2013 Tip of the Day #23: How To Get Into A Panel…


Since the release of the Comic-Con schedule, you all seem to be tweeting, commenting, and asking the most about my recent posts- When to line up for a panel and Hall H camping, Regardless of how you feel about it, programming is now the name of the game for a successful Comic-Con experience. The showroom floor and the Gaslamp events are very awesome, but you have to make into at least a one of your favorite panels to say you’ve had the full Comic-Con experience. If you are new to Comic-Con, I will attempt to breakdown the process  even further of the best practices getting into a panel.

Daily Goal
No doubt there are too many panels and not enough time to see everything that you want. The wider your interest and the longer you have been a nerd, the hard time you will have selecting your final few. The biggest thing here is to manage your expectations. You won’t be able to see everything on your list so it’s best to accept that fact before you head to the Con. My advice, set one panel as your daily goal. Design your day’s strategy around that one. This helps alleviate the overwhelming feeling of having to see it all. You may have to say no to some other awesome panels but this is the acceptable rate of loss to get into your panel of choice.

Ballroom-20-lineDynamic Duo
Once you decided what you must see, decide if you can pair up in order to achieve your goal. Panel hopping in pairs is so much easier because someone can sit in line while another can explore the options. Two can wait in two different lines then decide who has the better chance of getting in as you approach the start time. Plus, it’s much easier to make food runs with a partner. I know there is a lot of people going solo out there but partner up if you can. If you can’t partner up, then I would suggest you take a more conservative approach and stay in a room instead of attempting to panel hop.

It’s Larger on the Inside
Room capacities play a big part in the feasibility of getting into a room. Back in 2006, you were able to walk into most of the smaller rooms- that is no longer the case. Every room is now pretty much filled to capacity hours to minutes before start time. Here are approximate numbers I pulled from other websites and from the Convention Center publications:

  • Hall H: 6,500
  • Ballroom 20: 4,500
  • Indigo Ballroom: 2,600
  • Room 6BCF: 2,100
  • Room 6A: 1,000
  • Room 6DE: 850
  • Room 11AB: 500
  • Room 5AB: 500
  • Room 25ABC: 475
  • Room 7AB: 475
  • Room 24ABC: 420
  • Room 23ABC: 400
  • Room 32AB: 350
  • Room 26AB: 350
  • Room 8: 350
  • Room 2: 350
  • Lyceum (Horton Plaza): 300
  • Room 9: 280
  • Room 4: 280

Comic-Con, in theory, puts the panels that they expect smaller crowds in smaller rooms. While these smaller panels may be more niche, often times they are still just as interesting and entertaining. Typically the bigger rooms will yield the longest wait times like the legendary Hall H. If the panel you want to get into is in a smaller room, you may want to check in 1-2 hours before (or have your partner). Arriving at any panel at near start time is pretty risky so always air on the early side. Note: The newly included Lyceum Theater in the Horton Plaza are ticketed (free) panels- presumably because they can’t manage large crowds on site.


From Dusk Till Dawn
Even with the growth of the camping crowd, it still seems the need to camp is still over-rated. Fans are still getting into Hall H and B20 by just arriving early in the morning instead of trying to endure the night. It seems that 6:00 is the breaking point for the casual fans. Arriving before 6:00 seems to give you a competitive advantage than arriving after. Watch the crowds from 6:00 to 6:20 and it will seem the line grows quite a bit. So if you know you can’t camp, can you make it out before 6:00? If you can’t then I would move onto a less stressful panel room.

Cosplay Hottie
Looking hot in cosplay is one thing, being hot is another. Which panels you should attend might be affected by if you are going in cosplay or not. A lot of Hall H waiting is not conducive to cosplay. If it’s a particularly hot Comic-Con, Hall H can cook you faster than Kal-El’s heat vision. There’s nothing worst than a Wookie with heatstroke. So if you say yes to insulated cosplay, so no to Hall H.

Screen shot 2013-07-07 at 11.27.46 PMShow me the money!
If you have never been to Comic-Con, it’s hard to know how much time to set aside for the showroom floor- hence affecting how much time to dedicate to panels. At about 3 football fields in length, if you are fairly dedicated to seeing and experiencing every booth on the floor, then it would take you a full day. So imagine having about 8 hours for the floor- that doesn’t include lining up for Exclusives or autographs. So however you design your panels for the week, make sure to include around 8 hours of the showroom floor. I would also argue you need half a day to experience the Gaslamp events during the days as well.

The Alphabet Plan
Probably one of the most important parts of panel planning is having an effective Plan B, C, D, and so on. In fact, it might be more important than Plan A. As soon as you figure out Plan A is not happening, it’s important to initiate Plan B right away. If you wait to look up the options and calculate wait times then it will probably be too late. Take the time to map out all the alternates right down to the smaller panel rooms. I have done days where I found myself in my Plan F and G rooms. I know this sounds excessive, but you have to imagine thousands of other fans experiencing your same dilemma. Hesitating means you end up in the back of the line.

Bathroom Pass
When you are in the larger rooms like Hall H or Ballroom 20, you can leave the room to go to the bathroom. You will be given a temporary pass that is only good for during your current panel. While you don’t want to miss much of the panel you are in, it is a good opportunity to peak at lines from the rooms of the 20s and 30s. The closest panel room to Hall H is Indigo which is probably too far to hike during a bathroom break.

Good Samaritan
If you are by yourself, you might try to find a helpful person in line that would be willing to collaborate with you. Perhaps they can text you when the line grows to a certain point or starts to move. You don’t want to hassle a stranger but maybe bribing them with a soda or a candy bar will help. Fans are typically helpful as long as you are not too demanding.

Twitter Eyes
Another way to get an idea of what’s going on with lines is searching Twitter hashtags #HallH and #B20 or #Ballroom20. During Comic-Con, these hashtags will be pouring in and might end up looking like Matrix code. Mining them for info will be tough for the inexperienced so get used to it now by searching #SDCC and #ComicCon. Another challenge is that the network is over burdened so finding a signal to use Twitter will be spotty at best.

The Kobayashi Maru
Like Captain Kirk, you may find yourself in the ’no win scenario’. Unless you pull off some Kirk magic, you may have to accept defeat. Like the Kobayashi Maru test, you can’t let defeat ruin your day. Everyone at Comic-Con is having to compromise at some level- besides, Comic-Con is less about the end goal and more about the journey. Don’t take any of this too seriously and always have fun. I am a firm believer that generosity, kindness, and good will doesn’t return void in the Comic-Con universe (and in life). Keep up the good attitude even in disappointment and  good things will happen later on. Trust me.

In conclusion, I know this is all kinda crazy talk. The fact that we have to obsess over all this is pretty ridiculous- but welcome to Comic-Con! You want to know what all the fuss is about, well here it is. There is truly nothing like it in the world, so even in the madness, I hope you can appreciate this unique opportunity. Hope this helps and please leave your comments and questions below!

Check out my past Tip of the Day posts.

21 thoughts on “2013 Tip of the Day #23: How To Get Into A Panel…

  1. Those are really great tips, Tony! The great thing about Comic Con is that even if Plans A-G all fail, the exhibit hall is always there and always entertaining. Twitter is invaluable for line wait times, as well as hearing about last minute events/exclusives. I would suggest making a Twitter list of important hash tags and accounts to streamline the data coming to your phone. (This will also help your phone’s battery!)

  2. Your tips have been incredibly helpful! For a first-timer like myself, this stuff is gold. I have single day badges for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. According to Comic-Con.org, the badges cannot be picked up early (Thursday). One of my “must see” panels is at 10 a.m. on Friday in Ballroom 20; seemingly an impossibility as I can’t pick up my badge until 8:30. Is there any way around this?

  3. Great tips! Just a note, since there are bathrooms inside Hall H and food vendors in the Hall H lobby, they don’t do bathroom passes. Works for B20 thought!

      • No, Tony. There are NO passes given out in Hall H. If you leave, you’re not getting back in. There are bathrooms and food vendors within the hall. You can get passes for all other rooms though.

  4. Hey Tony, Great tips here so thanks from a complete newbie coming with wife and two teenage kids. Quick question though. You mentioned the “Dynamic Duo” and the possibility of waiting in two separate lines which would be awesome but don’t the people around you in line mind when the wife shows up just before the line moves and squeezes in next to the husband or is there some other way to do this one?

    • People are usually cool if it’s just +1, especially if you have been friendly with them. Glad the site is helping you- best of luck with the show!

  5. Hi Tony,
    My kids and I love your site. Thank you for all of your great insights and tips. We know they will make our first experience the best it can be!

    I am confused about where to wait in line for Ballroom 20 if we get there before 6am on Thursday morning.

    On one site, some people talked about waiting in the main line at the front of the convention center and running to the entrance of ballroom 20 once the main doors for the convention open. But most people talk about camping out or going really early in a specific line which is hard to find. It seems that the entrance to Ballroom 20 being indoors makes it tricky.
    Please help. I don’t want to get up so early and get into the wrong line!!!

    We hope to run into you and your awesome jacket this week!

    • Don’t worry it will be very clear once you get there. Hall H will be distinctly right outside the Hall H doors. For Ballroom 20 will be probably around Hall B and running along the length of the convention center until the allow the line to go inside and line up. Just ask, you can’t miss it.

  6. any suggestions for someone that can only pick up their badges the day of a morning panel? i’m trying to get into the Korra panel at 11:15 AM but i have to pick up my badge when it opens. am i able to wait in line extremely early and have a family member pick up a badge for me and bring it to me or do i have to physically be present to pick it up? i’m worried i won’t be able to get in since it’s the second panel of the day in B20

    • You have to physically pick it up. Just have someone save ur spot then run back over. That’s ur only option. Good luck

  7. Tony Im sure this was covered but too lazy to look 🙂 but the fold up chairs, blankets, etc… will i need to run them back to the car before entering Hall H?

  8. I have a question about picking up badges. If I show up to Comic Con at 4 am on Sunday and don’t have my badge yet, can I get out of line to get it or must I have it to get in line and could I pick up my badge on Saturday for Sunday? Thanks.

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