I had the great pleasure to attend an amazing children’s literature conference this weekend. Now, for those people like me (I am an INFJ) who may be very new at this sort of event and also a little bit wibbly about the whole Networking Thing, I thought it would be a good idea to share some Hints And Tips And The Like.
Get there early if you can, and give yourself lots of time to find where things are – and where you need to be. This means that you don’t panic and you get to plan your day and also use the, ahem, facilities, when there’s not a thousand other people trying to do the same.
Don’t forget to breathe. Seriously. The art of conversing on a professional level is a fine and arcane art, and one that requires pauses. Stop. Collect your thoughts, assess what you’ve heard and understood, and go back to it. And, especially if you’re prone to a little bit of introspection, don’t worry. It’s all okay as long as you smile (and don’t resemble the Joker).
Don’t be afraid to skip a session and focus on what matters to you. I passed on one lecture to make sure I could talk to publishers reps without having to worry about time. This was important to me as I’ve had email contact with a lot of people and this was probably the first time I could speak to them in person. And, to be honest, if you’re chatting to somebody who is really *getting* your point of view and you’re having one of those THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING conversations, you really don’t want to break it off until you have to.
Find a buddy. Pair up. (Thanks Babbleabout!) Safety in numbers. If you know somebody from Twitter, arrange a rendezvous. If you find a like minded soul at the same display, say hi. Buddying up allows you to not worry about those silences when you run out of things to say. Or, if you’re anything like me, it helps you not to worry about those moments when you are a bit dazzled by it all (because somehow you’ve ended up in Narnia) and just want to run around the room shrieking in glee.
And finally, don’t be afraid to talk to people. It’s a little hard to get going, but once you do, you’ll have your mind blown by how generous and amazingly talented people are. Especially if you’re at a conference that you have a big nerdy passion on. It’s beyond inspiring to speak with like minded people who are amazing and so ridiculously good at what they do.