Don’t Just Stare at the Screen. Make a Virtual Con Feel More Real.
Elevate your experience and create a comic-con state-of-mind
By MJ Wilke
Virtual cons are not the same as in-person conventions—that is definitely stating the obvious. But you can do things to move the needle away from a ho-hum Zoom meeting and closer to an in-person experience. The trick is to elevate the virtual con to something more than just watching a screen. Engage!
But how do you re-create that feeling of being at a con when you’re surrounded by your everyday life? Our solution: Make it a 4D experience and create a “comic-con state-of-mind.”
Sights, smells, sounds, tastes, traditions, rituals—they all matter!
The comic-con state-of-mind is that feeling of being at a con. The feeling of: I’ve left the house, traveled (whether it’s a few miles or a few states away), leaving work and worries behind. No lawn to be mowed, no dishes or laundry to be washed. Sit back, close your eyes, and remember how you felt (or imagine how it must feel) to be immersed in the con experience for half a day, a day or several days. (Okay, open your eyes now.)
Re-create (or create) that immersive experience by treating it as you would an in-person convention. (It’s not going to be exactly the same, but we can try!) Start by recreating your personal traditions and rituals: music, food, drinks, clothing, activities—and get all the senses involved.
Traditions and rituals.
Many of us have traditions and rituals that we do at every convention, even for conventions we are going to for the first time. Think about the things you do the days before you go and when you get there. Do you have a favorite shirt to wear or cosplay? Do you always go to a particular restaurant the night before or at the end? Which traditions and rituals can you continue and which can be re-created? One particular tradition is important for re-creating the feeling of being at a convention: wearing a badge! It’s not a con until you’re wearing a lanyard. Most of the virtual cons have downloadable badges, if not, you can also wear last year’s or create your own.
Make a plan-of-action. Go through the same process of getting ready for an in-person con.
Calendar. Mark the days of the convention on your calendar.
Programming Guide. Read the programming guide and make a schedule. Note which sessions are live only and need to be watched at that time or recorded and which are available for viewing at any point.
Read/Watch/Listen. Make a list of items to read, watch or listen to pre-convention based on the guests attending. Formulate questions for the guests (virtual events are great opportunities to ask questions). Note if the questions need to be submitted in advance.
Music. Create your playlist and play while planning, getting ready, building up to the start of the event and in-between panels. The Dragon Con gone virtual house DJ created playlists for the attendees on Spotify. San Diego Comic-Con offered sound bites of their iconic announcement to the attendees (playing the Hall H – no running – sound bite between panels lifted the experience). As of this writing, both are available on their websites. Also, think about the sounds of the location of the event: city noise for New York Comic Con, harbor noise for San Diego Comic-Con, waves hitting the beach for HawaiiCon. Download soundscapes to play during the event.
Clothes. Pick out what you are going to wear. For extra authenticity, pack them in a suitcase (wrinkles make it feel real).
Food/Drinks. Plan convention meals, snacks, and drinks. Do you have a tradition of a restaurant or drinks – Pork Chops and Gravy at Manago Hotel; Margaritas at Puestos. If nearby, try delivery or curbside pickup or re-create the dish at home (some restaurants will give you their recipe if you live out of state). Consider making theme food & drinks, especially with kids.
On that Day.
The day of the event, put up signage. San Diego Comic-Con has a series of downloadable signage from their virtual convention, including: “Currently Attending Comic-Con@Home, Please knock quietly – I’m watching a panel!” Add your badge to your lanyard and put it on. Enjoy.
Need more inspiration?
Here’s how I, currently in Minnesota, plan to travel to the HawaiiCon state-of-mind:
My pre-con read/watch/listen includes practicing the Hawaiian language, making my HawaiiCon 2020 playlist (you can find it here on Spotify), reading “Outlander” (Diana Gabaldon is a guest), and watching “Chuck” (Adam Baldwin is a guest). I might also watch an Elvis Hawaii movie just for fun.
My special foods are musubi, poke, and pork chops with onion gravy. There will be cocktails – the ubiquitous Blue Hawaiian and Roy’s Polynesian Passion.
My Vulcan T-shirts are ready to go. The University of Hawaii at Hilo’s mascot are the Vulcans, so their T-shirts are a great Hawaiian/Star Trek crossover. And, of course, I will be wearing a lanyard and badge.
For ambiance, there’s the oscillating fan with a breeze setting, and misting water bottle with a touch of Gardenia essential oil to spray lightly, occasionally into the breeze to create pretend trade winds. Behind me, my iPad with wave sounds; in front of me, the screen playing the panels.
Since I usually walk a nerdy virtual 5k race on the Sunday morning at each con I attend, I will continue that tradition as well. (For more information on virtual races, check out our article: Staying Fit and Nerdy While at Home.)
Grab a lanyard and we’ll meet you at a con, virtually.
MJ Wilke is the founder of Wayward Nerd. She is a road warrior. A nerd. A trekkie. A whovian. A Star Wars fanatic. She will go where no one has gone before, come back and post it here.