This week's conference survival topic is etiquette.
As I discussed in the first post of this series on overcoming nerves, going to a conference can be terrifying because of the ever-persistant thought that what you do or say might make or break the rest of your career. While this is probably not true, you do want to make a good impression. Don't be memorable in the worst way possible--as the person who thought the rules didn't apply to him or her.
Which brings us to the first tip.
1. Follow the rules. If the conference organizers ask you to arrive fifteen minutes early for your workshops, or to dress in business casual attire, or to leave your stock of self-published books at home, follow their instructions. It's common courtesy, and I guarantee you will incur the wrath of people who carefully followed the rules to the letter if you think you're the only one exempt.
2. Remember that agents and editors are people too. My friend did a great blog post on this subject, complete with many excellent GIFs. Keep the golden rule in mind: would you want pushy people trying to sell you something while you were in the bathroom, or interrupting a conversation with a friend to thrust a manuscript into your hands?
While many agents don't mind hearing your pitch outside of officially scheduled pitch sessions, use common sense to decide when it's an appropriate time. While hanging out at meals is generally acceptable, or maybe after a workshop session. It's always a good idea to ask first, though. Leading with, "Do you mind if I tell you about my book?" never hurts.
3. Be prepared. Think of the conference like a job interview. You'll make a better impression if you come prepared. Do some research on the agents, editors, and presenters who will be at the conference to determine if they'd be a good fit for your work. There's not much worse than giving your whole spiel to an industry professional only to hear something like, "Sounds great, but I don't represent adult books."
4. Use common courtesy. Here I'm talking about the basics. Turn off your cell phone when you're in a workshop or pitch session. Arrive on time for your appointments. Don't chew a snack noisily while someone is presenting. Don't interrupt if other people are talking, or monopolize the conversation if you're in a group setting. Don't corner agents or editors in a confined space like an elevator. No stalking!
Most of those may seem pretty obvious... but truthfully, I've seen ALL of those faux pas at the handful of conferences I've attended, so maybe it doesn't hurt to point them out.
Next week, I'll be talking about another important aspect of conferences: networking!