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.
I remember feeling guilty last year whenever I walked away from one group of people to talk to another, but I learned very quickly that this is normal, expected, and 100% OK to do. It’s the nature of the Con that people are constantly shifting in and out of spaces, or going off to do other things. So don’t fret about leaving your present company to talk to someone else, attend a panel, or take a break. They will understand. Likewise, don’t worry if someone else walks away from you—they still like you, they just have a lot of other people and places to see.
8. Take breaks
You are going to feel overwhelmed at times, and that is OK. Do not feel bad about excusing yourself to go outside or back to your room to have some quiet time. At last year's JordanCon, I did this several times per day, and it was instrumental in helping me keep up my social endurance for the entire weekend.
The courtyard is a nice place to take a break.
This may be shocking, but it’s also OK to go to bed early if you need to. The rest may be the worth the FOMO, especially if it’ll help you get through the rest of the weekend. Last year, after a long day of traveling, I went to bed early on Thursday night and missed the infamous CouchCon with the Innkeeper. But I woke up refreshed the next day and am convinced it set me off on the right foot for the rest of the weekend so that I could stay up extra late on Friday and Saturday.
9. Don’t get super drunk
You might be tempted to drink a lot at JordanCon for many reasons, whether it’s to quell your social anxiety, participate in a drinking game, share a toast with new friends, or simply celebrate the fact that you’re really happy and enjoying yourself.
Just keep in mind that you’re meeting a lot of new people, and you want to make a good first impression, not a sloppy, weird one. If you’re going to drink, remember to hydrate (one water per drink), and don’t get out of control and do something you’ll regret the next day—you’ll be spending the rest of the weekend with the same people, after all.
You also don’t want to miss out on any events or opportunities to hang out because you’re hungover in bed for half the day. Every minute at JordanCon is precious!
So when it comes to drinking, consider doing so in moderation. Obviously we are all adults capable of making our own decisions, and you know your own tolerance better than anyone else, but when in doubt, stick to two drinks max.
If you're going to drink, I highly recommend
this local beer from Three Taverns Brewery
10. THROAT LOZENGES. I’m serious.
No matter how introverted you think you are, you are going to end up talking quite a bit at JordanCon. More than you think you will. You will talk, and then you will talk some more. Over the course of three days at last year’s JordanCon, I talked to more people for more time than I probably did in the entire year of 2020.
So make sure you take care of your voice. It gets loud in the lobby, so notice if you’re doing a lot of yelling. Take breaks, listen at a panel for a while, or move your conversation somewhere quieter so you don't have to yell. Stay hydrated (bring a water bottle) and, for the Light’s sake, bring a bag of throat lozenges. Trust me, when you’re halfway through Day 2 and your throat feels drier than the Three Fold Land, you’ll be thankful you did.
One last thing before we wrap up this weeks Maidens' List: it's OK to have no idea what you're doing—and to admit it. Some of my favorite conversations from last year started with both participants being honest about how anxious they had been feeling. Even armed with this list of advice, JordanCon can be an intimidating experience, but remember we're all in it together. See you on April 21!