Conventions are serious business. Everyone has their own reasons for attending a convention, but having fun is a common goal. However, the amount of “fun” a person enjoys can be diminished by factors such as fatigue; or being unprepared. Therefore, the purpose of this guide is to ensure that you can have the maximum amount of fun possible, while making the event more enjoyable for everyone else at the same time by following certain etiquette guidelines.
Having been to multiple and different conventions over the years, we the writers at AFACHAN here came up with some tips and tricks that you should take note of, regardless of whether you are a first-timer or seasoned veteran.
The guide is split into four sections, namely:
- Do your homework – As AFA gets bigger annually, there are various events happening at the same time in different places (main stage; mini stage; individual booths). Have a rough schedule planned. If spending money, it helps to have a budget and a spending plan in advance. Don’t forget to save the floor map and stage schedules into your phone for fast reference (or any other important info, e.g. promotions at individual booths, autograph schedules). It’s good to take a copy of the event map (available at the ticket counters); it’s concise, detailed and also in hard copy.
- Have sufficient amount of rest – AFA spans over 3 days, is roughly 12 hours long per day (from 9am-9pm). Fatigue will become a factor especially if you’re spending long hours over multiple days, more so if attending concerts too.
- Be well-equipped – Bring enough money. Bring hard file case/poster tubes/shopping bags as needed. Charge/bring spare batteries. Stock up on shikishi (autograph board) if needed beforehand as stores might run out of stock closer to event dates.
- Be early, or late (if casual) – Peak period is usually after lunch. It helps immensely to arrive early in order to avoid the crowd or any disappointment from not being able to get that prized item on sale. How early? It depends on how kiasu you are. The crowd starts to disperse at 5pm+ so it is a better time to explore the main hall as there are fewer people around.
- Attire – Generally anything goes. However, covered shoes is recommended for comfort (and to minimize pain if someone steps on you). Do note that the halls can be cold at certain areas or when there’s lesser people so covered pants or a jacket can help.
- Bring a friend – Having a buddy/group is practically essential these days if you want to make the most out of your event-going experience. They can help you to queue (especially when it comes to queuing separately at the same time for limited goods); help look after your belongings; help buy food etc. Most importantly, it is always more fun to hang out with a group of people who have the same interests as you than to go alone. No friends? Time to make one!
Main exhibition + main stage
- Ticket types – There are 3 different types of tickets. Exhibition only. Exhibition + stage. Exhibition + stage + concert. For the concert tickets there are 3 separate tiers – VIP, Standard and basic.
- Follow rules and general etiquette – Make sure your wristbands are secured and can be clearly seen. Get a chop for re-entry if ticketed. Don’t litter, keep the place clean especially the restrooms. Cleaner toilets can be found on higher/lower levels as well.
- No photography, video/ audio recording during respective segments – There are various reasons why this rule is strictly enforced and going into them will take up an article on its own. The short version of that is – It is simply not worth it. A picture is worth a thousand words. A live moment is worth a thousand pictures. It is human nature to want to have some form of memorabilia, but no photo is more beautiful than the actual moment itself.
- Main exhibition etiquette – Don’t choke up the walkways as the exhibition hall will be very crowded. If for whatever reason you need to stop (taking a rest or taking a picture with someone), kindly move to the side. Be mindful of your surroundings. Don’t block people who are trying to take photos, don’t block people when taking photos.
- Main stage etiquette – Don’t run when the stage area opens, just keep calm and walk briskly. It is generally “OK” to reserve seats for your friend, but do be considerate to others. It is NOT OK to reserve seats for your entire group, especially when some of them don’t even turn up for part/most of the stage segment. There is usually quite good flux of people moving in and out for each segment. No need to “chope” seats early, 20-30mins before is more than sufficient. Decent view available for most as long as you don’t need to be in the front row.
- Mini stage (in the main exhibition hall) – Photography is generally fine here (unless stated otherwise). There might be photo-taking/hand-shaking/autograph sessions (varies from year to year) so keep your eyes peeled. Audio levels might be a little loud if you’re near to the stage. There might also be mini-performances at certain times so check them out!
- Creator’s hub – You might be able to get stuff (especially art books) at cheaper prices or with added freebies if you pre-order from the circle before the event. Check out your favourite artist’s webpage well before the event to see if they have any pre-orders open. Some circles might also have shikishi auctions throughout the day, so remember to check back for the highest bid if you are aiming for them. There might be price cuts towards the end of the event but to avoid disappointment don’t wait for that to happen.
- Autograph rules at respective booths – In general you are required to buy some of their merchandise first, so don’t queue blindly. Some sessions allow fans to bring their own items for artistes to sign on while others have a fixed item given out during the session, the most common method applied is for the artiste to sign on the goods that you’ve purchased. Most also don’t allow photography. Some also get you to write your name out beforehand on a piece of paper (personalized autograph). Move along continuously once you are done. Don’t hold up the line.
- Take care of your belongings – Do an inventory check when moving from area to area. If you found an item of value please return to lost & found. Do an inventory check when moving from area to area. The lighting at the main stage tends to be quite dark in particular, check if you have dropped anything before leaving.
- Please be considerate for your fellow attendees – If something is free or limited in stock please don’t spoil market (be selfish in other words). This applies especially to exclusives, everyone wants them so spare a thought for others. Again, in order to avoid disappointment do arrive early if there is something you really want.
- Know exactly what you are queuing for – Booth queues can be long and at times confusing so make sure you’re in the correct queue. If you’re unsure of which queue you’re in, don’t hesitate to ask the people around you. Important note: There are two queues outside the convention hall at the start of the day, one is for buying tickets and the other is for going in. Make sure you do not mix them up!
- Booths selling goods – BEWARE OF BOOTLEGS. This is not a common occurrence but there have been cases of certain booths selling fake figures. Please make sure you are buying the real thing. Make sure you roughly know the retail price of what you’re going to purchase as to avoid being ripped off (impulse buys). Also be careful of shops which commit art theft (e.g. printing merchandise without the original artist’s consent, plagiarism). Support the original artist! There might be price cuts towards the end of the event as well.
- Pre-purchase tickets – Buy tickets early in order to avoid disappointment. Take note of the Early Bird VIP package and 3-day VIP/Standard/Basic packages which offer substantial savings. Find out if there are any limited edition items like balloted autographs and their redemption timings if you’ve won.
- Fan letters/gifts – No guidelines for fan letter/gifts (as of writing), unless specifically stated otherwise. Generally advised not to bring, as there is no guarantee that the recipient will receive. Appreciative applause and cheers are the best way to show your support!
- Don’t starve – Concert is a couple of hours long and occurs during dinner time. You’ll get hungry from the standing; yelling; jumping. Eat light before, and keep a small snack for after. Stay hydrated throughout and standby lozenges if you are going to shout/scream a lot. Bring a towel also if you’re going for a shower (from all the jumping).
- Overtime – Be prepared in the event that the concert runs overtime, this usually does not happen but technical issues occuring is always a possibility. Take note of last MRT/Bus timings (you’re typically safe before 11.30pm). Taxi fare can be brutal after midnight, recommended to split with friends if unavoidable. Parking is expensive, hence driving here is not recommended.
- Concert etiquette – Enter and exit in an orderly manner. Make sure your wrist bands are secured and can be clearly seen. Avoid tying your wristband too tightly as it’s quite uncomfortable to keep it on like that the whole day. It is OK to go wild, but be aware of your surroundings. Apologize if you hit someone, avoid drastic movements and don’t wave overly huge objects as they block the view of others. Please do not attempt to photograph or record the concert, nothing beats the moment live and you’re just shortchanging yourself and being a nuisance to others by doing so.
- Study up on concert guests – Sometimes you may not be familiar with all the performers on the concert day you are going for. It helps to do some research and watch some of the concert videos on YouTube before you come (it’s also way more enjoyable if you know the songs and lyrics). Know when is the appropriate time to do what. For example when to do chants or to sing along. If in doubt follow the crowd. Who knows, you might become a fan of the artistes you didn’t know much about previously.
- Other concerns – Bring some form of hearing protection. Typically an earpiece will suffice (not tissue paper though). Yes you look uncool but permanent hearing damage is something you will want to avoid plus the volume levels at a concert is way too high for a person to listen to comfortably. Believe it or not the audio at the back of the hall is actually better as the front is usually blasted with sound. If you’re of average or below average height, it helps to stay way at the back where there are side monitors, since your view is just going to be blocked by the taller people.
- Climate – Singapore is a tropical country, hence be prepared for it to be humid and relatively hot. While it is usually rainy season towards the end of the year, the weather can be unpredictable, an umbrella might be advised if you’re going outdoors for other forms of activities.
- Culture – Respect the local culture, regardless of where you are. Singaporeans tend to be more conservative and reserved. However, like most people at conventions, we are mostly shy but friendly.
- Directions – The nearest MRT Stations are Esplanade Station and Promenade Station via the Circle Line, 1 minute walk. Alternatively, take the MRT to City Hall Station, followed by a five to ten minutes walk via an underpass. As for buses, these are the numbers that drop you right outside the convention centre: 36 70M 97 97e 106 111 133 162M 502 502A 518 518A 531 700A 857 868 (make sure you board the buses travelling in the correct direction).
- Food – There are food places around Suntec along with a supermarket. Marina Square is within also walking distance from the Suntec Convention Centre. Tap water is drinkable here. Alternatively, try local cuisine by visiting hawker centres if you have more spare time. It isn’t all about chicken rice.
- Language – We mainly speak English plus our mother tongue (Mandarin; Malay; Tamil). Some of us may know Japanese (in various levels) at AFA, but for the most part assume otherwise.
- Money matters – Exchange sufficient cash beforehand. A decent place to exchange money is Fountain Money Changer at Marina Square as they offer better rates but beware of long queues. When it comes to bargaining, prices are usually fixed here. It never hurts to do a bit of research/comparisons beforehand to avoid overpaying. Certain stalls may start to cut prices in the last few hours of the event to clear their stock. If you’re looking for last-minute bargain shopping, Sunday evening is the best time for you.
- Safety – Singapore is an extremely safe country. However it is always better to be safe than to be sorry. especially at crowded; public venues. Always take extra care of your valuables in a foreign country.
While this guide is specifically written for AFA SG, certain points are global and apply to just about any convention. If you have found this guide helpful, feel free to spread the word around so as to make conventions a more positive experience for everyone. If you have any questions; comment or tip to share, feel free to let us know in the comment section below!