phone number. I never called him, though. I have a friend who was also in the plays with him and I told her about it, and she said he was always preaching about this and that backstage. She said while he was being polite, it was quite annoying.

    I also met Ursula K. LeGuin when I was in college--she came to our school to do a lecture about women in literature. I wish I'd gotten an autograph, but I just asked a question during the lecture and shook her hand afterwards. But the lecture was really good.

    Kate, I have heard that about Bruce Campbell--he really loves his fans. He is one of my favorite actors and authors. Plus I think he's cute.

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  42. Comic con, Chicago: still teary eyed and an utter wreck from meeting (and getting hugged by) the glorious Julie Newmar, people-overload panic started to sink its teeth as my husband drug me over to the Back to the Future display area. Desperately trying to find a place to hide away from the impossible crowds while he got his picture taken with THE delorean, I was truly in melt-down panic mode. Then I became aware of "hey! Hey! Hey!" Coming from behind. Turning, I realized James Tolkan was beckoning me to come over. So, approach his booth I did (I mean, is it even legal to brush him off?). In the calmest voice, he started asking me how the con was going, where we were from, and other polite meltdown-deactivating questions. It was probably just to keep me from turning that sector of the convention hall into a nuclear wasteland, but it certainly pulled me out of conshock, and helped me adjust to the atmosphere (and have a wonderful, memorable weekend). Later, I realized in horror that in my panic I hadn't even given him the courtesy of asking how his day was going, or offer to buy an autograph. Still, I doubt he really cared about the money. I'll certainly hunt him down next time to give an appropriate thank-you.

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  43. As a shy person at conventions I can recommend wearing cosplay as a way of talking to people! It means people approach you first and makes it easier to break the ice with other cosplayers. As a cosplayer I'm usually there for that aspect of the convention so I'm happy to meet and chat with people all day.

    I don't usually go to many autograph signings, but from my experience at book signings it helps to have something to say planned out. My mind always goes blank unless I think of something before hand. The guests are generally nice though, they're used to being approached by fans.

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  44. @Arthemise - Apparently Lou Ferrigno and/or his people are actually really big jerks. My brother helped coordinate and move an 8-foot statue of the Incredible Hulk to a Con in Missouri. His friend (who owned the statue and is an enormous Hulk fan) had offered to bring and set up the statue near Ferrigno's booth in exchange for an autograph. Both he and my brother paid their own way into the Con and set up the statue.

    When they came back later to get their autographs and meet the celeb they discovered that other Con goers were being charged for photos with the celeb and the statue, which did not belong to the celeb or his handlers, and was not being paid for in any other way than a little bit of ink on one pec. Needless to say, bro and friends were quite pissed at this situation and attempted to retrieve their statue. It did not go well. They finally got it back (with the autograph)at the end of the con after the bastards had wrung every penny they could out of it.

    Turned my little bro off of Lou Ferrigno in a big way.

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  45. @ Rickard Dickson - yes, agreed! It is a shame - often times I see the autograph fee as more a fee just to interact with the guest, since at big cons that's the only way you'll get to see them one-on-one.

    @ Michelle - Oh! Oh! I have a photo of me with Paul McGillion, which I would never in a million years show ANYONE, because it was taken while he was calling me a "naughty minx" in his Dr. Beckett voice & I was howling with laughter at the time. I should also mention that John was the one taking the photo (ha!), and Paul graciously agreed to it after I bought an autograph, since no one else was around. (Last day at Dragon*Con is the *best* - all the crowds are gone!)

    @Brilliantpants - Yes, Ernie Hudson is awesome! The most approachable, "regular guy" celeb I've ever met. Love him.

    @STeve - excellent point; hovering is a DEFINITE no-no. Too creepy. Heh.

    @MSU - another great bit of advice! I would never manage without John at my back. Half the time he doesn't even say anything, but just having his moral support and presence makes me more at ease.


    @ Marcia - Awww, that is such a sweet story!

    @ War Lioness - ug, that's terrible! Although I'd like to think it was more the fault of the organizers than Lou, if only because I've also heard nice stories about him taking time to greet non-paying fans. Sometimes the guests are herded around as much as the fans, so maybe they're not always aware if something like that is going on?

    Or, you know, they might be jerks. :D But I *do* like to think the best of people, when possible - especially my favorites. (Bill Murray, I'm looking at you!)

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  46. Oh my GOSH Jen...if Paul McGillion called me a 'naughty minx', I'd probably swoon on the spot :)

    I bought a hideously expensive photo op with William Shatner for next weekend...I feel though that he probably puts up with tounge-tied fans so much that I won't need to worry about carrying the conversation, which is the only thing keeping me from giving in to terror and hawking my photo pass on Kijiji... lol

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  47. @Jen - I imagine you're right (I wasn't there and only have my brother's word) but the whole deal was just very off-putting for my bro. Could be that Ferrigno is awesome and just an unwitting pawn in this whole saga. Little bro had very little interaction with him (AFAIK).

    It was just so very inconsiderate of the organizers/handlers/whoever to do something like that. I mean, just because it's there doesn't mean they have free reign to make money off a fan's generosity. If they want to charge for photos that's their business, but they should provide their own props, or at least ask permission (with full disclosure that they intend to charge) of the owner first. /rant

    BUT! My brother has been to a number of other cons and had generally EXCELLENT experiences otherwise!

    Also, I talk about my bro's experiences because I haven't managed to make it to a con yet. Reay want to one day though!

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  48. OK. I have a couple nifty experiences. First, a few years ago at StarFest (Denver's con), during his Q&A session, I went up to ask a question of Ethan Phillips (Neelix from ST: Voyager). Honestly, I don't remember what the question was, but I had just purchased my first bodice and was wearing it proudly around. When I walked up to the mic, Ethan said, "Wow, you've got more curves than a Hollywood highway!" I think I blushed so red I could've been spotted from Mars! So, if you are a bit afraid of approaching a star close up, you can always do the Q/A!

    Second, my hubby and I were at a previous StarFest and met Richard Biggs (Stephen Franklin, the doctor on Babylon5). We had missed the autograph session, but met him on the stairwell. Richard was with his daughter. My husband told him how much he admired his work, and they proceeded to chat for a minute. Richard then actually asked if I would hold his daughter, and dug around in his pockets for a pen. He signed the photo my husband had been carrying around for us, free of charge. He was SO nice, genuine and friendly. It made us both exceedingly sad when he passed away.

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  49. At comic con I've gotten TONS of autographs and pictures with lesser known stars and artists who usually get forgotten about when the crowds catch a glimpse of one of the bigger stars.

    And I guess my best con story is when I went to see Adam Baldwin (of Firefly, swoon), I got in line without paying for anything (cuz I'm poor) and just wanted to tell him I am a fan. I turned into a giggling schoolgirl, but he was INCREDIBLY nice and even let my hubby take some pics of us. It was a great experience!

    And everyone I've ever taken a picture of in costume has been more than awesome, and as other people said "Thank you!" goes a long way!

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  50. I'm clearly late to the party here, but I see the person above me mentioned Adam Baldwin, and I just want to say: if anyone goes to a con in the hopes of talking to Adam Baldwin, GO TO THE BAR. I've been to multiple cons, and had run ins with him in multiple hotel bars. I wouldn't discuss politics with him or anything, but he's a totally nice guy, and for the most part it seems like he goes to the bar with the intention of hanging with fans. Which is cool.

    Oh, Jason Mamoa was there, too. How could ANYone forget Jason Mamoa? Also nice!

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  51. I think my all time favorite celebrity encounter was when my two year old met Peter Mayhew for the first time at Convergence in Bloomington MN, in 2000 or 2001. Peter was possibly the largest human Boo had ever seen. he wasn't a short kid- but he looked Peter straight in the kneecaps. Peter was very gracious, and sweet, and put boo on his shoulders, so that he could touch the ceiling in the hallway.

    I avoid the huge cons like the plague- but the smaller cons (convergence is only about 5-6000 attendees, and most smaller cons are around 1/10th of that size) are wonderful, and the gusts are thee to MEET their fans, not to worship the almighty dollar.

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  52. I'd add:
    There will be least an hour spent floating in wide-eyed geek wonder. Enjoy it, you can't avoid it or rush it. : )

    I second MSU--a friend familiar with the con is lovely.

    A lot of cons have online communities which make it easier to connect with specific groups/panels/geek dinners at con.

    Costuming forces you to be less shy and is great fun, though it took me 4 cons to do that.

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  53. The first thing that ever happened to me at my first convention was getting into an elevator with several of my friends. I was the last one in but had noticed everyone else had a sudden look of panic and huddled to the left side of the elevator. Upon entering I noticed a tall elderly man all alone in the back right corner. This man was Mark Lenard, also known as Spock's Daddy.

    I was rather embarrassed with my companions actions. They were all speechless and star struck. I felt very bad for Mr. Lenard. I immediately started a conversation with him that lasted all of three floors and was nothing about Star Trek. He seemed much happier and more relaxed.

    At another con my wife and I were seated at a table in a restaurant next to Richard Hatch from the original Battlestar Galactica. He and his producer along with another actor and actress had imbibed a great deal of alcohol and were discussing why many women were willing to remove there clothing to be photographed. As an artist, I have done several nude photoshoots with models. So, when I sensed a break in conversation, I leaned over and shared my thoughts. Mr Hatch smiled and said, "I hadn't thought of that." Then he invited my wife and I to join them for dinner. The next couple of hours became hazy as I consumed more alcohol than maybe I should have.

    But my point is this. Celebrities do not carry plagues. If you see them mingling, don't treat them like they are something other than human. They are no different than you and I. They just happen to have jobs that bring them large numbers of fans. If opportunity presents itself for conversation, take it. But don't go all fan geek over them. They get enough of that already. Treat them just like anyone else you would meet for the first time. Not only will you be happy that you did, but they will be too.

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  54. I'm just now sad that I didn't get up the courage to run over to George Takei's table to just say hi when I was far too broke for his autograph. Damn this shyness.

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  55. Oh! I just saw someone mention Lou Ferrigno. Can I just say UGH! I volunteered at MotorCity Comic con in 2001(because I was broke and volunteering for one day got you in for free all weekend.) Well, when they were trying to find things for everyone to do, the organizer said Lou needed help and he only wanted a female helping him. Guess who was the ONLY girl in all of the volunteers? This girl.
    So, i got to assist Lou Ferrigno for eight long hours. The thing was, i never watched The Incredible Hulk and had NO IDEA he had bad hearing. I had no idea what he wanted me to do half the time. I also never got to leave and eat or go to the restroom or anything. It was horrible.
    The only fun i had that day was chatting with Adam West who was at the next table when he didn't have anyone over there. That stopped when he asked my age and I said I was 20 instead of the 15 he thought I was. He had some really cute kids dressed as Batman come up for pictures though.

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  56. When I went to Supercon Richard Horvitz was there. When I saw his table I kind of froze and did a jaw-drop-of-awe and began wondering if it was okay to just walk right up or if spontaneous hellos were frowned upon.

    So I settled on a wave and to my surprise he immediately smiled and said, "I love your walking stick!"

    Me: "O-oh...um...it's actually a gun see?" *held it up*

    Richard: "Oh wow, cool!"

    And then I scurried away blushing and worked up the nerve to come back later for an autograph. And he remembered me! Soon as I walked up he said, "Ah, you can't fool me this time, I know that's a gun."

    It's really scary to walk right up and talk to someone (believe me I'm one of the shyest people ever) but it turns out most celebs at cons are really friendly. I met a few other VAs and they were super nice. Sadly I know there's a darker side to it, people who are just there for the money, but I think a lot of them still go because they truly want to meet their fans. Especially at smaller cons.

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  57. At Dragon*Con last year, I chatted with Paul McGillion (from Stargate Atlantis) for a while because there was nobody in line behind me to talk to him. I asked if he'd say hi to a friend on my phone if I called her and he got really excited. She didn't pick up, so he made me call her back and he left her a voicemail almost a minute long IN CHARACTER as Carson Beckett, wishing her a happy birthday amongst other things. It made my weekend as well as hers! Oh, and he hugged me :D

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  58. So I met Garrett Wang (Ensign Harry Kim) this past weekend, and I managed to be coherent and not make a total fool out of myself. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, even if you're not a fan of Star Trek - GO! He's hysterical! I haven't laughed that hard in ages.

    My blog post about Garrett Wang and Voyager

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  59. Great advice! I have only two things to add. First is that if you have a convention run by fans nearby (instead of a corporate-run one), consider volunteering to work on the con committee. My husband and I got to talk at length with several well-known authors and a few TV celebs that way, some at a barbecue the night before the convention, and others in the VIP room. And the other suggestion is to keep your eyes and ears open in and around any nearby restaurants and bars, especially at the smaller cons. We had dinner with a few (somewhat inebriated) celebrity guests at one con because we happened to get seated at the table right next to them in the hotel restaurant, and my husband overheard part of their conversation and was brave enough to say something witty in response. They promptly invited us to join them at their table! It was quite a fun evening, I must say.

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  60. Oh, WOW. I would do almost anything to hear Paul McGillion call me a naughty minx. You are SO lucky!!!

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  61. Met George Takei at Archon in St. Louis a few years ago. A lovely, lovely man!

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