1. Plan ahead–look through the schedule BEFORE you arrive and mark off the sessions you plan to attend. BUT once there do not be afraid to move on should the session turn out to be something not up your alley.
2. Plan ahead: Part 2– extra sessions pre and post conference that cost extra $$ can be some of the BEST bang for your buck so consider taking one of these.
3. Schedule appointments–if the conference offers agent/editor appointments, choose the person(s) most in tune with what you are writing and get on the list. BRING BUSINESS CARDS and carry them in a pocket or easy-to-get-to-without-fumbling location.
4. Pack light–chances are you are going to need room for books you will buy/receive at the conference.
5. If this is your first time at this conference attend the orientation–you have a limited time to cram in a LOT of opportunities.
6. Do NOT hide out in your room!!! I assure you that I am the world’s greatest introvert but at conferences I make it my mission to talk to as many people as possible–you just never know!! Start with something like: “Is this your first time here?” Or the surefire conversation starter: “What are you working on now?”
7. Do NOT hang out exclusively with your friends–this is your opportunity (and theirs) to work on advancing a career.
8. If you are fortunate enough to find yourself seated next to an editor or agent at a meal or event, do NOT try to pitch your story unless the person specifically asks what you are working on. Instead take advantage of this golden opportunity to get them talking about trends in the business–where are things headed, what’s in and out, etc.
9. If you have a finished manuscript, do NOT try and give it to an editor at the conference. Instead, prepare your “elevator pitch”– how you would describe your novel in the 10-15 seconds it might take to ride an elevator to the lobby–and on the back of your business card write down the keywords (Irish historical suspense, for example) to hand to the editor should there be interest.
10. HAVE FUN!!! BE A SPONGE and soak in everything you can… if sessions are recorded on a flash drive, consider buying that so once you are home you can review the sessions you attended and “attend” those you missed.
FINALLY do not be intimidated by the “stars” in the crowd. Lee Childs, Jodi Picoult, Nora Roberts and the like are people who write — just like you!