Guest Blog: The Online Convention Survival Guide

The Roll20 Team

The Roll20 Team


We all want to continue loving the things we love, and online conventions are becoming more and more the norm. Instead of being held in large convention centers in centralized locations, they’re being held on video and streaming platforms like Zoom and Twitch.

While they don’t have the exact same feel as in-person conventions, there are a lot of similarities, as well as some advantages and disadvantages. Let’s talk about that, as well as some strategies which might minimize some of the stressors of online conventions (and their aftermath).

The Double-Edged Sword of Online Conventions

Most veteran convention goers know that you can’t see everything at an in-person convention. There are a ton of physical barriers to it. Some convention centers are vast or confusingly laid out. On top of that, some conventions are just too big to physically see everything.

Online conventions provide an ease of access that can deceive us into thinking we can see it all. After all, all you need to do is log into the appropriate platforms from the comfort of your home. If you have multiple computer monitors, you can have panels on one screen and multiple chats on another. Maybe you’re even shopping for merch on your phone or tablet simultaneously. That same ease of access is a double-edged sword and can quickly overwhelm.

You Can’t Do Everything – Don’t Try

Because of the ease of access and lack of physical lines, it might be tempting to pack your schedule to the brim. You might be saying to yourself, “I’m just sitting at home, right? It’s not like I needed to go anywhere or expend energy on the expo floor. I can even eat at my desk and not miss a beat! I’ll watch eight, one-hour panels in a row!”

Don’t do this. Just because it’s online, it doesn’t mean you can do everything.

It might not seem like it at first, but paying attention to something is expending mental energy, even if you’re just sitting at home. If you’re simultaneously chatting with people in a stream chat, Discord channel, DMs, or all of the above, you’re expending even more mental energy. Trying to pay attention to every chat channel is a bit like trying to be in every room of an in-person convention at the same time. We all have different limits, but we all do have limits to how long we can pay attention.

Here are some strategies that I use for combating overpacked schedules:

  • I pick three things I want to see each day. They can be panels, exhibitor announcements, or whatever. After seeing those three things, I assess my energy level to see if I have enough mental energy for more, remembering that I also need energy for the rest of the convention.
  • I briefly scan the chat channels for the few that most interest me. Plenty might be interesting, but I pick the top three. Then I pop in and out of those channels as my schedule allows, and I ignore the other chat channels. I also tend to ignore all the channels while I’m watching panels. The one exception is the panel chat where we can discuss the panels in real-time.
  • I make sure to schedule breaks every few hours, especially for lunch. Prolonged sedentary time at desks is fairly established as a health risk, so I make sure to get up from my desk to move a bit. I sometimes combine a brief run or walk with my lunch break, especially since there’s some evidence that exercise can help boost attention and help me pay attention better to the midafternoon panels.
  • I make sure to sleep at least 6 hours a night, though realistically closer to 8 hours (I’m nearly 40). Sleep deprivation is linked to a variety of cognitive and emotional symptoms. In other words, if I don’t sleep, I can’t pay attention as well and won’t enjoy the convention as much.

Dealing with Con-Crash

For folks who regularly attend in-person conventions, you’re likely familiar with the emotionally and physically drained feeling people have the day after a convention ends. This is something that seems to be common in a variety of contexts when a person expends tons of energy and thought on one goal, and that goal or effort ends suddenly. At Take This, we call it con crash.

It might seem a little unexpected that an online convention can produce this sort of physical and emotional crash, but there are many kinds of effort, and sustained concentration is effort. If you’re curious to read more about con crash and about some common strategies people use for coping with it, read more about it here.

Remember: Enjoy the Show

Enjoy the show. That’s the point, after all. If I’m not enjoying the convention, something has gone wrong. That’s a clue for me to assess what’s gone wrong, and – if I can – change what’s going on, so I can get back to enjoying things. Maybe it’s my overloaded schedule, and I need a break. Maybe it’s a lack of sleep or food. In any case, that lack of enjoyment is my clue to fix something.

Online conventions can be just as fun (and stressful) as in-person conventions. Take care of yourselves out there. If you’ve got some suggestions for how to enjoy an online convention in a healthy and fun way, comment below, and please make sure to follow Take This on Twitter to learn more about mental health in the game community!

Learn more about Take This here: https://www.takethis.org/

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The Roll20 Team Roll20

Roll20 is the all-in-one solution for organizing and playing tabletop games online, allowing you to play your games anywhere and share them with anyone virtually. With the ability to choose from a number of popular titles built ready for your virtual tabletop, your adventures are limitless and you can get started playing with little to no prep. Dive into advanced features like Dynamic Lighting or explore macros and APIs to add some extra depth to your game. Roll20 lets you play your tabletop games, your way.