As a veteran of RWA, and conventions much larger and crazier than RWA — Comic-Con, the Consumer Electronics Show, and the National Association of Broadcasters, to name a few—I thought I would take some time to go over a few strategies I have found helpful over the years for surviving big events.
- Have priorities – Go into the conference knowing why you are there. Want to learn more about writing? Then focus on the craft panels. Trying to land an agent? There are plenty of opportunities to pitch, both at the agent/editor appointments, and informally, at parties and in bars. Interested in what publishers are looking for? Make their spotlights a priority. Remember that most programs are taped. You can catch up on almost all of the programs after the conference by buying the CDs.
- Make a plan – Review the schedule of events before you get to the conference. Know which programs will not be recorded, and if those programs are important to you, plan on attending them. Choose in advance which programs interest you and download the handouts.
- Be willing to toss the plan – No matter how interesting a program sounds on paper, it may not be what you expected once the presentation starts. Don’t be embarrassed to leave and find a program that works better for you. People enter and leave programs all the time for many reasons – appointments, breaks, etc. Do what works for you.
- Embrace the unexpected – Sometimes the most interesting and useful things are the ones you didn’t plan: sitting in on a program by an author not in your sub-genre and learning tons about writing, that chance meeting with an agent at the bar, finding a kindred spirit in the person sitting next to you at the luncheon. Don’t be afraid to try something new or take a chance.
- Take advantage of opportunities – Many people are not aware that some folks bail out on their agent/editor meetings (crazy, right?). If you hang around the meeting area and check in with the volunteers, you may be able to grab one of these open appointments. Prepare your list of agents/editors ahead of time and know who you want to pitch to.
- Don’t forget to take care of yourself - Wear comfortable shoes, take frequent breaks, keep hydrated, and don’t forget to eat. Sounds like common sense, but attending to the basics is easy to forget when you are running from panel to panel.
- Have fun - An often-neglected part of attending conferences. Find something, anything, you find fun and make sure to do it. Whether that’s meeting your favorite author, or going out to dinner with old (or new) friends, or playing tourist, doing something fun makes slogging through a long conference much more bearable.
So what are your strategies for tackling RWA? Feel free to share them below.