May 26, 2019

GUIDE: MegaCon - Orlando's Premier Fan Event

As they say... "Your fan experience starts here". MegaCon is an annual fan convention embracing every type of fandom conceivable. As conventions go, this one may very well be the most inclusive - with more than 100,000 guests from every persuasion and interest descending upon Orlando's Orange County Convention Center each year for the four-day event.

There is no right or wrong way to do MegaCon. We've been attending for four years now. Each year is a little different, and each year we learn new things to make our experience a little more enjoyable and more rewarding. Each year, we like to share a bit about what we experienced, and what we learned, with you!

Accept That You Cannot Do It All

Right off the bat - accept the reality that you are only one person. You cannot be in more than one place at a time, and there are always multiple events going on at MegaCon. If you are interested in more than one fandom - or more than one thing in general - chances are that you will find yourself drawn to events that are overlapping. Well... life is full of tough choices, isn't it? As soon as MegaCon releases the event schedule, look it over and determine your "must-dos". On rare occasions, events may be canceled, so it doesn't hurt to save some back-ups that appeal to you - the second tier events in your interest ranking, if you will. This year, MegaCon released a rough draft of the schedule first, asking guests to check for any real and direct overlaps that may pose a problem within fandoms - followed by a finalized version after giving everyone a chance to chime in. Brilliant! 

When it comes to scheduling, it's also worth noting that you can't always push your schedule too tightly either! For example... if you want to attend the Central Florida Steampunk Association's workshop on Victorian undergarments at 11:00AM in room 302, followed by a celebrity Q&A in the main theater at noon, you're going to run into a problem. Most events run about an hour in length. The "main theater" events are expected to draw large crowds - usually lining up an hour or more in advance. You also have to consider your travel time from room to room - often through thick crowds. Again... this may be a matter of prioritization. Don't let a missed event (or a late arrival to an event) ruin your convention experience, and plan to go with the flow... at least a little bit. You don't want to leave yourself too strictly scheduled anyway, as some of the best experiences you'll have during MegaCon are the impromptu things you simply stumble upon.


One Day? All Four? Somewhere In-Between?

No one should try to tell you how many days (or which days) you have to attend. Prices vary by day, and by the number of days you attend. If you can only afford to attend Thursday - by all means, do it! If you can afford all four, and you want to, that's great, too. Here's the run-down on the day-by-day at MegaCon. 
  • Thursday - Short day, but all the vendors are fresh and excited. Many celebrity guests don't attend on Thursday, but it's a great day to get the lay of the land, so to speak - and to grab up any hot, rare merchandise that you don't want to lose to other guests. Attendance is lower, mobile service is fairly strong, and opening events are enthusiastic! Not a huge show of cosplayers in general, but it's easier to interact with other guests.
  • Friday - A full day, with increased attendance, more celebrity guests, and more events to check out. Now that you've scoped out the floor on Thursday, you can make a beeline pretty easily to whatever you want to buy, the workshops and shows you want to see, and the guests you want to meet.
  • Saturday - The IT day for everything! This is the day when you'll find the most celebrity guests, the most elaborate cosplays, the most popular panels and events, and a crowd level that may make some people cringe. It's not the easiest crowd to navigate, mobile service is pretty close to nonexistent, and it can be a real challenge to smoothly make purchases, meet guests, or interact with other attendees. Yes, it's a tough, grueling, challenging day... but it's also the most interesting and certainly worth it.
  • Sunday - a bit of a shorter day, but longer than Thursday. Lower attendance, fewer celebrities, less cosplays and events, BUT - people are really looking to blow it all out of the park now. Attendees want to let loose the last of the convention energy they have stored and vendors are looking to make deals on whatever they have left. It's a great time to tackle all that you missed or the things you want to experience once more. 


Budget Your Money As You Budgeted Your Time

If you happen to have Rockefeller money, your spending may not be a concern, but you could easily spend a small fortune in four days at MegaCon, so it's wise to preplan your spending to some extent... and it's not all about the collectibles, by the way. 

Whether you'll be attending one day or all four, you're going to need to eat and drink. Even if you live locally and don't have to consider things like hotels and transportation, you're probably going to be pulling long days at the convention center, and keeping fueled up and hydrated are important. There are lots of options for food and drink at the convention center, but their prices are on the extreme side. If you're looking to cut costs, here are a few things to keep in mind. Some vendors sell snacks and candies that will help for a simple recharge. Five Hour Energy is usually on-hand as well, with a fun vendor space, and a supply of go-go juice! There are also options just off-site like McDonald's and IHOP. It isn't a bad idea to step away for a quick lunch and walk back over afterward... re-entry is a breeze! Wild Bill's has become a fixture at conventions and events as of late, offering an intriguing deal on beverages. For $25-$35, attendees could purchase a mug with unlimited refills during the event. Not at all a bad deal - especially for those staying for the length of the event. 

As far as merchandise goes... use your common sense. If you see a rare, unique, autographed item, this is obviously a bit different than a Walking Dead Funko Pop - which you may see 50 of across the vendor floor. If it's common - shop around. I saw the same t-shirt at three different booths for as much as $25. Ultimately, I bought it for $5... simply because I didn't buy the first one I saw. Don't let excitement get the better of you, and always remember - the vendors closest to the entrance are well aware that you will be seeing them before other vendors and your wallet will be ripe for the picking. Some of the best treasures and values are found in the understated small spaces buried in the center of the showroom floor. Don't be afraid to talk to the vendors, either. Aside from learning some very interesting things about some incredibly creative folks, you can also often haggle a bit! Keep in mind - you don't have to spend a fortune to leave MegaCon with cool stuff. There are always great deals to be had, and a wide assortment of items for all price ranges. Overall, just make sure you don't spend it all in one place on your first day! 



R-E-S-P-E-C-T

This should go without saying, but sadly... it needs to be said. Be respectful - of your fellow convention-goers, celebrity guests, vendors, artists, and MegaCon/convention center staff. This event, while fun, can also be quite chaotic. Exercise patience and courtesy at all times, and as the many signs remind us - remember that "cosplay is not consent". Prior to taking someone's photo (anyone's photo), simply ask their permission. For starters - you'll get better photos this way, and you may find that you meet some very awesome people when you take the time to say hello. Besides... it's just the right thing to do. No one wants to be a creeper, after all!

By the same token, be mindful of your own presence. If you are late to a workshop, panel, Q&A, etc., enter the room quietly, avoiding walking right in front of all the action or in front of people taking photos/video. If you see an incredible cosplayer who agrees to a photo, try to avoid setting up your photo session in a way that blocks a walkway or vendor space. When asked to move along, step aside, or refrain from photos - please adhere to the request. In the simplest and bluntest of terms... just don't be an ass. The "Golden Rule", and all that happy stuff - it's nothing new, folks!




Don't Limit Yourself - Try Something New

Each year, we branch out a little bit more, really trying to diversify our MegaCon experience. While there are many things to appeal to whatever fandoms and hobbies you already appreciate, there are also plenty of discoveries to be made. We all love the celebrities who bring our movies and shows to life, but some of the most enriching experiences are the panels and workshops constantly taking place in the concourse rooms. Each year, more and more worlds of knowledge and creativity open up to MegaCon attendees. 

We've explored the history of horror, Florida's greatest ghost stories, belly dancing, sword fighting, how to start a podcast, how to photograph cosplayers, teapot races, parasol duels, costume designing, recycling apparel, jewelry making, sketching, and how to speak Klingon... all at MegaCon. This is of course before all of the rooms that host gaming, interactive Nerf-style battles, speed dating, and family fun. Spread out... meet people... learn something... create!



General Tips

  • As I said before - there really is something for everyone at MegaCon: fantasy, horror, sci-fi, retro, anime, gaming, comics, art, tattoos, DIY, steampunk, literature, theatre... you name it!
  • Gamers - bring your portable game units and trading cards! Aside from organized gaming sessions, spontaneous games tend to break out amongst attendees randomly!
  • Make sure to bring your mobile device chargers! There are plenty of outlets for a quick power up throughout the convention center.
  • Cosplayers - don't miss your chance to shine on the NEW cosplay red carpet. Lucky for you, the cospital is a handy space for last-minute touch-ups before your photo moment.
  • I don't know how you cosplayers manage your day on stilts, heels, etc. For those of us mortals - wear comfortable shoes!

If you missed our various live broadcasts during MegaCon, never fear. We've saved some of our favorite highlights in videos on our YouTube Channel, and in posts on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also check out our entire raw collection of photos and videos from this year's event here.

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