For my birthday this year I decided to try doing my first ever out of state convention—about 3,000 miles away from home in South Portland, Maine. As a fan of the AnimeConsTV podcast, they’ve raved about PortConMaine for years about how it’s not like any show on the east or west coast— with the urge to go back to Rhode Island to visit family, it being mine and my aunts birthdays that weekend (June 23rd & June 24th), and the convention only being a 3 hour drive away— I hopped on a plane and headed east!
I tried to apply for an artist alley table back when they first opened in February, I unfortunately didn’t make it into the first round, but I still wanted to check out the show, so I figured I’d go as an attendee and drag my aunt around the convention. A few weeks before the show I got an email saying that a spot in the AA opened up if I wanted it, so I began trying to figure out how to pack my entire con set up into 2 carry-on bags (hint: I didn’t).
The convention started on Thursday June 22nd and ran until Sunday June 25th, however Thursday was more of an artist set up day than it was an actual sale day, and with my aunt having to work that evening, we decided to skip it and leave early the next day. On Friday morning we got up around 5:30am East Coast time—which is 2:30am west coast time, so I was a bit of a zombie until I fully regained consciousness— and headed north. We managed to make it to the convention about 2 hours before it officially opened, giving PLENTY of time for set up, and soon enough the convention opened and attendees started pouring in!
I’ve never done a show on the east coast, so my main focus was to pass out fliers for EC! and try to gain a few east coast fans— little did I know there was already some at the convention. I had two lovely peeps excitedly walk up to my table saying they’re fans of the comic and were so excited to see my table! Guys— I almost cried. I can’t handle amazing fans, you guys make me revert to stupid. (Seriously though, if I’m ever at a show and you’re feeling shy about visiting my table, VISIT MY TABLE! It’s one thing to read the comic, but I LOVE meeting you guys in person—put a face to the username. ♥)
The rest of the day was spent riding the high of meeting some east coast fans, having some friends stop by for hugs and chatting, and talking with all the awesome people who stopped by my table asking about my comic.
Saturday was a bit slower, which I’ve been told is strange for this show, despite this though I had some great conversations with the people who did stop by, and during the slow hours I’d get to talk with my table neighbors. I had a couple of people who stopped by and read through the entirety of chapter 1 at my booth (rarely happens since people are often afraid to linger at my table), and once they got to the last page, would look up at me and panic “WHAT HAPPENS NEXT???”— music to my ears XD. The artist alley was opened from 11am-8pm, I don’t know how I did it ya’ll, once I got back to the hotel I passed out for about 9 hours of precious sleep.
Sunday was bitter sweet, as most Sundays at conventions are, since it was the last day of the show meaning soon enough I got to go back to my aunts house and sleep, but it also meant the awesome convention was done. Holy crap was Sunday slow, with the exception of a few newly converted fans coming by to talk, there wasn’t really a whole lot going on. With the lack of attendees I got to BS with Linez about convention horror stories, and he introduced me to the most terrible convention advertisement I have ever seen.
Convention Breakdown & Highlights
Positives: way too many to list, so I’ll pick my top 5
-The staff were all amazing! I’ve never been to a convention where the staff was all so helpful and concerned about the well-being of their exhibiting artists, I wish I could give every one of them a hug ♥
-The PortCon NPC. OMG guys more conventions need an NPC! She would walk around asking people if they would like to go on quests, and when they finished they would be rewarded (starbursts FTW), the quests were engaging and fun, my quest was to attempt to sing the opening to my favorite anime and when I thought I could do that— my mind went blank. So I blurted out the first 2 seconds of Ouran High School Host Club “KISS KISS FALL IN LOVE!”….I was given candy for my attempt. My favorite quest was people were running up to my table to get an autograph because their quest was to get an autograph from an artist in the artists alley, ya’ll I damn near cried with each quest and the person saying “you’re one of my favorite artist here so I wanted to get this signed!”
-There was space between each exhibiting table. You guys have NO IDEA how helpful that is so emergency bathroom breaks. Most shows you have to walk down the end of the aisle to get out, or crawl under your table and hope you don’t terrify some poor attendee. Bravo, PortConMaine.
-The convention had $10 shirts! I wish more cons would have shirts at a lower price like this, I would collect more con t-shirts that way. Most conventions I’ve been to sell shirts for $20+, which I can’t really afford after all of my expenses just to get to the show
-Everyone was so friendly! I think this has to do more with the environment than the convention itself, but I couldn’t get over how nice and talkative everyone was at this show. I’ve never felt so welcomed before at a convention ♥♥♥
-The artist alley was kept at a frigid temperature, I was so cold the whole weekend, however I was told that the exhibitor hall next door was almost an oven.
- The program book was very difficult to read, and I wasn’t really a fan of the paper choice for the books either (printed on newspaper stock?). I prefer the books to have a huge layout for the convention map, but the map in this book was a tiny thumbnail in the corner of a page, I also had a real hard time reading through the panels since they were all squished onto the page by day, and the convention had a MASSIVE program for the weekend, so I think they could benefit from a few more pages to their book. Also there was no artist alley listing in the book that I could find :/
-As an vendor/artist alley participant, it makes it so much easier when conventions have a separate registration for vendor/artist badges vs having to get a regular attendee badge. Personally, I’m a fan of there being an option for helper badges when registering for tables.
Table Neighbor Spotlight!
Here are the awesome people I was sitting next to the whole weekend, thanks for the fun conversation! Check out their links :3
Want me to appear at a convention near you?
Contact your local show and send them to my Guest Page!
Today I’m going to tell you about my favorite artist alley staple— Con Kits!
Unfortunately, con kits are so rarely talked about when it comes to exhibiting at shows, but they are ESSENTIAL to having a successful convention. They can be as big or small as you want them to be, are completely customizable, easy to make, and super cheap to put together— ‘specially since you probably have all the basic items in your residence already!
If you exhibit at conventions/trade shows/etc. you should have one of these kits with you wherever you go.
Keep it with your con gear and never again will you exclaim “WHERE IS THE TAPE???”
"WHAT IS A CON KIT AND WHY DO I NEED ONE?"
A con kit is an emergency tool box of common supplies needed when exhibiting at shows.
Personally, I prefer a nicely stocked kit so that I can help out other creators who may have forgotten to pack essentials, so my Con Kit is a tackle box.
Tackle boxes make great con kit cases because it’s meant to organize and store things already— a typical tackle box has a lockable latch, a handle for easy carrying, and has layered shelving for more optimal storage. Tackle boxes also come in SO MANY SIZES— from itty bitty, to GINORMOUS.
Naturally, the smaller boxes are typically cheaper than the super deluxe pro fisherman tackle boxes, so pick a box that fits your needs. You can find tackle boxes at most big box stores and outdoor retailers.
You a thrifty artist looking for a deal or cheaper alternative? Check out thrift stores and garage sales! You can usually find tackle boxes for ridiculously cheap— just make sure to soak the box in bleach or vinegar and water to remove any fishy smells and stains. (your AA neighbors will thank you)
I know that some of you are thinking— “But Melissa, I am an ARTIST. Why can’t I just buy an art storage box from ?”
Nothing is stopping you from doing that! I suggest tackle boxes because they are easier to find than most art storage supplies, and they’re usually a lot cheaper too.
All that matters is that you get a storage container that works for you.
Most people like paying less money for things, so make sure to sign up for those store cards and look for coupons so you can get a good deal.
Don’t have a tackle box, or only need a tiny storage container? Plastic food containers work great too. Save those Chick-fil-a plastic containers for +5 Thrift!
"WHAT GOES INTO A CON KIT?"
Whatever you want!
"THAT DOESN’T HELP!"
Ok— Here is a master list of things you can potentially put into your kits
Feel free to download this list and print it out to use!
You can add or leave out whatever you want for your kit, this list is to help you get a head start on prepping your kit to work for you.
Have any tips you want to add? There a topic you would like Melissa to talk about?
Leave a comment!