Celebration tip: Navigating the autograph hall

Jaders have a lot of con experience, but one thing we haven’t had much to do with over the years has been the autograph area. So we asked Celebration vet Justin LaSalata, the U.S. News Editor for JediNews.co.uk, to give our readers the rundown. Updated 3/20/15 for Celebration Anaheim.

Temuera Morrison by starwarsblog on FlickrTemuera Morrison signs at Celebration V. (Jenny Elwick / Official Star Wars Blog)

One of the main highlights of a Celebration is the opportunity to meet the actors/actresses from the Star Wars saga, and once again Official Pix will be heading up the Autograph Hall for Celebration VI. For fans who have never had the chance to experience a Celebration, or are just getting into Celebration autograph collecting now, here is a brief overview of what to expect from the Autograph Hall at Celebration Anaheim.

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Convention tip: Cameras, phones, camera phones and sharing your photos

You may be tempted to show off a great Star Wars phone case, but this may be the best time to switch it up – unless you made it yourself, you probably won’t be the only one using it. Same goes for ringtones!

Unless you’re a professional, or otherwise used to hauling around a large camera, take one that’s portable and small. I’m sure a lot of folks will be using cell phone cameras, which are usually both!

If you are planning on using your cell phone to take pictures, and you use an iPhone or Android device, it might be worth looking into Instagram. It’s a nifty little social photo app that you can either take pictures through or use to post existing photos taken by the default camera setup. Yes, it’s best known for the faux-retro filters, but you don’t have to use them – and you can link it to your Twitter account.

For old-school photographers, or those who don’t want to share on the go, I remain, always and forever, partial to Flickr. It may be losing ground to Instagram these days (and with good reason – there’s a mobile app, but it’s awful) but it still remains the best photo archive/browsing site out there.

Anyway, a few more practical tips:

Luci: “Take a Sharpie and masking tape and put your name and address (or cell phone number if it’s not your cell phone) on the camera. You will be surprised by how many get returned to you. At DragonCon people are always turning those things and iPhones in because they are honest but by the end of the con, no owner shows up.”

Erika: “Remember to pack some extra batteries in your backpack/bag within easy reach.” And a spare charger, cell phone users! In fact, bring two, and leave the one you use overnight at the hotel – that way you have a spare if the other one gets lost. You might also want to look into a battery case or something similar.

And don’t forget to keep an eye on your camera batteries. True story from James: “Thursday night at Comic-Con, I plugged my camera into the laptop to download the pictures, and left the camera on all night (the batteries use a separate wall charger.) When I went to take a pic on Friday, it was dead.”

“Tip 1: remember to charge your camera batteries at night and Tip 2: remember to grab the batteries in the morning when you grab the camera – if you need to, leave your camera battery door open to remind you that there’s no battery in it, since usually outlets are not in obvious places in the hotel. Having a spare battery pack is smart!”

Celebration tip: Expand your horizons

Today’s tip is from Nancy: “Go to panels and events that are outside your usual Star Wars interests.”

“One thing about being a volunteer is that I’ve staffed panels that didn’t excite me in advance. I’m nearly always surprised, because the panel is waaaay more interesting than I’d expected. The little people actors who played Ewoks? Were hilarious. Dave and Lou Elsey? Were engaging and smart and enthusiastic and just generally adorable. I could go on and on, but the main point is to be open to new experiences. Celebration is a really terrific chance to try out new-to-you parts of the fandom.”

This is totally true. I ended up at a couple of Clone Wars panels at CV, and they were incredibly fun, despite the fact that I could count on one hand the number of episodes I’d actually watched at that point. And after seeing this video, I really wish I’d gone to the voice actors one!

And yes, while a lot of the high-profile events will have lines and fill up fast, there are often plenty of seats left at others.

Celebration tip: Be nice to the volunteers!

Today’s tip is a short one from Paula: “Remember that the vast majority of people staffing the rooms are volunteering. They don’t always know what’s going on, but will help as best they can if you ask nicely. So be nice.”

As someone who’s volunteered in the past… We do want to help you, but sometimes we can’t – when I was stationed on the dealer room floor at CV, I felt awful every time someone asked me where something was and I didn’t know! Alas, a side effect of volunteering is that sometimes you’re not quite familiar with anything outside of your immediate area, particularly for the first few days – I could direct people to the store, the bathrooms, the autograph hall, the artists, tattoo area and certain booths, but one of that day’s half-dozen Clone Wars panels? Forget it.

More related advice in the comments! Anyone who’s volunteered at a Celebration or any such con, feel free to chime in – on-topic!

Convention tip: Clothes and shoes!

Celebration V: ThursdayWithout the armor this ensemble may be too chilly for indoors! Also, probably inappropriate.

Here’s some advice straight from the CJ list… Yes, con veterns, some of this may be familiar, some of it may not.

James: “Dress in layers! Outside in Orlando is hot and humid (and sometimes even wet), while inside the convention center, some of the panel rooms are super air conditioned (especially first thing in the morning!) If you get cold easily, have a second layer to avoid chills in over-AC’d rooms,especially if you were just sweaty outside.”

I’m one of those people who’s cold everywhere and the Orlando convention center is freezing. And given how few people wanted fans when I was passing them out at CV, it’s not just me. At least bring (or plan to buy) a light sweatshirt.

Nancy: “Two pairs of comfy shoes. Your feet will thank you if you switch shoes every day.”

Make sure they’re already broken in! Some advanced tips:

David: “A little Gold Bond powder in your shoes will help, as will a pair of good work or sport insoles. An old hiking trick is to wear nylon socks next to your foot, with cotton athletic socks over those. It creates a wicking effect that will keep your feet dry and cool.”

Yav: “Plus a few little pieces of pre-cut Moleskin. Just in case you get a blister. The stuff is magic.”

Convention tip: Vacation-ize your Twitter

Some people take vacations where they can ditch all their tech, or at least keep it in the hotel room for after-hours perusal. I am not one of those people, at least at a Celebration. As a news-blogger, it’s my prerogative, nay, my duty, to keep at least an iPhone on me at all times. Because while yes, while there will be plenty of real-life socializing, I must tweet.

I have no idea how many people I was following during Celebration VI, my first Twitter-enabled convention, but right now I am following almost 300 people. That’s a LOT of tweets, so the first thing I want to do is see how I can – not to be heartless, ahh screw it – ditch some folks temporarily. (Temporarily.) Luckily, Twitter has a built-in feature that will serve me well in not only keeping all the unfollowed people together, but allow me to even backread – Lists.

I decided that my first target would be mostly professional entertainment sites and journalists that are unlikely to cover Celebration. For them, I created a list called Entertainment. Next, for the science fiction/fantasy and comics crowd I suspect won’t cover the con, I created the imaginatively named SFF-Comics. All together, that’s 60 accounts that will be safely out of the way while I’m frantically trying to keep up.

I haven’t actually unfollowed anyone yet, but the lists will make that easy. A day or so before the con, all I’ll have to do is go to the list members pages and unfollow. After the con is over, I can follow them all back. And best of all, I can still check up on them, via the list, whenever I have a spare moment. (Hello, airport.)

Granted, most of these accounts are people who don’t follow me back/barely know I exist, so I don’t think there’ll be many hurt feelings when I unfollow – but keep that in mind. A ‘If I unfollow you today, it’s only temporary’ tweet may be in order if your choices are otherwise. Or, you could always create a special list just for Celebration, and avoid the issue entirely! Lists are cool that way. For what it’s worth, here’s mine.

Stay tuned for more tips!

Convention tip: Keeping in touch

As nice as it would be to have your convention buddies at your side 24/7, we know it doesn’t always work that way.

Get as many phone numbers as you can before the fact. Add them to your phone at leisure and avoid typos.

Practice basic phone courtesy in panels. Turn your ringer to silent or vibrate, don’t be afraid to send people directly to voicemail. Make sure your alerts and rings are unobtrusive or set to silent/vibrate. No one is going to be impressed by your ‘awesome’ ringtone if it disturbs the panel.

Texting is generally better than actually phoning someone. It’s much less disruptive, and that way your pals have the info when they do check their phone, instead of having to call you back to get it. (And also, some of us may be live-tweeting panels!) Diane: “It’s much much easier to get a good-enough cell signal to text than to do phone calls or email.” (Be warned that if you don’t have unlimited texting, you might go over your limit. It might be worth it to call up your provider and see if they can switch you to unlimited texting for just one month. It’s also a good time to unsubscribe any text alert subscriptions you may get from local news and such.)

Group messaging. If you’ll be with a large group, and most of them have smartphones, have everyone sign up for a free app called GroupMe. Eliz: “Instead of calling 10 people, you send out one text to a defined group and have them respond to the text. The app is available for most systems.” Bonus: It uses a lot less memory (at least on iOS) than Facebook Messenger.

Celebration tips: The business of panel lines

This post has been completely updated for Celebration Anaheim.

There will be lines for panels. There is no avoiding the lines: There’ll even be a line to get in in the morning. There will be lines to get into the exhibit hall when it first opens. Lines are a Star Wars tradition; Realize that they will happen, and that you will have to stand in them. (There are Medical Badges available to those who need them.)

The good news is that rooms are cleared between panels, so don’t plan to spend the entire day in one place ala San Diego Comic-Con.

Check in early (at least an hour) if you plan to see any big stars.
Check in early (at least an hour) if you plan to see any big stars.

Some of the lines will be long; It entirely depends on the popularity of the panel. There is no doubt that the longest line at Celebration Anaheim will be the one for J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy on Thursday morning, and we already have all the details on that. Expect something similar, if lower key, for things like Gareth Edwards and Josh Trank on Sunday.

The next longest lines will likely be for celebrity panels and screenings; Plan to queue up at least an hour ahead of time for those, and be aware they will close off the queue if it gets full. Be sure to pick backups for the big events, just in case.

Most smaller panels for things like books will have much smaller queues; Give yourself time, but historically you can show up as early as 10 minutes beforehand and still get in the room.

However, Anaheim is looking like it could be the biggest Celebration yet, so it’s hard to say exactly how things will shape up. Many of the rooms, particularly the theater, are bigger than what we’ve seen in the past, though. Whatever the case, keep your eyes open, plan to be early, and have something on hand to amuse yourself and your friends if you need to wait.

(Autograph lines are a whole different ball game. Luckily, we have a post on them, too.)