I know some of you are at NCTE as I’m writing this. I was at AASL last week.
When your publisher sends you to a convention, you’ll likely be on a panel, sign some books in the convention hall and maybe go to a nice publisher-sponsored dinner with teachers, librarians and/or booksellers. The first time I went to one of these conventions, I did what I was there to do, then basically hung out in my room the rest of the time. I didn’t know there was more to do. Now I understand that conventions are an opportunity for personal and professional networking. Here are some tips for making the most of the convention experience:
- Business cards. Of course you’ll bring some to hand out. And if you have school visit brochures, bookmarks and any other swag, you’ll bring that, too. But you’ll also collect business cards. You think you’ll remember why each person gave you their business card, but trust me. You won’t. That’s why it’s a good idea to write a little note to yourself on the back of a card when you receive one. Then don’t forget to follow up when you get home.
- Meet your fellow panelists ahead of time, if you can. Most of the time I meet my fellow panelists when we sit down at the microphones. But our moderator last week asked that we all meet an hour before the presentation, so we could “get to know each other a bit.” This was really nice! Not only did conversation flow more naturally during the panel, I struck up a conversation with one of my fellow panelists that has continued via e-mail since we’ve gone home.
- Visit publisher booths. All those lovely galleys they’re handing out? You can take them, too! Even if you’re not a teacher or librarian. But don’t just take the galley and walk away. Pay attention to which books each publisher is featuring. Talk to the people in the booths. Ask them which books they like and why. Listening to a marketing person give an elevator pitch is a good way to learn how to craft your own as a writer.
- Talk to convention attendees. You know you have something in common: children’s books. If you’re in line to get a book signed, talk to the people in line with you. Ask what their favorite books are. If they’re teachers or librarians, ask how they use books in the classroom.
- Have fun! If someone gives you a ticket to the rodeo, go to the rodeo! It’s another opportunity to connect with convention attendees.