Tip of the Day #26: How to get into a Panel (like Hall H)!

Now that the Comic-Con program is going live, it’s time to do some serious schedule planning. If you are new to SDCC, one of the most common questions I get in these final days is in regards to when to line up for panels. With all this talk of getting in line hours before or even camping out overnight, it’s pretty overwhelming to visualize if you have never been before. Lining up for a panel is a tricky thing- and is more of an art than a science. So as you review the programming over the next few days, here are some priorities to consider while planning your schedule- then I will breakdown each main rooms.

Your Strategy:

  • CosplayFor each day, pick ONE panel that is a MUST see for you. Prioritize your number one choice and plan your day around it.
  • The main rooms have image magnification so it’s less important where you sit than actually getting into the room.
  • Rooms are not cleared between panels so once you are in, you can stay there the whole day.
  • A bathroom pass is given out that expires at the start of the next panel. This gives you a short time to not only relieve yourself but pick up a snack at a nearby food cart.
  • Best case scenario is that there are multiple complementary panels in that same room as your #1 panel- before and after.
  • Worst case scenario is that there is nothing of interest surrounding your #1 panel. Which if that is the case, you will have to tough it out. On the bright side, I’ve talk to a number of people who became fans of something after being forced to sit through a panel.
  • Don’t be over ambitious and attempt to go from Hall H to Ballroom 20 in the same day. A workout is all you will get.
  • Often times the panel and autograph sessions are scheduled against each other- again, not advisable to try to attempt both without serious help.
  • Trying to decide what you are going to see when you arrive onsite is about the worst thing you can do. Whenever I hear of a noobie doing this, a little piece of my soul dies and goes to Phantom Zone  😦 Have a plan A, B, and C.

The Rooms:

Hall H
WristbandsIf you want to experience the mother of all panel rooms, then Hall H should be the top of you list. This cavernous beast holds 6,500+ victims in her belly making it the largest comic convention panel in the galaxy! In recent years, it’s become part of the con culture to camp at ungodly hours of the night. It was just announced that the  ‘Wristband System’ will be back for Hall H. Full details have yet to be explained, but if it’s like last year, you will have to in line right after the last panel of the previous day to have a shot at getting a wristband. Wristband groupings were divided in A-D sections for the first people in line. I’ll write more on this once I find out more info. At the show, I would encourage you to stay tied in to Twitter for line updates from fellow fans. WristbandIf you read about the moans of getting a ‘D’ wristband, it will probably be too late for you. Silver lining is that the most popular days this year will be spread out among Doctor Who on Thursday, Star Wars on Friday, and DC/WB on Saturday. Perhaps the spread of big Hall H days will thin the crowd by the weekend. More on this shenanigans later.

Ballroom 20
B20While not as daunting as Hall H, B20 is a formable adversary as well. Hosting most of the larger TV show panels, the camping culture is starting to affect this space as well. Called the ‘Everything Else Line’, B20 will start outside in the front of the convention center and will span across to Hall H. In the early morning, maybe around 7-8, the line will be allowed to enter then will be divided into different lines for Exclusives, Autographs and B20. This line is harder to gauge since it starts inside near the room, goes outside under the tents, then wraps around the backside of the building. With a room capacity of 4,000+, it’s difficult to gauge just how far back you can go in line to make it in. Last year, they started using section cards to help manage expectations. For at least this year, getting in line (outside) by no later than 5:00 should get you into the first panel of the day. After that, it just depends on the schedule. Give yourself about a 6 hour head start on your target panel. B20 also has some unexpected pockets of the day when you can just walk in. Keep up on Twitter to catch those moments.

6 BCF, Indigo Ballroom (Hilton Bayfront), and others…
IndigoThese are the next two largest spaces holding 2.1k and 2.5k each. Because 6BCF is in the heart of Programming, it stays consistently full because of overflow from other panel rooms. Lines are long (and hard to gauge because of line breaks) with wait times being a few hours. The Indigo Ballroom has been the most pleasant to experience in recent years and has hosted some big panels. Since you have to leave the convention center and go over to the Hilton Bayfront, it attracts less traffic . Room 6A holds about 1k then all the rest are under that. The rest of the panel rooms 4-11 will stay filled consistently. Gone are the days of being able to walk in and out of these smaller panels. If your target panel is in one of these rooms, expect to get there an hour or two before to be safe.

Bonus Tactics:

Dynamic Duo
5m6G2ys_.png-largePair 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 panel hopping.

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 for some of the rooms:

  • 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
  • Neil Morgan Library Auditorium: 300
  • Room 28DE: 300
  • Lyceum (Horton Plaza): 300
  • Room 9: 280
  • Room 4: 280
  • Grand Horton Theater: 240
  • Room 14A: 230
  • Room 18: 84
  • Room 19: 72

Oh, Don’t be a cosplay hottie…
Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 12.44.07 AMLooking 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 hardcore cosplay. If it’s a particularly hot Comic-Con (looking pretty fair so far), 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.

Make sure to check out the rest of my Tip of the Day posts. Please leave a comment with your panel strategy tips. Catch up on past shows, tweet this post out, and make sure to subscribe to Shout! Factory!

47 thoughts on “Tip of the Day #26: How to get into a Panel (like Hall H)!

    • Actually you have good chances of getting in- after DW panel it will clear out. You might be able to walk in right before. Let me know what happens.

  1. Friends and I got in line for the Saturday Hall H panels around 3:30pm on Friday last year. We managed to get B wristbands. I don’t plan on attending panels this year, but others in my group who want to will have to plan on jumping in line around the same time or even earlier.

    • Yea by gauging how it went last year, it sounded like if you got in line after 8-9p then you did not get a wristband, That is a big commitment! Thanks for your comment!

  2. I got in line for Hall H just before 10pm last year and was one of the very last people to get a wristband.

    I’d 2nd the recommendation for the smaller rooms with respect to plan attending 1-2 panels prior to the one you’re really interested in. This has worked well for me over prior years especially when I had suspected the room was likely too small of the amount of interest (Legend of Korra debut being one example).

    • Yea from the research I’ve done it seems that last year, around 9 was the D Group of wristbands. With even more pressure, that might be moved up earlier. Thanks for sharing your experience- input from others helps a lot!

      • If you have tickets for Thursday but not Wednesday. Will I be able to register with Disability services on Wednesday, so I can line-up Wednesday in the disability line for Thursday’s Hall H panels?

    • Not for the first ones no. Star Wars will be Friday so it will be very difficult to get into- especially if you arrive late on Thursday night. After Star Wars, you might be able to get in because it will empty out. Good luck!

    • As soon as they let you line up- officially it will be after the last panel. There will be a lot of anxious people waiting for the official line to form. Good luck!

    • You have to hold it all night! Actually, the convention center bathroom is open and there is an outdoor facility behind the center 🙂

  3. I heard (but can’t confirm as I didn’t go in there) that the women’s outdoor facility ran out of toilet paper near the early morning hours a couple years ago. Packing a travel size thing of Kleenex for emergencies might be a good idea.

    • I’ll confirm that one for ya-they did run out of TP.Also, no paper towels and no soap added to the hygiene issue. LOL It was a stinky place after the early evening! We got in line at 5 p.m. and were in section B for Hall H Saturday. The rough part was, that after one of the bigger panels in the morning, the Hall emptied out to some degree and the later panels were not difficult to get into. That made camping out seem less worth it. So prioritize accordingly!

  4. Question, do you know about when I should get in line for hall H for dr who on Thursday, I have preview night so I will already have my badge?

    • Since nothing else is going on Wednesday besides Preview Night, I’m sure fans will try to form a line by the morning. Much depends on how CC chooses when to form the official line but their will be many waiting for that to happen through out the day. My guess would be to get in line with a buddy by noon and take turns getting badges and going into Preview Night. Wristbands will probably go out in the mid to late evening. Prepare yourself, this will be a commitment. Let me know how it goes.

    • As soon as they will let you- last year, around 8-9p was last group (D) to get in. This time will be even worst. It just depends on how CC organizes and allows line up to occur. I’ll know more once they release their updated wristband system info.

  5. My daughter, her BFF, and myself all three have tickets for Thur & Fri. We are wanting to get in Hall H line for Thursday’s panels. My question … once we hopefully get our wristbands, can my hubby who does not have a ticket & would not have a wristband be allowed to hold our place in line throughout the night?

    • Technically no, only people with a wristband will be allowed to be in line. You can always try- through the night they don’t check as closely especially since people are sleeping. Fyi, you don’t need a badge to get a wristband so he could get one with you and stay in line (just can’t get in when its time).

  6. Pingback: Comic Con TIP #14 How to get into a Panel (Hall H) | Comic Con Tips

    • Oh yea for sure- the earlier the better. As the week progresses, it gets harder to get into rooms- until Sunday. Good luck!

  7. About what time at the latest would I have to get in line for the twd panel? I’m traveling with my family and camping out the night before is not an option. And I only have fri-Sunday badges.

    • First make sure to familiarize yourself with the wristband system for this year: http://www.comic-con.org/toucan/23-return-of-hall-h-toucan-tracker-wristbands

      Second, please know that Hall H on Friday will be the hardest panel to get into- possibly ever in the history of Comic-Con with TWD, GoT, and Star Wars. The key is getting a wristband the night before. Once you have a wristband you can go back to your hotel as long as you return by 7:30a. You (or someone) ONLY need to camp if you want to reserve your spot in line and place in the room. Otherwise, just return at 7:30. It’s still unclear when they will allow for lines to form but there will be crowds attempting to form lines all day. I would guess fans will be attempting to form a line by noon on Thursday. It all depends on how CC handles the crowds. Sorry I can’t be more specific.

  8. What time should I get in line on Friday if I want to see the 20th century fox panel? I only have a pass for Saturday, but i want to get there on Friday because I need to see this panel. So what time should I arrive?

  9. So to get into indigo ballroom you only have to be there a couple of hours before? So if my panel is at 5:30 I can still get in if I’m there by 3:30?

  10. If I want to try to get into the Marvel panel in Ballroom 20 on Friday at 3pm, how early should I get in line? Do you think the room will flush after the first panels? I assume it wont flush much.

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