As we roll into Spring we are also rolling into conference season. Many of you will be planning to attend a major publishing event this year and while you’re looking forward to spending time with your writer friends, you’re likely dreading the networking that will be required of you. I get it. Writers are introverts and, even with a cocktail in hand, walking up to strangers can be difficult and awkward. It’s hard even for the more extroverted of us.
While I’m no expert I have some tips for making these events more enjoyable and, maybe, more importantly, actually successful.
1. Bring a friend. I often go to these events with someone myself. Sometimes we stick together, sometimes we drift off, but at least there’s always someone you can go stand with when you feel like you’re the only one without someone to talk to. In addition, it gives instant networking opportunities since we both get to introduce the other to people we might know, but she doesn’t. I
2. Bring a non-publishing friend, especially one that’s a little more outgoing than you. This person doesn’t care who the publisher of the company is, or even know, so she’ll talk to just about anyone. It’s a great way for you to meet people and feel a little more confident.
3. Set some goals. Go in with a plan. Maybe you’ll hunt down your editor, but also introduce yourself to five new people. You aren’t allowed to leave until you’ve done that. I tend to be someone who works better with a plan and knowing I have to get a job done makes me feel a little less helpless.
4. Wear something comfortable, or comfortably acceptable. While those pink shoes are amazing, they pinch and hurt and, well, make you feel a little less confident because you’re always trying to find a place to sit. Wear something professional and appropriate, but make sure it feels great on. A tough balance I know, but how you feel about yourself and the way you look will go a long way in how successful you are at networking.
This is easy coming from someone who enjoys networking events, but that wasn’t always the case. There was a time, when I was a new agent, that they were awkward. When I walked into the room and didn’t think I’d know anyone. Over time, I’ve gotten used to walking around the room and entering conversations, and to saving people who look a little lost and uncomfortable. So if all else fails, you can always come up to me and say hi.