Con Survival Series: Schedule and Time Management

Ah, the ever present specter of time marching on. Going to a convention with so many activities on the list can seem overwhelming. How will you ever get to everything? The answer is quite plainly that you can’t. And this isn’t something to complain about to the con staff, rather it is something to rejoice about! The goal of any convention is to give you as little boredom as possible. So while you won’t see each and every event, you can make the most of the time you have.

Almost any convention worth its salt is going to have an early convention schedule online. Tightly run conventions sometimes have a preliminary schedule up a couple of weeks before the convention but most will have it up the week leading up to the convention. Conventions are prone to mishap and delay so sometimes you will only get a schedule as you show up to the convention. Obviously the sooner you can see the schedule the sooner you can start planning your days. Plus you have a good amount of time to look it over and see some awesome events you might have missed in the hectic action of being at the con.

I attempt to get a lay of the land before everything starts. I take a good, long look at the map and, if I’m not rushing off to somewhere the moment I enter the building, I’ll do a quick walkthrough as not to get confused later. Remember, this was printed a couple of weeks before the convention started so any last minute changes aren’t going to be reflected. This also helps you figure out the best route to getting to and from places and you might be able to spot what areas are going to get jam packed as to be avoided. Inevitably there will be some section of the con where the traffic flow is absolutely terrible.

Hopefully the convention you are going to is so jam packed with things to do that you have to make an itinerary. The first thing you have to determine is what your priorities are. My general method is to pick what events I have to go see no matter what and then schedule everything around that. Once I have the key things I want to go to, I fill in the remaining time as I go along. So what are you going to do with the mostly inevitable times where there is nothing to do? Well those are prime times to get food, meet up with friends, browse artists alley, take pictures, and check out the dealer’s room. The fact is though the hardest decisions often come from too full a schedule.

You’ll realize rather quickly that some great things are going to be conflicting with other equally great things. There are a few tips to remember while making your preliminary schedule. Try to compare conflicts if they come up, some things will truly be once in a lifetime opportunities. Also it is handy to have a back up event schedule for the cancellations that crop up or when a panel isn’t living up to your expectations. As a reminder, it is perfectly okay to leave a panel you aren’t enjoying just be quite and courteous about it. Remember to factor in waiting in line times, you might have to miss other events if you plan on lining up early.

Certain panels, autograph sessions, and front seats at the AMVs and the cosplay contest always have lines that start way before the event. Certain top tier guests panels, online meet ups, and for some reason Kingdom Hearts panels will actually have to turn people away. American voice actors panels and a very few select Japanese guests will fill up a room but most Japanese guests are not so popular that you have to worry. You can find what the crazy packed panels are going to be by asking on the message boards. Any other panel you can usually slip in and out of without a problem. Most panels have a regular ebb and flow of people so if you don’t get in you can check back 10 to 15 minuets into the panel and usually a seat will have opened up. You basically have to weigh how much to you want to see a whole event vs how much you want to miss other things. Autograph sessions are the only thing that absolutely requires you to line up early.

I hate to wait in lines so I have researched to make sure I normally don’t have to. People have a weird tendency to WANT to wait in a line. Don’t waste your entire convention in unnecessary lines. For example, there is absolutely zero reason to wait for the AMV contest. They are on a screen, you’ll see them. Also, quite a few cosplay events have cameras set up so you can see them on a screen so whether you are in the back or front makes little difference. These things are easy enough to ask con staff about. Most conventions open their doors a half hour or so before any of the events start, this makes it silly to wait in line to get in if you already have a badge. Equally silly is waiting to get into the dealer’s room, it is open the most hours of anything going on at the convention. You can easily slip in and out through the day. Many guest autograph sessions are totally full up while their panels are only half full. This is a great thing to remember if you really don’t want to wait in line. If you do find yourself in line you can easily make it productive by talking to the people around you, eating, etc.

I have yet to go to a convention where there has not been some schedule change. People will drop out, panelists will have last minute plans and travel mishaps, things will be changed to cater to guests whims, people will need different rooms for equipment, con staff will realize popular panels need bigger rooms, and a million other things can cause a change in the schedule. Your best bet is to start each day with a trip down to the conventions info desk. They will have an updated schedule to look at and with any luck reprinted schedules with updates on them. They will also have unannounced events that have popped up at the last second. I can remember at least three times I have kicked myself for forgetting to look at the revised schedule.

I redo my schedule a ton of times. Unexpected things always come up as with anything else in life. But it is in my nature to try and control it somehow. The whole point of making a schedule is to help slay that overwhelming feeling that a convention can bring about. Haven’t you ever had so many things to do that you just end up doing nothing? That is what we are trying to help you avoid. But don’t be rigid, go with the flow, and you’ll have a good time even if you don’t get to every little thing on the schedule.

The funny thing is for all the highlighting I do ahead of time I tend to constantly look over the schedule and make decisions on the fly. You are going to change your plans a million times during a convention but I find you are much more secure in doing so when you mapped out plan from the start. But without a doubt the most important thing is to make sure you do the most to have a good time while at a convention. As Theophrastus said, “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.”

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