So, you've decided to take the plunge and go to your first BiCon in 2015. Yay you!
Even if you don't know anyone else, you won't be alone. There are always lots of first-timers at every BiCon, and many don't know anyone else there.
Here are some tips drawn from the wisdom of BiCon goers, for getting the most out of your first BiCon.
1. Not sure if BiCon's for you? Come for one day
If you're unsure, a one-day pass is a good way to see whether BiCon is your thing. You can always upgrade to a full-event pass once you've had a chance to check it out. If you're choosing a day, Friday tends to be the least busy day, and then if you want to upgrade you've always got Saturday.
2. Be bold – say hello!
Most people at BiCon are glad for a stranger to strike up a conversation.
Of course, the normal rules apply on watching for signs that someone might not want to keep talking with you, such as turning away or looking around – respecting this helps keep BiCon the kind of place where everyone can feel relaxed.
3. Prepare your contact details
You'll probably meet dozens of people at BiCon that you'll want to stay in touch with. When everyone's in a bit of a hurry, you might find that getting your contact details printed on something like a Moo card, or just writing them down on a few pieces of paper, can make it quicker and easier to stay in touch.
4. Try some sessions
Most of BiCon's programme is made up of sessions – slots of 1 hour 15 minutes on a huge range of topics. It's hard to chose between them, especially if you're not sure what to expect, but it's definitely worth giving them a go. You can always leave before the end if you feel it's not for you.
5. Get to sessions early
BiCon sessions often fill up, and most close' once the room is full. It's very easy to miss a session you really wanted to go to if you arrive after the start time.
6. It's okay to make a mistake
There are some things people do at BiCon to be more inclusive, that you might not have encountered before. For example, usually we'll refer to someone whose name we don't know with gender-neutral language – 'they' or 'the person', rather than 'the woman', 'the man', 'she' or 'he'.
If someone corrects you, there's no need to feel bad – just try your best to use the suggested language from then on. Wherever you are in the process of learning is an okay place to be.
7. Make time to eat, drink and for self-care
BiCon can be busy and exciting. When there's so much happening, you need to keep your energy up by making time for self-care – eating, drinking enough liquids, getting enough sleep, washing and so-forth. It's a good idea to carry a bottle of water and a snack.
There is also a listening service at BiCon if you feel you need to talk about anything, whether BiCon-related or not.
You can never go wrong by asking first – do you want a hug? What pronoun do you use? It always pays to check.
9. Relax, and enjoy!
For so many of us, BiCon is the time in our year when we most feel we can be ourselves – at BiCon, you might find you feel a bit like you've been holding your breath and are finally able to breathe out. If you've never been to BiCon before, you've got everything to look forward to. All you have to do is turn up, and be yourself.
10. After BiCon self-care
"BiCon comedown" is a known phenomenon. It can be a bit strange going back to "the real world" after you've been somewhere where you felt entirely accepted for who you are. You might miss new friends. Or you might just feel a bit worn out.
It can be a good idea to avoid any stressful activities right after BiCon, and take time to do the things you enjoy.
Have you been to BiCon before? What other advice would you pass on?