Monday, January 31, 2011
How to Mingle at Publishing Events
This past weekend was the Annual SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC. I had no official duties (unlike last year), but as always when I'm in town, I enjoy attending the VIP Cocktail party, and then the Kidlit Drink Night after party (hosted by Fuse #8). The main problem with these events is that there are just too many people to talk to everyone I would have liked to.
I do remember a time as a younger editor when I didn't know as many people as I do now, when I found it harder to mingle. And I also imagine these events can be intimidating to attend as an author or illustrator. So, I thought I'd give some tips on how to mingle at publishing events. I know most of these tips are pretty standard, and to give full disclosure, I don't actually abide by all of these, but here goes:
1) The best "pick-up line" is to simply say "hello" and introduce yourself. Honestly, everyone at these type of events should be there to mingle, and even if they're not, they at least expect others to introduce themselves. If you recognize someone, whether an author or editor or Twitter friend, go up to him/her and say hi. Then again, if they look like they're deep in conversation with someone else, wait until they're not as engaged to approach them.
2) Have a goal/agenda for the event. Maybe there's an author, illustrator, agent, art director, or editor, etc. you've always wanted to meet and know will be there. Make your goal to meet that person. Maybe you're shy: make your goal to introduce yourself to at least one stranger. Maybe your goal is to get at least two business cards, and/or give your card to at least three people. Turn it into a game!
3) Don't be afraid to ask for help. I'm totally happy to introduce people to each other. I wish people would ask me more to introduce them to others. In general, I think people like to feel helpful.
4) Don't get drunk. It's fine to have a little liquid courage in you, but remember that this is a professional event. Nobody wants to be around someone who is sloppy. Don't embarrass yourself.(Okay, not that I've never gotten drunk at a publishing event myself...)
5) Have some conversation topics prepared. Maybe it's a current event, or asking what people are reading, or what they think of the award winners, etc.
6) Don't be afraid to introduce yourself again, or ask someone to remind you of their name. I go to so many different conferences and events. I may remember faces, but not usually names. And I never expect people to remember me. So don't worry about offending people you know you've met but can't remember. And it's always helpful to people to reintroduce yourself to remind them of who you are.
7) If you're introverted and/or shy, don't worry--I'd say at least 75% of the people in publishing are, too!
8) And finally, not to be cliche, but: Have Fun! These events are FUN! You're in a room of people who love books as much as you do. What's not fun about that?
As for the rest of the conference, I was following the action on Twitter over the weekend while I finished up an edit. There are also great interviews and wrap-ups of the different talks on the official blog here.