So many of us writers are introverts, happier hiding in our fictional worlds than navigating the real one. And a live event like a convention, while it may be something we dream of going to, is sometimes too daunting a prospect.
If you are thinking about attending your first event, or want to get more from the events you go to, check out my five top tips for conventions:
1: Go with an Objective.
Decide upfront what you want to get out of the event. Do you want to fill your day with workshops and panel discussions? Or do you want to network?
Set a goal before you go. Perhaps you want to learn a new skill, maybe you have a specific question you’d like to get answered. Or maybe you want to connect with publishers and agents.
If you go with a clear objective in mind, you can choose the activities that will allow you to get the most out of the day.
2: Plan your Itinerary.
Most conventions will publish a programme of events which you can see before you attend. You can usually get it from their website, or, at the very least, you’ll receive one when you first arrive on the day.
Study it, and decide what you want to do. Get signed up to the workshops you want, place yourself where you need to be to hit your objectives and goals.
3: Take a Friend.
If you’re nervous, bring a friend along. It just helps to boost your confidence a little, and saves you from standing, awkwardly, by yourself.
BUT still keep that objective in mind. You need to go for you, and get what you want out of the event. Don’t let your friend dictate what you do. It’s fine to split up and do different things once you’ve found your feet.
4: Take a Break.
These events can be tiring, and overwhelming. There’s a lot of new faces, a lot of information, and, generally, a really packed schedule that leaves little room for breathing.
Don’t worry if you need a break from it. Go for coffee. Get out of the building if you need to. Go for a walk, and clear your head, and you’ll come back more refreshed. You won’t get much out of the event if you’re feeling overwhelmed or panicky.
5: Start Small with Networking.
You will be amazed how friendly people at events are. And always bear in mind that everyone is there for a similar reason.
You don’t need to worry about making awkward small talk with someone until you find something in common. You already know what you have in common. You love writing and books. And, if you’re at a genre-specific event, you already have even more in common with everyone around you.
There’s no requirement that you walk into a packed room and befriend everyone in it.
Say “hello” to the person sat next to you in a workshop. Or speak to a small publisher while no one’s at their stall. Go and look at their books, and just say “hello”. That’s where all conversations start and, believe me, that one conversation could take you to amazing places.
Most importantly; have fun! Let us know about the events you’ve been to, or plan on going to.