6. Stay in the Conference Hotel
Our hotel was right next door, so logistically, it wasn’t a big deal. But looking at it in terms of elevator rides, morning coffee lines for the lobby Starbucks, drinks at the hotel bar or dinner in the restaurant—these are all opportunities to see and be seen. And serendipity may smile on you and put you in the path of someone who can help your career.
You know the old adage that publishing is a numbers game? Cons are no exception. Position yourself to best advantage, even if that means putting up with hotel room that backs to a con suite.
7. Panels Are Not Your Primary Objective
This might sound counter-intuitive, but bear with me. I spent my first day at the convention scouring the program and identifying what panels I wanted to see. And that first day, I went from panel to panel like a good little attendee.
There are two problems with this approach. One, you will not be able to maintain this level of focus for ten hours of programming each of the five days. Two, if you are attending panels, you’re learning, but most likely not networking. Granted you could approach panelists at the end of a presentation and if you’re lucky be able to introduce yourself. Or perhaps you find yourself sitting next to someone important. It can happen.
But you should be flexible enough so that if someone, especially if they’re higher up on the writing ladder, says let’s skip the next session and chat/get drinks/food/whatever….that’s what you should do. No matter what panel you planned to see at that time.
8. Be Prepared but Be Prepared to Leave Empty-Handed
We’ve al heard those magical stories of authors who attended a conference and came home with a book deal. And if that happens to you, more power to you.
But for the rest of us, you never know what could happen. You could have pitching opportunities and flub them or maybe no one will give you the chance to talk about your work. That’s okay, because you have to take the long-term view and know that slow and steady wins the race.
Knowing that lightning probably won’t strike though is no excuse not to be prepared to talk about your book (or whatever else you have going on). Think elevator pitch and practice it so you don’t sound like an idiot (I wish I practiced more).
Even if you don’t talk to an agent or an editor, your fellow writers may ask. You have to view these moments as opportunities to gain an advocate of your work if they like what they hear. They could be indifferent or unimpressed by your story pitch—but they’ll still recognize the fact that you are treating yourself and your story professionally.
9. Take Time for Yourself
This is important. Give yourself a break every now and then to recharge. There will be plenty of opportunities to hang out with other writers and meet new people.
But you have to be the best possible version of yourself to make genuine connections. Everyone will be operating on fewer Z’s, and some people might be hung over or have spiking blood sugar. But it’s on you to maintain your body and your well being.
That’s it. That’s all I got. Hopefully it will be enough to give you a kick start for your next convention. Happy writing!