A brief Guide to Convention Etiquette

Its convention time for me again. I will be attending GeekGirlCon this weekend to help at my wife’s vendor booth. Stop by the Twisted Kitten Creations booth and say hi.

As I prep for this con I find myself reflecting on a lot of things I have been noticing about the behavior of convention attendees. As such I would like to take the opportunity to go over some convention etiquette that I feel gets overlooked.

First off I would like to introduce you to a thing called situational awareness. The official definition is “the perception of elements in the environment within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future.”  That mouthful is a very fancy way of saying being aware of your surroundings, and the people and events in it.

So why am I bringing this up when I want to talk about convention etiquette? It’s because I see a lot of situations at conventions where just a little situational awareness could make things a lot better.  An example is a group having a conversation at the bottom of a staircase blocking it off from people who need to go up or down, a person stopping in the middle of the convention floor to check their backpack and causing all the people behind them to have to stop quickly, or someone in a costume with protruding bits knocking over a vendor’s display. A convention by its very nature is going to be a crowded space, and as such it is really easy to end up tripping over each other. This can be made worse by some people who start to feel some crowd anxiety and start retreating into their own inner world to cope.

I want to be clear, I’m not saying be hyper vigilant. I am just saying make an effort to be aware of what is going and how your actions my impact the people around you.

This next one might seem like a no brainer, but in the environment of a convention can throw it off. The normal social standards of everyday life still apply. I’ll be honest; I am using this one as a catch all for a lot of issues that can crop up at a convention.

Yes, you are at a place where you are surrounded by people who share a particular interest. There are people dressed in a manner you do not normally see. You can meet, talk and bond with people over these shared interests. But these are still normal people and the normal social rules are still in effect.  Basically ask yourself this question, “Would what I am about to do or say be over the line at a mall or grocery store?” If the answer is yes, then it would be best to reconsider your actions. Also remember that people going to the convention may have shared interests, but other than that come from all walks of life. You may all have geek culture in common, but there will be a variety of different social, political, religious, sexual, and ethnic backgrounds.

Vendor and artist booths are another aspect of conventions that are prevalent, and can have some potential issues. Both are there in a business capacity. They are attempting to connect with a cliental that is unique to the convention environment. Unless it is specifically a promotional booth, they are there to make money, and even the promotional booth is trying to drum up business for whatever they are promoting. The one issue that can happen is if someone is really fascinated with whatever the booth is about, and hangs out trying to monopolize the attention of the vendor. It’s fine to come by and chat, just remember that these folks are there with a purpose and don’t distract them from paying customers.

There is one action that I want to point out, because I have seen it at too many conventions, and I do not know why this happens. It is something that if you saw it happen at store you would definitely go “WTF?”

Do not, I repeat do not touch a pregnant woman’s belly.

It feels weird that I had to write that sentence, but as I stated, I have seen it happen on several occasions. One friend while pregnant went so far as to have a shirt made up before a convention that said “You do not have permission to touch my belly.”

And with the topic of inappropriate touching broached, it is time I go right to the elephant in the room.

Harassment has been a subject of a lot of discussion in geek culture lately. When I wrote about misogyny in geek culture I covered some of it. And since then there have been tales of major lines being crossed at conventions. In particular the events at Readercon have brought the subject to the forefront. Go here if you would like to get the details.

Bottom line, don’t be a creeper. Yes there are attractive people at conventions, and yes they may well be wearing costumes that enhance that attractiveness. And if you are at a convention being held at a hotel there might be alcohol available.

None of that is permission to cross boundaries.

With everything I have gone over here the basics are simple. Keep aware of what you are doing. Be mindful of your actions and their consequences. Have a good time, just don’t have it at someone else’s expence.