With Bouchercon coming up in August, I thought it might be useful to share a few tips for anyone who is going for the first time…some things may be useful for mystery cons in general. (And experienced con attendees, please add your suggestions too.)
Panel Hop (It’s Fine). There are so many panels scheduled that choosing among them seems impossible. But at Bouchercon 101, the very first panel I attended, they said it was acceptable to come and go as you please. So you can theoretically hit multiple panels during the time allotted for one, if you so choose.
Meet Many Authors Fast. In addition to the panels, I highly recommend going to Author Speed Dating and New Author Breakfast events, where you’ll meet many writers very fast and hear all about their books. Your To-Be-Read list will overflow with goodness!
Prepare For A Book Bonanza. The conference bags are full of free books (yay). Also, publisher reps will sometimes give out books. Also, there are books for sale. Also, you can bid on books in the silent auction. Also, you can win books at certain events. And on top of that, there are bookmarks and other swag everywhere. So here is something important to know: the conference often arranges for a UPS table so that shipping your newly acquired goodies home can be a snap. Here’s another tip: check in at registration and pick up your book bag early if possible so that you can stow it in your room and won’t have to lug around a heavy bag the whole first day.
Talk To Everyone. At the Bouchercon 101 panel, they emphasized that you should talk to whomever you found yourself with. As a shy person, I was wholly prepared to ignore that advice. Yet everyone was so friendly and willing to talk! And I do mean everyone. You could be just standing there and suddenly it’s Oh, Hi Super Famous Author RIGHT NEXT TO YOU.
Find Group Members. If you belong to a writing group (e.g., SinC, Guppies, MWA), be on the lookout for membership pins on conference badges, and wear your membership pin too. But most importantly, if you recognize someone who is a member of a group to which you belong, go up and introduce yourself. Just do it.
Make Cards. You are going to meet people. Create a business card with your contact information on it. You never know who might strike up a conversation with you, so be prepared for everything Which brings me to the following…
Have Your Pitch Ready. I was asked, in passing, to pitch my WIP. I think my response was something like, “Uh, you mean, like, right now?” (Still cringing at the thought of it.)
Stay at the Conference Hotel. There is usually a reduced rate. Events can start very early in the morning, so staying there gets to you to the good stuff faster. It’s also nice to be able to zip up to your room whenever you need a breather.
Bring Comfortable Shoes. Cannot stress this enough. I thought my shoes were comfortable—I wear them every day, after all—but sometimes it’s Blister City. So maybe this should be: bring two pairs of comfortable shoes in case your first pair doesn’t work out.
Offer To Help. Conferences always need volunteers. In helping out, you will meet more people, so it’s good karma and fun at the same time.
Go To The Bar. Have a cocktail or don’t, but at least drift through the bar because there are usually clumps of writers everywhere–catching up and talking shop. It’s a Place to Be.
Sign Up Early. The conference offers a reduced rate for early birds and the conference hotel sells out fast. Both of those = reasons to register now!
Are you going to Bcon or other in-person conferences this year? Have any other questions or suggestions? Let’s pool our knowledge!