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Conversation Guide

Page history last edited by Garand 9 years, 3 months ago





Video courtesy of Dragon*ConTV




Conversation: How Not To Sound Like A Tool



Dragon*Con is a proper melting pot, a convergence of cultures, fandoms, interests, and alcohol abuse. In a tightly packed,high energy environment such as this, communication with your fellow fans is inevitable. DO NOT PANIC.


This guide is intended to allow you to start, maintain, and politely end a conversation.


The Importance of Situational Awareness

Before the mechanics of the conversation itself, it's worth taking a moment to impress upon you the importance of being aware of your surroundings. Dragon*Con can often be described with the term 'sensory overload', but that doesn't absolve you of the responsibility of keeping an eye out. While this is generally a good idea for several reasons (personal safety and security, to keep an eye out for friends, in case you run into your hero celebrity), paying attention to where you are and what kind of people are around you will keep you prepared for what kind of conversation you may get into.


The key message of this, however, is to know your audience. That can be difficult: if you're conversing with STRANGER DANGER, you likely don't know much about their interests right off the bat. But by paying attention to clues like their clothing, their items carried, and their friends and associates, you can guess at a better plan of attack for getting into, or getting the hell out of, a conversation.


The Conversation


This will be broken into two main segments: starting a conversation yourself, or being on the receiving end of someone's attempts at conversation. Following these will be a section covering special circumstances.


Conversational Pitcher

Perhaps you spot someone interesting and feel a need to make a passing comment, or would like to get to know them. Good for you! Tear down the wall and all that rot. If you've followed the advice regarding Situational Awareness, hopefully you have a few ideas to get you going when you see that special someone with whom you'd like to chat with.


The Opener

If you want to get a conversation going, you need to start by opening your mouth. There are a few simple lines you can use to both signify your intent to converse and to ease them into their own conversation mode smoothly.


Some basic do's and don'ts include:



  • Greet your subject. Hi, Hello, Hey, Whats Up, Sup Mang, YO YO YO WASSAP MAH DAWG, are all appropriate.
  • Open with a polite comment to signify your intended topic. For instance, "that's a neat Saved By The Bell t-shirt, is that vintage?"
  • Ask a polite question about their activities/clothing.
  • Politely comment on their costume, where applicable. However, be aware that not everything that looks like a costume is one.
  • Bathe now and then.



  • Open with an argumentative, inane commentary about their activities or interests. "Your Kirk costume is pretty lame. It looks good for the first few episodes but clearly the stitching is wrong for Episode 11, as can be seen at 12:15 on the classic VHS bootleg."
  • Touch your subject. At all.
  • Open by bragging about your own activities. Nobody cares that your fan group has done the most events, has the most merchandise, or got to touch <random celebrity>'s butt.
  • Compare anything they're doing with an MMO or role-playing character you maintain, or are aware of. Keep your conversation grounded in reality. If this proves too difficult, don't attempt to start a conversation.


After a few exchanged lines you may have succeeded in your attempts to engage in conversation. Congratulations! But watch out for warning signs that your target is uninterested. These signs include turning away, running away, getting a wild look in their eyes and looking to friends for help, ordering mass quantities of alcohol, attempting to trick you into looking in another direction, or gnawing their own leg off to escape.


If They Don't Flee Immediately

After the first few lines, you may run out of things to say about your current topic. This is normal: it's not uncommon for reality to set in and you realize you're talking about things that, truthfully, nobody cares about. Your best bet here is to attempt to change the subject.


The idea is to switch seamlessly from one topic to another by waiting until its your turn to speak, then making a comment or asking a question unrelated to the previous topic. It's very helpful if you pick a neutral topic that will apply to any and all D*C attendees. Examples include:


  • "So where are you from?"
  • "What sorts of scifi/fantasy do you like?"
  • "What celeb are you here to see?"


The most useful tip to remember when keeping a conversation going is that you can use the trick as many times as you'd like. You still have to watch for the signs that your target is losing interest and trying to get the hell away from you, you freak.


Wrapping Up

Eventually you will realize that you need to be somewhere or that the conversation can't really go anywhere else. This is a part of the natural flow of a conversation. While we recognize that some attendees will be feeling a natural intoxication at the prospect of direct human interaction, the end of the discussion should not be cause for grieving.


The most common way to end a conversation is to, politely but abruptly, excuse yourself. This can take many forms, usually along the lines of "it was nice to meet you, see you later!" to "I'm sorry, I gotta run," to "Man I gotta go take a wicked piss, later." If you've found that you'd like to continue the conversation at a later date, you may wish to ask your partner for contact info like an email address. At a later time you can attempt to contact them again and use the same methods outlined above to create a new and exciting conversational adventure.


Picking A Fight

Sometimes you're just in a cranky mood and want to cause trouble. In general, please don't do this. But if you must, you might as well do it right. Picking a fight at Dragon*con is actually quite simple. With the following guide one can successfully start a wondering "discussion" with any member of any group, in just two statements. The first being "subject/noun- is overrated". Example: "Star Trek is overrated" with this simple statement you will either seem like a jerk, a real kneebiter or you will sound like a cultured human whose knowledge is vast and superior to most people. The second statement is "underrated" with the example of "Star Wars is underrated" with this combo you will start to use this format with other topics, such as

  • Music "The Beatles overrated, while The Rolling Stones is underrated"
  • Card Games "Texas Hold'em overrated, Magic The Gathering underrated"
  • Table Top Games "Dungeons & Dragons overrated however, Warhammer 40k underrated"

The possibilities are endless. PROTIP do not use this too many times in a conversation. break it up with the flow of topics.


Conversational Catcher

Oh no! Someone who makes you really uncomfortable has decided to speak to you out of turn! Unfortunately, out in public like this, it would be bad form to backhand them for their impudence. What do you do? Here are several ways, ranging from the practical to the unusual, to get away from them and back into your happy place of solitude.


The Polite Excuse

This is probably the best way to start trying to escape the fetid clutches of the wretch who's latched onto you. A simple "I'm sorry, I don't have time to chat at the moment" is generally a good start, though it's not always appropriate. If one is pressed for time, you can always pull a Patrick Bateman: "I have to return some videotapes". Or the less pleasant "I am about to hurl, bad sushi".


The Less Polite Excuse

Sometimes someone won't take 'no' for an answer. In these cases it may be necessary to use a firmer tone. There are many potential examples to offer here.

  • "Who the hell are you? Go away."
  • "Man who cares? Go away."
  • "Excuse the hell out of me, I'm busy here. Go away."
  • "I'm sorry, my religion prevents me from interacting with people who haven't bathed in the past five years."


The Insult

Unfortunately, some individuals think it's worthwhile to open a conversation with an insult, though in some cases they don't recognize that they're doing so. Regardless of their cognizance, it's often appropriate to respond in kind. It is assumed that the reader has great experience telling people off in creative and novel ways. Those unfamiliar with cruel retorts and rejoinders can read comments on Youtube videos and 4.chan forums for a refresher.


The Non-Sequitur

Sometimes you'll find yourself confused and lost, unaware of how you got into the conversation but damned certain you want out. Rather than trying to marshal a coherent excuse, it can often be helpful to throw caution to the wind and start blurting things out. Here's a random assortment of items that will hopefully stop a conversation in its tracks.

  • "My hovercraft is full of eels"
  • "Do you like my costume? I'm dressed as a Lineman, for the county!"
  • "Cthulhu will awaken soon, and eat me first"


Celebrity Circumstances

While the above will cover most circumstances you'll find yourself in, there are some situations that required a more clear-cut approach. The primary one focused on here is with meeting celebrities. Whether asking a question at a panel, meeting them while paying $50 for a scribble on a photograph, or encountering them in the hallway, these simple rules apply.


Rule #1 - Keep It Short

     You may have a lot to say. You may be a lifelong fan. They may be your hero. We know it can be hard not to gush sometimes, but remember to keep it short. They're busy people, and they have more important things to do than listen to you prattle on needlessly. Don't waste their time. Similarly importantly, there are probably other people in line to meet them. Don't waste their time either.


The recommended formula is this: Polite greeting + Compliment on their work/moment for fan worship + Relevant question (where appropriate) + Show BRIEF appreciation for their time. For example, if you are at a Battlestar Galactica panel asking a question of Edward James Olmos:


"Hello Mr. Olmos! I'm a big fan and I loved your work on BSG. I was wondering if you got as excited as I did while beating the crap out of that dude with a flashlight in the miniseries? Thanks!"


Note that the question part isn't always appropriate. They're busy people and have a lot of panels to get to. So for example, if you met Lani Tupu in the hallway you'd want to omit it.


"Mr. Tupu! Very cool to meet you, I was a big fan of yours in Farscape. Take it easy!" And let him pass.


Rule #2 - They Don't Care

     Trust us on this: these celebs don't give a crap about you or your opinions or activities. Regardless of what celebrity it is, they lead a far more exciting life than you, and won't remember you after you walk away. This is without exception. Telling Leonard Nimoy about the awesome Old Spock on Young Spock slash fiction you wrote is completely inappropriate, and for reasons that go way, way outside of this guide. Telling Bill Corbett that you named your child 'Tom Servo Jones' is also probably a bad idea. It makes you look like a tool. Or, stated more appropriately, it makes it even more apparent to the celebrity and everyone around you that you are a tool and have been all your life.


Rule #3 - Exceptions

     In some cases you may find yourself in a situation where you have a captive audience with the celeb. The most common instance of this is in an elevator, or while waiting for one. In this instance you can use Rule #1 to greet them, and in rare cases  you may find that THEY choose to continue the conversation. No lie, it happens (you should NEVER expect it to). In this case, go nuts. Eventually you will freak them out enough that they'll stop responding, hit the button to get off on a floor before their intended destination, or call security. That's generally the cue to shut up. 



Conversation is a pleasant way to pass the time, to meet new people and experience new cultures, and to boldly go into social realms where you've never gone before. It will take practice of course, but in time you may overcome your fear of human interaction. Good luck with that.


Further reading

Con Etiquette 


Tips and Tricks  


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