There are two aspects to getting the most out of conference: what you do formally and what you do informally.
Often, attendees go in with a single-minded focus that the most important thing is the agent/editor pitch. And they do it poorly. An agent/editor appointment is a chance for one-on-one face time. It’s a two-way thing. You don’t have to ‘pitch’ your book, you can get feedback, which is more valuable, if you ask questions instead. I have a DVD on How To Pitch and also a short free excerpt on Youtube
What you are trying to do is communicate your enthusiasm for the book—through the material. There was something about your idea that excited you so much you wrote 100,000 words. You’re looking to communicate that.
In my previous post, I talked about the importance of attending craft workshops. Look at the list of presenters. Pick those who bio is representative of what you hope to achieve in your career path. One thing you can do, is go to workshops that aren’t as “hot”, where there will be fewer attendees and get closer contact with the presenter. There have been times I had only two people attend my workshop and we got a great dialogue going.
NETWORKING—this doesn’t mean take up smoking so you can stand outside with that big time author (aka Nora Roberts). Really. Most people are pretty approachable so be courteous. A lot of presenters are fried or busy doing business meetings, so take that into account. A lot of your networking should be with other attendees who might not be published yet—there are future NY Times best-selling authors all around you. Don’t hide in your room, afraid to mingle. Most writers are introverts so it’s hard for us. You have to expand your comfort zone by going into your courage zone—this is a tenet of Warrior Writer. So force yourself several times a day to introduce yourself to someone new and talk to them. Remember, a lot of people feel the same way and would be happy to talk.
Don’t hide in your room ‘polishing’ your pitch. A conference is about the people. One thing to consider is the networking you can do before the conference via social media. It’s an interesting phenomenon that you can now ‘know’ people on twitter/facebook/blogs and never have met them. Until you go to a conference. Lay your groundwork for the conference via social media. Fore example, my local RWA chapter has set up a get-together for those flying to National. It might seem weird, but people who live in the same city might only know each other via social media and have to fly 3,000 miles to actually meet. Remember: We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media.
Don’t stick with just the same people from home that you already know. Meet new people.
Study the list of presenters. Put faces with names. Check the ones you would really like to talk to. Then DON’T stalk them. Keep your eyes open. You never know who you might get on the elevator with.
Be careful what you say. Don’t bad-mouth people at conferences. Bad karma. It will come back to you—and not in a good way.
Ask people about them. Always a good conversation starter. If you happen to sit next to an agent or editor at the bar, ask them questions—don’t pitch. Ask about what they think the future of publishing is; kindle; what their hobbies are; how did they get into the business; what’s their favorite part of their job—etc. etc. You can learn a lot.
And it’s a learning experience overall.