Licensing Expo 2024

Photo of pyramids in the Luxor hotel and casino in Las Vegas.


In late May, I attended my first-ever Las Vegas Licensing Expo as the Managing Editor at Steve Jackson Games. As such, I am now officially an Expo Expert, a title I have entirely bestowed upon myself. Given that, here are my top five tips, in no particular order, for surviving the Las Vegas Licensing Expo:
You know that iconic scene in World War Z where the zombies run so fast that they all climb onto and over each other trying to get up that big barricade? Each morning is like that at the Licensing Expo, but at the coffee shops. Thankfully, much like Brad Pitt during a zombie apocalypse, my hair still looked fantastic against all odds. But the problem remained – how were we to get the coffee we so desperately needed to cheerily chat with strangers for 8 hours a day while 9-foot-tall mascots and their handlers bumped into display cases full of memorabilia? 
Every day, we went to the same restaurant for breakfast. There was one line for restaurant seating and one line for an attached to-go coffee bar. Now, many people looked at this situation, with these nearly parallel lines, and thought, "Well, obviously I should get in the to-go line. It'll move faster and I have to get going. Look at these absolute fools thinking they can sit down in a restaurant during the Licensing Expo. That'll take forever!" But ohhh, how they were wrong. We sat down, had delicious smoked salmon benedicts, and left with our lattes while those other poor fools were trapped standing in front of a series of display cheesecakes, trying to will the line to go faster. 
And you're probably thinking, "But Allison, I cannot live on one coffee alone. What about all the supplemental coffees I need between 11am and 4pm?" and unfortunately, my answer is that you should go back to the restaurant five times and keep eating salmon benedicts until you pass away. But at least you'll die as you lived – with a fresh hazelnut latte in your hand.
My total freebies that week were not particularly substantial, but I can tell you that on the last day of the Licensing Expo, everyone was both tired and bleary-eyed, dreading the prospect of packing up all their stuff to leave. Had I not also been extremely tired, I bet I could have come away with more. But I did snag a great sweater, some dice, some cards, and things I probably haven't found in my luggage yet, because I've only completed the first two steps of unpacking. Those are, of course, taking out only the dirty clothes I need to wash, and then a week later moving the actual suitcase upstairs. Now I shall perform the time-honored tradition of letting the luggage sit in the middle of my bedroom for 10-12 business days before I finish emptying it and put it away.
Anyway, the point is: wander aimlessly through the Licensing Expo on the final day, and someone might just toss something your way.
Las Vegas hotels are like being lowered into M.C. Escher's Relativity right after a cigarette store has burned down inside of it. But don't worry, because your room is also really far away from wherever you're going, even if it's in the same hotel. I kept underestimating how long it would take to get from my room to the conveniently connected convention center. I thought because it was in the same building, it would take 10 minutes tops. I miss the person I was when I thought that. I wish her well. Leave early! Too early, even! You'll thank me later.
If you're not in a meeting, it's hard to find somewhere to sit down. If you see an empty seat – like the coveted, cushioned white benches – sit down immediately. Your legs and feet will thank you. They won't, really, but they'll maybe scream a bit less, which is nice. On the very edge of the expo area, there were a few tables surrounded by chairs, but often the one person sitting at each table was actually about to use it for a meeting. Why, yes, I did include a request for more seating in my post-expo survey answers. Truly a woman of the people.
If you plan to attend a presentation, panel, or any other kind of event in the theater – get in line early. If the speaker is really well-known, you'll probably need to get in line about 30 minutes beforehand.
That said, maybe avoid the front row when you do get shuffled in. They tend to reserve those seats for people the speaker wants up front and sometimes they may not have enough reserved signs to accurately mark the seats. So, you may first sit down up front, and then be politely asked to go elsewhere. Suddenly, you go from being first in line and in the front row, to five rows back and behind someone very tall who is also holding up their phone the whole time. Ask me how I know. 
All in all, I had a great time at the Licensing Expo and will be more prepared next time! To keep things on theme for SJ Games, we stayed in a pyramid-shaped hotel and there were pyramids absolutely everywhere. 

-- Allison Page