One of the most common questions I get from cosplayers is how to be a guest at a convention. There seems to be a real mystique around what it involves, so hopefully this post will help clear some of the misconceptions and pass on some valuable information.
As usual, a quick disclaimer that I’m simply writing this from my personal experience. I’m by no means the global authority on how to work in cosplay, and I’m not at all suggesting that anyone who cosplays should want to monetise it or aim to work in the developing industry. This blog was created with the purpose of providing a resource for cosplayers who are interested in the professional side of cosplay – a resource I wish I had when I started out. Hopefully it’s helpful!
Before I talk about how to get invited as a guest, I think it’s important to identify how to be a good guest. You can’t possibly know if you want to do something before you know what it entails, so here’s what I’ve learned from my experience as a guest (and my mistakes!) both locally on national Australian tours and internationally.
Convention organisers will usually contact you via email. It’s important that you’re prompt in your responses, and that you know the kinds of questions you’ll have to ask to be prepared for the show. Some basic questions you should be asking are:
- Will I be provided with travel and accommodation?
- Can I bring my friend/partner/assistant?
- Can I have a copy of my schedule for the event?
- Am I presenting any panels or workshops?
- Will there be handlers or volunteers near my booth?
- How much table space or booth space do I have to fill?
- Will I be organising my own meals during the show?
- Will the event be providing transport to/from the airport and to/from the accommodation to the event?
- Are there any after-hours or press events I’m required to attend?
2. Be On Time
Cosplayers often underestimate how long it will take them to finish a costume, pack a costume or get into costume. This is fine if you’re just having fun with friends, but when you’re being hosted as a guest you have a responsibility to be prepared and on-time. Always allow extra time for emergencies, and memorise your schedule or keep a copy of it on your phone (never rely on paper copies, they will always go missing!). When you’re an attendee, you can show up to a convention whenever you please. When you’re a guest, you’re often required to be at your booth when doors open. Be prepared for a lot of 5am starts to get into costume!
3. Add Value
Whilst sitting at your booth signing prints, taking photos and meeting your followers is awesome, cosplay guests have a unique opportunity to add value to an event that other guests may not be able to provide. If you have a particular skill set like wig styling, armour fabrication, makeup application or prop making, it’s a good idea to approach the convention organisers and offer to run a workshop or demo, be on a panel or have a Q and A session. The more value you can add to the convention, the more likely they are to invite you or fellow cosplayers back. Particularly in Australia, it’s important to show conventions that cosplay guests are an important and valuable part of the convention experience now. Showing your wealth of knowledge and experience is an awesome and useful way to do that.
4. Be grateful
At the end of the day, nobody is owed a guest spot at a convention – not even Nathan Fillion. So remember to be grateful for the experience, be kind to staff and volunteers and be attentive and friendly to all attendees. You’re not only representing yourself, you’re representing the cosplay community and the convention to the public. This requires a little more patience, consideration and effort than if you were simply attending with friends.
5. Be Professional
When it comes down to it, when you’re guesting at a convention you’re at work. This means you shouldn’t say or do anything at the con that you wouldn’t do in an office. This includes showing up hungover or ill from the night before. After parties and free drinks are tempting, but remember that you have a responsibility to be at the top of your game for the duration of the show. I’m not saying don’t have fun, but don’t over-do it and regret it in the morning!
It’s important to remember that you’re also a role model for other cosplayers or potential cosplayers who might aspire to be doing what you’re doing one day. Set a good example and you never know the kind of impact you might make on someone.
6. Be Prepared
When you’re packing for a guest spot at a convention, particularly if it’s overseas or in a city you’ve never visited, it’s crucial that you bring absolutely everything you might need. Some things that are on my checklist are:
- Costumes – Obviously. Look at a photo of your costume and list every component (including undergarments!) that you need to wear it. Check it off as you pack – there’s nothing worse than getting dressed on the day and realising you’re missing a vital component of your costume.
- Promotional Materials – beyond prints, it’s a good idea to bring promotional materials to dress up your booth and make a lasting impression with attendees. This might include banners, posters, standing signs and business cards.
- Merchandise – If you sell products or prints, you should absolutely bring enough stock with you. See my post about selling cosplay prints for my thought process on how much stock to bring to conventions. Remember to pack lots of Sharpies if you’re going to be doing signings!
- Cash Float – If you’re selling anything, you need to have a cash float ready for your customers. I usually break about $200 into small notes the day before the convention. Some cosplayers will also set up EFTPOS services via a portable machine or a smartphone app!
- Emergency Kit – Medication, painkillers, bandaids, a sewing kit, a hot glue gun, hairspray, comfy flat shoes and sometimes even a back-up costume will save you from any last minute emergencies. I can’t even tell you how important this is, you don’t think you’ll need them until you do. This is an absolute must if you’re travelling overseas!
These are the basics that come to me off the top of my head, but I’m sure there’s more! If you have any questions, please let me know. I’ll be writing up a separate guide on the slightly more complex invitation process soon.
Eve B x