Going to San Diego Comic-Con is one of the greatest experiences a nerd can have. It’s also one of the greatest endurance trials one can pursue; let alone for journalist. Having only just taken my first steps into the field this year, I get to attend as a member of the press and have the privilege to cover it for some very cool publications. After collecting myself from the excitment and panic at the scope of this project, I did the only rational thing I could think of and asked for advice. Here today Barb, the editor-in-chief behind the famous When Nerds Attack, is going to share the secret to her success covering one of the largest and arguably most important conventions of the season. Come see!
How did you get started covering conventions, and why did you make SDCC your focus? Was there a goal or ambition that got you to take those first steps?
I guess you could say I started covering conventions last year. I attended my first convention ever when I went to San Diego Comic Con in 2010. I attended like most people, as a fan wanting to see what it was all about. I focused on SDCC because like I said, it was my first covention. It can be very overwhelming, especially for new comers. As far as a goal, nope! Believe or not, When Nerds Attack first started as a mini-blog hosted on my personal blog. I didn’t want to spam my personal outlet with a bunch of SDCC stuff so I created another area for it. Before I knew it, I had bought a domain! It’s silly but it just kinda happened over night. Then I asked Erin to join as she was always emailing me articles and then Mario contacted me about coming onboard. Since Melinda is my con partner in crime, it just made sense have her onboard as well.
In what ways did the convention change for you when you went as press?
Since I’m still new to being a member of Press, it didn’t change too much. I started thinking about everything differently though. Knowing that I would blog about everything, I wanted to try and check out things I wouldn’t normally see. I think it actually expanded my own horizons. I’d say one thing that changed was having even more choices to make. You’re already trying to figure out what you want to see as a fan, then you start getting emails about screenings, interviews and more! It can get crazy.
What were some early on lessons you took away from that first experience being a journalist at SDCC? What was it about that first time that got you hooked on this line of work?
Just try to stay calm and have a good time. It’s still weird to think of myself as a member of the Press. I’m not sure what really got me hooked. When I applied for the first time I was really surprised I was approved. It was exciting as I’m sure you know! Then you start to wonder what does it involve? Will I have time to see things that are on my “To Do” list? Will I cover enough stuff for everyone? Will my readers to be happy? In the end, you cover what you like and enjoy. If your feelings aren’t legit, your readers will know!
Since that first experience your publication has become a staple in the SDCC press community, how did you work to achieve this?
I honestly still don’t know how it happened. It’s a group effort that’s for sure. I think one of the things that makes us stand out is we really try to focus on San Diego Comic Con, plus we’re a team. Each one of has an area where we excel at. We don’t just focus on the panels and the events, but we try to provide tips and advice as well. I think that helps up stand out too. We’ve all been a 1st timer at some point and time! As far as getting the word out, I think Twitter has been a great tool. It’s the easiest way to reach a large number of people and be able to interact with them. I try my best to respond to everyone and it’s the quickest way to share info which is really important during any event.
What’s your biggest fear or obstacle when working as press during SDCC? What’s been your greatest source of encouragement?
I’d have to say interviews. I don’t think of myself as a great interviewer. I think another obstacle is the fact that there’s just too much to see and do and that’s not even counting the press options. As far as biggest fear, it’ll sound silly, but I’m always worried I’ll let the readers and followers down, or something I tweet will change and someone will miss out on something because of misinformation. As we all know, panels and events can change at any time during a convention. At the same time though, the “fans” of When Nerds Attack are the reason I keep going! They’re awesome. It’s still weird to me to have people come up and recognize me but I’m getting use to it now. I just hope everything we do (Melinda, Erin & Mario) really helps someone during their Con planning, no matter which convention it is.
While planning your coverage, what sort of criteria do you have in place to make judgments on events and distribution of effort? How firmly do you stick to that plan when you hit the convention?
I always try and think about what my readers/followers are into. I know I’m followed by fans of various shows/fandoms and I want to try and keep then happy. We all know that certain panels will always be blogged about by the larger outlets, I try and focus on the things that might be missed. Plus I see things as a fan. That’s how I think of myself so my POV might be different then someone writing for a magazine/entertainment outlet. As far as plans go, I always go in with some sort of plan, but I have no problem changing them depending on what happens. As a member of the press, you never know when you’ll get an email about a party or interview opportunity. You have to be flexiable!
When covering an event, do you record and process it later or do you prefer to report live? Does that choice vary with the type of event or level of content?
I normally record/take notes and blog about it later. I brought my laptop with me last year and at the end of the day I’d upload photos and write some posts. Don’t get me wrong, I still tweeted about everything I saw but it’s hard to keep up sometimes. Plus the network isn’t always reliable. I remember during New York Comic Con (NYCC) the main room (their Hall H if you will) was a deadzone. I couldn’t even tweet which was a bit of a let down to be honest. When I attended C2E2 in Chicago I was able to do a little more live tweeting of panels which was fun. I think it really does depend on the size of the event.
What sort of gear do you take a long with you at the convention? Moreover, what sort of things do you do to protect your feet from SDCC exhaustion?
Since I’m still new to all this, my gear is pretty simple. I bring two cameras. I have a Sony Cybershot which is my small camera. It’s perfect to put in a pocket and to carry at all times. Then I have a Canon that’s not a DSLR but it’s bigger and has a better zoom. I use it mainly during panels. I did bring my laptop last year but since it’s pretty large (17″ screen) I left it at the hotel and used it to blog/share photos in the evening. Plus I have a Droid which I used to Tweet and share instant news. As far as protecting those feet, make sure you wear comfy shoes that are broken in! Also, don’t be afraid to take breaks. We all need some “me” time during the craziness that’s SDCC. There’s nothing wrong with finding a small area to chill out in.
After convention hours, what helps prepare you for the next day’s coverage?
Booze. I kid! Kinda. On a serious note though, food! You won’t survive SDCC without eating. I don’t mean snacks either, I mean real meals. The first year I made the mistake of trying to live on beef jerky. It doesn’t work. This past year I made sure to eat real meals. It does wonders! You feel better and have more energy. Plus you’re mood improves which is huge when dealing with the SDCC crowds.
I take a look around Twitter as well. As we all know, things change and pop up all the time during conventions. I’ll scan the #SDCC hashtag to see if any events have been announced, see if anything exciting has happened. If I see something interesting I might add it to my list for the next day.
What would you say has you most excited about SDCC 2012?
Even though I won’t be attending (WNA will still have a presence thanks to Mario & Erin) I’m still excited to help everyone out with advice, info and whatever else I can put out there. Plus it’s always fun to see who’s going to be there and who’s not. I’m interested to see what movies plan on attending this year. I feel that by being home during SDCC, I might even be able to provide more help by being able to blog and retweet news quicker since I won’t be fighting with crowds, trying to connect to a network and dealing with the other SDCC foolishness.