Imagine being with a group of people who share the same interest in a certain hobby, who are unafraid to show their love for it, who don’t mind waiting in line to see exciting, new products related to it, and who might dress up in honor of it. You’re either at a sports game or a convention. Conventions (and we’re talking geeky and fun, here, not “my boss made me go to this conference on HR management!”) are massive gatherings of people celebrating the hobbies they love, be it games, gadgets, or comic books. Conventions are also a great way to meet people with similar interests, network with industry professionals, pick up merchandise, and get news about upcoming products and developments.
San Diego Comic-Con International
The mother of all comic conventions, the SDCC (often referred to as simply Comic-Con) is a massive, multi-genre convention that features workshops with comic book professionals, interview panels with popular celebrities, academic seminars, film screenings, costume contests, parties, even portfolio reviews for attendees seeking employment with comic or video game companies, and more. It’s four days of pure, unadulterated fun (if you don’t mind waiting in lines) in the middle of summer, and has grown beyond comics to encompass geeky pop culture in general. If you go, expect to see lots of fans in costume (and consider dressing up yourself)!
Emerald City Comic-Con and New York Comic-Con
Similar to the SDCC, the ECCC (in Seattle) and NYCC (in New York City), are major conventions dedicated to comic books and pop culture. Though smaller than the SDCC, both have been growing over the past few years, especially in terms of attendance, to rival their Californian cousin.
WonderCon and DragonCon
For a smaller convention that focuses mainly on comics (as SDCC, ECCC, and NYCC have grown to encompass way more than that), head down to Anaheim’s WonderCon. For a general science-fiction and fantasy convention, try DragonCon in Atlanta, GA.
GamingPAX: Penny Arcade Expos
Started by the creators of the popular webcomic, Penny Arcade, who wanted a convention that catered to tabletop, console, and computer gamers (there exist numerous, smaller conventions that focus on only on specific games and types of games), the expo quickly gained momentum. The one convention in Seattle became PAX Prime as two more conventions were started: PAX East in Boston, and PAX Aus in Melbourne, Australia.
Electronic Entertainment Expo
E3 is where video game and console manufactures go to show off upcoming games, consoles, and accessories. Held every year in Los Angeles, it is unfortunately closed to the general public; you must prove that you’re professionally associated with the industry to get in.
Technology World’s Fairs
From the first Fair, the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, of 1851 in London, the World’s Fairs have been dedicated to cultural exchange between nations as well as displaying advances in industry and technology. The Fairs are like the royalty of the convention world: massive, sometimes lasting up to six months, and often a source of national pride. The next fair will be held in 2015 in Milan, Italy from May 1st to October 31st.
Consumer Electronics Show
Arguably the best gadget-oriented convention, the CES is held in Las Vegas every January. It showcases the coolest new technology and products– some in pre-production or planned to be released within the year, and some completely conceptual– from various companies. These products range from new phones and televisions, to gaming devices and kitchen appliances (and, yes, things like 2013’s cordless blender can be very cool). Unfortunately, the CES isn’t open to the public: passes are only available to people in the consumer electronics industry and the press (proof of affiliation for either is required, though there are stories about people who have managed to fake it and get in).
GSMA Mobile World Congress
Since 1987, there’s been a whole convention dedicated to mobile communications. In today’s modern world, that means smartphones and tablets. Held every February in Barcelona, Spain, the Mobile World Congress is an exhibition for new devices and software that features vendors and company executives from all over the world. In 2013, over 72,000 people attended.
This article was provided by Carrie Crowley, self-described geeky gamer girl. If you’re a gaming or comic company –or any company for that matter– Carrie suggests looking for the most popular exhibit types for trade shows.