I've been attending GenCon for quite a while and have been in the process of transitioning into the Professional side of the convention for the past couple of years. I am currently at that nebulous point in my career where GenCon is about 50/50 work and fun for me, but that isn't the case for all the other professionals for GenCon. There may be 50,000 attendees bustling around to get to events, eat, take pictures, and talk with their favorite writers or game designers, but there is also a bunch of professionals working on contracts, discussing new game ideas or kickstarters, and tons of networking.
Basically, GenCon is work for a LOT of people.
So that creates a juggling act for game designers, who WANT to meet fans and talk about their games and geek out, but also get work done and meet with people face to face instead of over the internet. And they make it seem so effortless at times, where fans may not even realize that they may have accidentally made a professional late for a meeting. Most professionals realize this and are patient and understanding, which is great for everyone.
I've been on both ends of this so far, where I may have fangirled on my favorite writer at one point when he was on his way to a meeting, but I've also had people talking with me about games and showed up late to a meet-up. So I have decided to offer some tips for GenCon and interacting with professionals so everyone can have a great convention
Ask if they have a minute to talk or if there another way to contact them to talk
Sometimes a very quick handshake and question about reaching out goes a long way. You would be surprised at how much some people remember even at busy conventions. If I want to geek out with a writer, I always ask if they have some time or if there was another time to contact them or an email.
Ask for photos
While most professionals will be happy to take photos with you if you ask, I always find it nice to just ask so they can pose themselves. I don't think anyone likes getting caught off guard with a photo. If you are going to take a photo, make it an awesome selfie with your cosplay of your favorite character with the creator of that character.
Be mindful of disabilities
This shouldn't just apply to professionals at a convention. There are a lot of people, many of whom may have disabilities. Things like hearing loss, speech impediments, physical disabilities, and anxieties can play a big factor in stressful situations like a huge convention. Just being mindful and accommodating overall of everyone makes a convention that much better.
Kindness goes a long ways
Maybe you don't like a new supplement for a book, or one of the mechanics of a game is way too confusing, or you don't like the art in a new card game. Those are all legitimate personal preferences for a game and things creators like to hear about in constructive ways. Hearing the phrase "This sucks. I could have done it better," is a far cry from the more constructive "I wasn't a fan of this mechanic. Whenever we used that mechanic in a fight, it was way overpowered."
So, I am not the best at this, but I am trying to fix this. If you like a game, review it. Throw it up on RPGnet, Amazon, DriveThruRPG, or even on Facebook. Or ask to share it as a guest blogger here or on any other site. Share it with the creators so that they can see it. Reviews help to sell products, and if you love a product, give it a review. I always try to leave positive but constructive reviews for products.
Workshops, autograph lines, meet & greets
These are different ballgames when it comes to interactions because these times have been blocked off by the creator to specifically meet with people and give them a less rushed opportunity to interact with the creator. While the previous suggestions are good to keep in mind, the biggest thing to remember is that you are not the only one wanting to do the same with that creator. Get your time in, but let other fans also have that same experience.