Sometimes making friends is difficult. Getting up the courage to talk to a stranger is something out of a nightmare for many of us shy and awkward people. But the beauty of anime conventions is that these are typically places that are filled with a whole lot of other shy and awkward people who also want to make friends with people who have similar interests.
If you take the leap and learn how to talk to people at anime conventions, you’ll find it is possible to make friends after all. While in the end, you’ll have to muster up the courage to have a conversation on your own, you can use these tips to help you get started.
1. Talk to the person next to you in line
One thing you’ll find in abundance at anime conventions is waiting for queues and lines. There are the registration lines, the lines waiting for autographs, the lines to get into the dealers and artist alley, the lines to get into popular panels and programming, not to mention the lines at nearby fast food restaurants. If you ever find yourself stuck in one of these long lines, think of it as an opportunity to chat with whatever random stranger is in line next to you.
Many times con-goers will have T-shirts, button pins, or other swag on them that give you an idea of what they’re interested in. Try using these clues to help you pick a topic they might be interested in or an anime you both like.
2. Take a photo of the cosplayer and start a conversation
One of the easiest ways to make friends at conventions is by talking to cosplayers. Not only do you know exactly what they’re interested in based on what they’re cosplaying, but cosplayers are also a lot more open to people randomly coming up to them.
Normally the best approach would be to approach and ask them for a picture. Then if the cosplayer isn’t busy you can compliment the cosplay, ask how they made it, and talk about the series or game it’s from. Cosplayers love getting compliments about their cosplay and talking about all the hard work they put into it, so it’s a great way to make a good first impression.
Don’t forget to ask for their social media handles so you can tag the cosplayer in the photos. This will give the cosplayer a photo of their costume (which is a big plus), and it will help you continue the friendship if you happen to have a fun conversation together.
3. Cosplay from your favorite series
Alternatively, you can go to a convention in cosplay. Cosplaying makes you automatically more approachable to other con-goers. It also lets other people know what you’re interested in, so it will be easier to connect with others. Try starting a conversation and trying to make friends with someone who comes and asks you for a picture.
There is also the chance to meet up with other people cosplaying from the same series. Most conventions have cosplay meetups and photoshoots for groups of cosplayers from the same series. Check the program schedule, online forums, and hashtags to see if a meetup is being scheduled for your cosplay show or game. The more popular the source material is, the more likely you’ll be to find a photoshoot meetup at a convention.
4. Talk to an artist about their work
If there is a creator in the artist alley whose work you absolutely love, this is another opportunity for starting a conversation. Most artists will love telling you about their work and how they create their prints, shirts, etc.
Obviously, if the artist has a long line of customers around them looking to make a purchase, they may be too busy to have a conversation. In that case, you should try to come back later when there are fewer people around.
5. Check for group meetups on social media before the convention
Before the convention, there will almost always be groups planning meet-ups at the convention. While a lot of this is the cosplay photoshoots that I mentioned earlier (which you can go to even if you’re not in cosplay), there will also be plans for groups of people to meet up who are interested in the same thing. For example, I used to make anime music videos, and a bunch of us video editors made plans to meet up and have lunch together at Otakon one year.
You can check for plans being made on forum boards, Reddit, Facebook groups, or just check the hashtags related to the convention to see if you can find any meetups being planned. This method is a little easier for many people than just walking up to a stranger since your first interactions with people will be online rather than in person.
6. Go to panels you’re interested in
Every convention has panels and workshops that are held by members of the overall anime community. These are places where you can meet with the panel moderators or connect with other people attending the same panel.
This is best done in Q&A style fan panels since these will attract other people who are very interested in the same show, game, etc. as you are. Workshops are also a good place to connect with people since they require more hands-on work that will naturally lead to more questions and asking your neighbors for help (or giving help). You also might want to look for smaller-sized panels, not the most popular ones.
7. Spend time in the game room at the convention
The game room at the convention is a great way to play interactive games with other people and connect with them while playing. You can do this with any type of game you play. Tabletop games like card games and board games are excellent opportunities. Multiplayer video games are also great and can lead you into a conversation with a group of others while you take turns.
8. Attend a small or laid-back convention
The larger a convention is, the more likely it will be hectic and full of people rushing from one place to another. People often go to larger conventions with big groups of friends, so it feels more difficult to find an opportunity for conversation with others.
That’s why small conventions are usually a little easier to navigate. You can actually see people instead of the crowd, and you’ll find that people are a lot more easygoing and approachable.
However, even if you are going to a big anime convention, there are always pockets of space or lounge areas where people go when they want to chill out a little and people-watch. These are the types of spaces where you’ll find others who just want to relax and have a fun conversation with a fellow nerd.
9. Bring some sweets to share
Bake some cookies and bring them with you to the convention to hand out to hungry con-goers. You don’t even have to bake them. I’m sure there are many people who would appreciate store-bought sweets as well. Give people food and they will pretty much immediately like you, making this an excellent way to meet people and make friends.
Don’t be offended if someone doesn’t take your sweets. Some people have allergies, are on diets, or just don’t like taking food from strangers. But the vast majority of people will appreciate it and this will give you a chance to attract people and start a conversation with them.
Get people’s usernames or phone numbers
Make sure to get the phone numbers or social media handles of people you manage to make friends with at the convention. While you will sometimes end up finding the same person at the next convention, it’s just as likely that you’ll never see them again without a way to contact them.
Always meet new people in public places
I’m sure it goes without saying, but just as a precaution, be sure to meet new people in public places. This is usually pretty easy at conventions since there are lots of places to meet up and chat with people inside the convention center, and there are plenty of people around. Always use your common sense when deciding when and where to meet with people and make sure someone you know is aware of where you’re going.