(See the links at the bottom, too! updated 8/1/2016)
I can almost guarantee these things are happening already and I'm late on a bunch of cons, but here's some stuff to remember:
- Cosplay isn't consent. Don't grope or harass cosplayers and photograph them only with their permission.
- Don't put anything on anyone else without their permission. This includes fairy dust, perfume, any of your body, and social pressure.
- Have a buddy! Do check-ins! Cons can be great, but safe spaces are hard to find. Have at least one person's contact information (at or away from the con) readily available to check in with once or twice a day, even just a "yep, I'm alive!" text. It can help you feel grounded and_ is a good risk-prevention measure.
- Sleep. I know as well as anyone that staying up all night at cons can be super fun! It can also be really bad for you. Make sure to get at least 4 hours (this sounds like so few, but it's better than nothing!) and take breaks when you're able to. Even lying down for a half hour can rejuvenate you and ease any anxiety you have built up from the crowds.
- Eat as healthy as you can, but even if you can't, make sure to drink water! Lots of it. Try to stay hydrated as much as possible, even if it interrupts your activity - healthiness comes first.
- Make sure you have bathroom breaks, no matter what you're doing. If you're running an event, for every 1.5-2 hours, have a 5+ minute break, and let attendees or players know they can step away from the game if needed.
- Take your medications correctly. If you take medicine, or end up needing it while you're traveling or at the con, take it according to the instructions and with the appropriate food or drink. If you are worried about missing it, set alarms. It's also good to make sure that someone has a copy of your medications in a list including dosage, whether with you at the con or at home, in case of emergency.
- Pack wisely. Make sure you have all necessary medications, toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap or body wash, shampoo, deodorant, hair products, hygiene products, etc.), clothes (multiples of everything - having clean underpants and socks at the end of the day (or to change into midday!) can make a world of difference in comfort), and any assistive devices you might need.
- Take care of yourself physically. Take breaks when walking the floor. Don't overload your bags or kit, and pause to set them down regularly. Stretch in the morning if you can. Get a shower or bath as often as you can, every day if you're able. If you are able, take breaks from sitting or standing. If not, just make sure to try relaxing your muscles a little bit when you can. Take deep breaths every so often to help keep you alert. Know that you can step away from any activity that is too physically challenging, beyond your abilities, or is just too much for you at that moment.
- Take care of yourself mentally. Make sure to step away from the busy con floors to get some quiet every so often, and if you have a tendency towards anxiety and panic, try to have a break away from the action entirely occasionally if it's possible. Have a social contact you can keep in touch with at the con or otherwise to talk to if you are overwhelmed and need a break. Know that you can step away from any activity if it is overwhelming you or if you are uncomfortable.
- Don't put anyone else at risk. If you do things that are dangerous, you put others at risk. If you're drinking? Take measures to prevent risk - have a buddy, drink water, set a shut off point. If you're out in the city? Have a buddy, take your phone, make sure you have a map. Put your safety first, and it will help protect others.
- Be respectful. Don't talk over other people. Don't yell or steamroll people at the table. Don't harass people or threaten them. Don't interfere with other people's personal space. Let people have room to enjoy themselves, and you can do the same.
- Be kind. Don't make people feel unwelcome! Don't be racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, or any other kind of -ist, -phobic, or -ism. Treat people with kindness and decency.
- Make space for those who need it. If you see someone with a wheelchair, cane, or white cane, make sure to give them space to get around. If someone needs to sit instead of stand - in lines for tickets, in the middle of events, etc. - let them do so, regardless of how you perceive their ability. Let people who aren't the majority at the event speak first, try games or gadgets first, and/or have first access to guests. You will get your turn.
- Be friendly, but don't pressure people. Try to be friendly towards others you're gaming with or spending time with at the con. You aren't obligated to be happy or cheerful, but you can still be polite (this is obviously only in the case that people are polite and respectful towards you). If the person you reach out to seems uninterested, leave them alone. If a person is reading, has headphones on, etc., give them their space. Don't ever tell someone to smile.
- Report problems to con staff. When you arrive at the con, make sure to get the information for security and/or other con staff who help during emergencies or difficult situations. If something happens that makes you uncomfortable or that hurts you (harassment, bad behavior at the table or elsewhere, fighting, etc.), contact the con staff as soon as possible to report it. Make sure to take photos wherever is appropriate (damaged products, injuries, screenshots of messages) as well. If it is appropriate, also contact the police.
- If you see something wrong, take the right action. It is not always the right action to interfere, but here are some suggestions.
- If you see someone being physically assaulted and you are physically capable of helping, step in with caution.
- If you see someone being assaulted and you aren't sure you can help, call for help, and if possible, snap photos of the offender.
- If you see someone being verbally harassed, don't interfere threateningly - try to catch the eye of the person being harassed and see if they seem to want help, or casually go over and greet them (if you don't know them, it can be helpful to say "Wow, I haven't seen you in a while! How are you doing?" to open dialogue and distract the person bothering them).
- If you stumble across a situation that seems unethical (someone seems to be stealing, etc.), alert con staff.
- When in doubt? Get the attention of someone nearby and notify con staff as soon as possible.
- Have fun! There are a lot of great things to do at cons, but the biggest part is that you never have to take part in anything that isn't fun for you. If you aren't having fun, opt out. If someone gives you grief over it, that's their problem - you should only be doing things that you feel safe doing and that you enjoy. Make sure that you have a good time by being honest with yourself about your capabilities and what you want.
Stay safe, drink water, and have fun!
ETA: Adding some useful stuff!
Rob Donoghue posted some great Origins tips, plenty of which carry over to other cons!
This article on Handicap Awareness on Dr. StrangeRoll is great!
This post was supported by the community on patreon.com/briecs.