Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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Sunday
Apr082007

How can I get the most out of a filk convention?

Let me say straight off that my answer to the question will not satisfy everyone. Everyone is unique, with their own expectations and likes/dislikes. I'm hoping, though, that at least some of this might be useful to at least some of you. :-) Please PLEASE do share your own advice and experience in the comments section!

Expect ups AND downs.
No convention is going to the Perfect Filk Convention experience. There will be glitches here and there, some bigger than others. Rather than let any get you down and ruin the rest of your weekend, try to focus on the positive instead of spending the time complaining and being miserable.

Don't focus only on performing.
This is the most popular way of setting yourself up for disappointment at a filk convention, especially at one with huge filk circles. It's inevitable that you won't perform as much as you'd like to, and that there will be songs you'd like to perform but can't for whatever reason. From Phil Parker: "If you want to sing more than a couple of songs, look for a small friendly circle (usually in an alternate room). The main room sing with 30 or more performers will probably have great music, but you won't get to sing much."

Make a point of talking with at least three people you've never talked with before.
Shy people can aim for one person, the more outgoing might want to aim for more. Who knows? You might make a new friend or two.

Visit the con suite.
I've always found the atmosphere in the con suite to be very friendly, welcoming. People in the con suite are there to relax and chat, munch on munchables. They also tend to be very open to newcomers and lots of conversation.

Make a point of listening to at least three filkers you've never heard before.
And I mean -really- listen, not just listen to out of one ear as you're idly flipping through your music book, looking for something to play. The one-shots are always a great way to do this, and so is the song contest.

If you are working the convention, remember to also attend the convention.
This tip is from Heather Munn: "When working the con, plan which events at the con you Will Not Miss, and remember to get someone else to do your job for you for those times so that you can catch the parts of the con that are important to your relaxation and enjoyment."

Schedule downtime.
Tough to do in a busy convention, but I find this essential, at least for me. It may mean having to miss some programming, but every so often during a hectic con weekend I find I need to retreat to our hotel room for some quiet time, or go for a coffee or a meal with one person. Big group dinners aren't relaxing for me, though I know they are for some people.

If you like someone's music, tell them so.
Even if it means having to hunt them down later in the convention.

Do good for someone.
Introduce yourself to someone who is shy or a newcomer, help introduce them to others. Volunteer to help with set-up or to carry something or clean-up. I find that when I'm feeling down or cranky for whatever reason at a convention, this is a sure-fire way to snap myself out of it.

Get enough sleep.
Yeah, ok, I can already hear some of you yelling at me, "Sleep is for the weak and sickly!" And it's true that some of my favourite filks have been all-nighters. But nowadays, I find that I can't enjoy a convention as much running on a quarter tank of gas for several days in a row. From Phil Parker: "Leave the filk soon enough at night that you can stand to get up when you need to the next morning. If you can't stand to leave the filk so early, take a nap during the day. You can't really enjoy the con if you're so tired you can barely function. Remember the point is to enjoy what you do, not to try to do everything."

Lastalda suggests: "Find out what you enjoy most. If it’s the small late night circles it might be a good idea to stay up till the circle is really dead and go to bed late, then sleep past breakfast until the first program point you really want to attend. If you’re planning to do that, you should either bring some food for a late breakfast to con or have a friend and/or room mate save you something from the breakfast tables."

Get enough to eat.
Tough to do sometimes, especially in a heavily-programmed convention. But I find that diet really affects my mood, so I generally try to make sure I have at least two solid meals a day at conventions: breakfast and dinner. From Phil Parker: "Meals are a great time to actually spend time with friends, too. It's a good idea to arrange meals well in advance, it can be difficult and occasionally rude to join a dinner party at the last minute."

Drink lots of water.
From Alex Wittenberg: "The function spaces are dry too often, and the best way to fight 'con crud' aside from getting lots of sleep is keeping your throat in good shape."

Get some exercise.
Stop laughing, I'm serious. Sitting all day makes me restless and bitchy, not sure about the rest of you. I generally try to get at least one decent walk outside, or even inside the hotel.

Explore.
From Alex Wittenberg: "Visit the con suite many times. Roam from circle to circle at larger cons. As much as you not obligated to do everything, you are also not obligated to stay in one track." From Sue Cochran: "Attend the song contest(s), and if you can afford to, go to the banquet. It helps support the con, and it's also a nice place to meet new people and/or spend some time with old friends."

Don't try to do ALL the programming.
I find that this is impossible without burning yourself out (especially if the programming is multitracked! :-)). When you get the program schedule at the convention, check it over carefully and prioritize. From Alex Wittenberg: "Don't try to do everything and see everthing. Even though filk cons are not as packed as general cons, there is a lot going on, and you can drive yourself crazy if you feel like you need to take it all in. This is especially the case for concerts. Keep in mind that odds are the filkers you want to hear will be in the circles, so if you want to do something else, you are not necessarily missing something after all."

If you're not happy in a particular concert or circle or workshop, go ELSEWHERE.
From Alex Wittenberg: "Don't be afraid to not like something. If a concert is not to your taste, I don't think you are obliged to stay. Just don't make a scene. :) At the same time, though, don't be afraid to try something new (which I am guilty of doing to often. In retrospect, I really should have gone to Chris Malme's concert at Conterpoint)."

Focus on what positive things you did, not what you missed.
From Phil Parker: "The most important thing for me to have a good experience at any convention where there's a lot of cool stuff to do is to convince myself that the measure of a good experience is how much I enjoyed what I actually did, not how much I missed. If I was having fun all of the time I was able to stay awake, it was a great con, even if I realize afterwards that I didn't get to this great programming item or that wonderful party. I only allow myself to think negative thoughts about the con if there was time when I was not enjoying myself."

If you have a crummy time anyway, move on.
If you end up having a bad convention despite all attempts, don't dwell on it. Don't lie and say you enjoyed yourself if asked, of course, but don't try to drag everyone else down with you. Chalk the experience up to bad karma and move on. Figure out what went wrong and resolve to do what you can not to let it happen again. Focus on the positive.

Life's too short, after all. :-)

Comments? Suggestions? Please post them below:

Reader Comments (2)

Concering "Get enough sleep":
Find out what you enjoy most. If it's the small late night circles it might be a good idea to stay up till the circle is really dead and go to bed late, then sleep past breakfast until the first program point you really want to attend.
If you're planning to do that, you should either bring some food for a late breakfast to con or have a friend and/or room mate save you something from the breakfast tables.

April 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLastalda

Thanks! I've added this useful advice.

April 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

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