A Practical Guide for First-Time Attendees
This article does not contain any spoilers for the Wheel of Time book series or the TV series on Amazon Prime.
With JordanCon2022 fast approaching, I’ve been reflecting back on my experience as a first-time attendee (aka Novice/Dedicated) last year. While I could wax poetic about how amazing it was (and I probably will, in a future article), it would not be much help—JordanCon is a phenomenon that cannot be truly understood until you’ve lived it. If you’re attending your first JordanCon this year, I can't guarantee that your experience will be as joyfully mind-blowing as mine, but I can offer some tips and tricks to help you survive.
Before reading my advice, a disclaimer: I am not a JordanCon expert, and although I will be a panelist this year, I am not affiliated with JordanCon in any official capacity. These are simply my reflections on what was helpful for me as a participant last year, and what I wish I had known before attending. (For official JordanCon advice, check out their Newbie Survival Guide, and follow New Member Services Director Ebony Adomanis on Twitter for more information, updates, and opportunities to interact.)
While I suspect my advice will still apply, please also keep in mind my experience is based on a sample size of one (1) COVID-restricted JordanCon that was very different from any other JordanCon, and a fraction of the size it will be this year. This list is also biased towards people like me who interact heavily with the online fandom through Twitter, Discord, and YouTube LiveChat. I'm sure I am overlooking advice that would be helpful for those who have not met people online ahead of time.
Speaking of online fandom, on to my first piece of advice: if you are unable to attend this year’s JordanCon, try joining FomoCon, an online meet-up for Wheel of Time fans with FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). A 72-hour marathon Zoom meeting hosted by #TwitterOfTime’s Snakes & Foxes, FomoCon has no rules or requirements other than a desire to hang out with other fans and cheer each other up across any time zone.
Highlights from FomoCon 2021 include serenades by Androl the Bard of Time, informal chats with content creators, bad erotica readings, and virtually accompanying participants on mundane tasks like going shopping or mowing the lawn (I’m looking at you, Malkier Talks).
If you are attending JordanCon and have FomoCon FOMO, don't worry: you are still welcome at FomoCon, if you can spare some time to hop on the Zoom call. Last year, some JordanCon attendees logged on to say hi and shared glimpses of the happenings in the hotel lobby.
Now that we’ve reviewed your online options, let’s move on to how to survive JordanCon 2022 in person. Here are my top 10 tips:
1. Leave extra room in your suitcase
You are going to accumulate so much swag. Content creators will hand you stickers, bookmarks, tokens, t-shirts, and more. You’ll have the opportunity to buy books, gifts, JordanCon merch, and items from the Charity Auction. Your badge will overflow with ribbons. Talk’aran’rhiod will give you a Garth Brooks Anthology.
When it’s time to bring all your new favorite things home with you, you will thank yourself for leaving the extra room in your luggage. And don’t be surprised if you end up checking an additional large item on the way back: at last year’s Charity Auction, someone won a didgeridoo owned by Robert Jordan.
2. Snap selfies with people as soon as the opportunity arises (with their permission, of course)
Almost everyone I've talked to or listened to on a podcast agrees the best thing about JordanCon is the people. I interacted with dozens of amazing people last year, but much to my regret, I only have a few photos of myself with them.
While there’s something to be said for putting your phone away and enjoying the moment, it’s worth the few extra seconds of screentime to get some photos with your new friends. The weekend goes by in a whirlwind, and despite your best efforts, it’s impossible to remember everyone you talked to—but you’ll want to remember. When you are back home in the throes of your post-JordanCon crash, seeing all those smiling faces again, including your own, will comfort you.
But why the urgency about getting a selfie ASAP? Believe it or not, you may only be able to talk to certain people once the entire weekend. Things move fast, people come and go, panels and events are happening all over the place. It’s easy to lose someone in the crowd, and next thing you know, the opportunity for that perfect selfie is lost forever—or at least for another year until the next JordanCon.
So take lots of selfies, and take them ASAP because you might not get the chance again. Bonus for social media lovers: you’ll have photographic evidence to support your stories about rubbing elbows with WoT VIPs like Recappa Sedai, Kritter XD, and LezbiNerdy. I shared an elevator ride last year with Taylor aka “Ladfear” from The Dusty Wheel, but I’ll never be able to prove it. Why? I did not have my own advice column to read, and I didn’t take that selfie when I had the chance. Speaking of VIPs…
3. Talk to Ebony
Being new to JordanCon can make you feel frozen with anxiety, but Ebony Adomanis is like a warm ray of sunshine, melting away all your fears. As the New Member Services Director and Melanin-Blessed Empress (may she live forever), Ebony guides tours, answers questions, and runs the New Member Meet & Greet. If you’re feeling lost or nervous, just find Ebony in her tiara and Green Ajah shawl, and she will put you at ease with her warmth and cheerfulness.
As I battled overwhelming amounts of anxiety during my first 24 hours at JordanCon last year, just putting myself in close proximity to Ebony immediately made me feel much, much better. So if you feel like you don’t know anybody, or you struggle to initiate conversations, start by introducing yourself to Ebony. You’ll know you can feel safe with her, and not just because it's her job to make you feel welcome.
4. Pre-plan your panels, but don’t try to go to all of them
While you still have your wits about you, before you get sucked into the emotional vortex of the weekend, take some time to map out which panels, workshops, and events you’d like to attend. You can find them listed here along with the date, time, and location in the hotel. I recommend making a spreadsheet, because I love spreadsheets. If you do not love spreadsheets, I’m sure you can find another, less sexy method.
Once you have your itinerary carefully and meticulously mapped out, be ready to throw it away on a whim.
You can't hang on too tightly to your agenda, because you never know what other opportunities might arise. A new friend might invite you to brunch at the same time as your writing workshop, or you might find yourself chatting with a favorite content creator during the WoT panel you planned to attend.
It’s totally OK to miss panels, but in the event there is one you absolutely don’t want to miss, having a plan will make it easier to tear yourself away from the family reunion.
If you’re introverted and anxious (and really, who among us book nerds isn’t?), volunteering is a great way to meet people at JordanCon. Working side by side with other volunteers provides a natural opportunity for conversation, so you don’t have to think too much about what to say. It’s also a really nice way to give back to the organization and support the staff.
@roofmistress cosplaying as Lady Rand
Volunteers also get perks, including a special badge ribbon, and each time you volunteer earns you one entry into a raffle for prizes like a Robert Jordan signature plate. Volunteer spots are limited, so make sure you take a look at the schedule ahead of time, and cross-reference it with your panel plans. You can sign up to be a volunteer here.
6. Make people feel included
Interacting in large groups of people is never easy. When there are too many people for everyone to sit in a circle and sing campfire songs, you must mingle free-form style in smaller groups. How do you know who to talk to and when to move on and start talking to someone else? Should you interrupt people in the middle of a conversation? What if a giant person like Nae’blis is standing in front of you and you can’t see anyone else?
Despite all these puzzling questions, you might find it easier than you think to navigate social interactions at JordanCon. Having the shared language of the Wheel of Time is an automatic social lubricant, and sharing Twitter/Discord handles is another. Finally meeting @RandsPants223 in person is no problem, because you already know @RandsPants223 has a cute cat, an enviable bookshelf, and an acceptable opinion on Faile and Egwene. And so the conversations flow.
But if you’re still feeling anxious about socializing in such a large group, try focusing on helping other people feel more comfortable. Find someone who seems lost and introduce yourself. You’ll be helping them out, while also giving yourself something to do.
If you find your groove and start chatting with a group, keep an eye out for people who may be standing nearby and looking to join in. If you see someone, move in such a way that the person can join your circle, rather than keeping your back to them and blocking them from the conversation. If everyone takes this approach, hopefully no one will feel left out.
7. Respect boundaries, including your own
The flip side of the previous piece of advice is that you should also be aware of verbal and nonverbal signals that someone would like to move on from talking with you. Please do not follow any one person around or expect that someone will spend the entire convention by your side. There will be around 2500 attendees, and most people are going to want to try to meet as many people as possible within a span of three days. Let people move on, and know that they will do the same for you.