Comic-con is full of industry professionals. For some people, they’re attending the con just for fun (or as a “fan”) or others who are there for work, there’s lots of opportunities around. Whether or not you’re actively working in “the business”, SDCC is a great location to network, and if you aren’t, to learn how to start.
Almost every major convention offers panels that cater to the professional crowd. In years past, SDCC has specifically held panels regarding writing, drawing, coloring, and editing for tv, movies, and comics. These include specialty topics like teaching K-12 using comics, digital painting and coloring, how to get started writing a novel, and even how to properly pitch your idea and the steps to do it the correct (and legal) way. Many panel guests will tell stories of how they got into the industry, and even how friends may have done it, as well. If they don’t, you can always ask for suggestions during the Q&A portion. Just don’t ask if someone can read your screenplay, you don’t want to get known as the guy who gets dragged away from the mic by volunteers for breaking the rules!
Lots of artists, writers, and illustrators have booths in the exhibit hall where you can walk up, buy merchandise, get signatures, and chat. Many artists are very friendly and love stopping and having a short chat with their fans. This is also a great time to ask questions about how they broke into their particular field and if they may have suggestions for you. Just try to keep things short-ish, because of the large number of people in the hall, but if the booth is quiet, have fun!
SDCC always has Off-site options for events, as well, although those are rapidly turning into badge-only or paid ticket items. These events can also put you in contact with professionals in your intended field.
Believe it or not, bars are an excellent way to network at conventions. After a long day of working the convention, many professionals would like to take a break and enjoy some food and a few good drinks. While this is not the place to pitch your ideas, this is a great place to stop, chat, and get to know people. This can lead to you exchanging contact information and later getting down to work together later, during regular business hours.
Industry parties are a really fun way to meet and network with people. Just like with bars, after the convention has closed for the day, people flock to after parties held by various studios and organizations. These can get so busy that sometimes they even have to cut off the entrance (sometimes temporarily, sometimes for the night) due to the number of guests entering the party. These, however, are usually invite only, so you’ll want to do a bit of networking and get your connections straight ahead of time and score that invite. On rare occasion, there may also be a contest via social media to win tickets to a party, so keep an eye on social media for any posts.
A word of caution: SDCC is not the place to pitch your scripts. Professionals are not legally allowed to take your ideas outside of official pitch meetings. You might be able to do a bit of discussion about your writings, but most people will cut you off (for legal reasons) if you start to pitch to them. No one wants to get sued, so skipping your pitch is an issue of courtesy.
Tips for When You’re Out And About
Do: Bring a change of clothes. After running around all day, you’ll smell a bit. Plus, you want to look nice if you’re talking business.
Don’t: Overdress. Business casual is more than enough to get you into nicer bars and restaurants, plus, you don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard.
Do: Chat people up! Be Friendly! You never know what fun conversations you can start up with some really cool people.
Don’t: Clam up. It’s much easier to network if you can talk to someone like they’re normal. Professionals don’t bite, I promise.
Do: Be courteous of others, since the Gaslamp gets crowded. And I mean Disneyland at Christmas crowded.
Don’t: Force yourself to stick to a strict schedule. Things happen, if you focus too hard on your schedule, you’ll miss all the fun little things.
Do: Explore, because San Diego has more to offer than just what’s on 5th Ave.
Oh, and as Wil Wheaton says, “don’t be a dick“