The Introvert’s Guide to Surviving a Conference

The truth is, I’m kind of a fake introvert. On those ubiquitous personality tests I hover right on the line between the two extremes. Nonetheless, a big social event like a SCBWI national conference can be overwhelming, and all the networking can push a pseudo-introvert like me to the point of social burnout. I’ve collected some tips below that have helped me have the best possible experience at one of these events. (If you want to learn more about what a SCBWI conference is, click here.)

Photograph of promotional postcards and portfolio for use at SCBWI NY Conference

Promo postcards and portfolio page, ready to go.

1. Homework

The seeds of a great experience are sown long before you get to the conference.

  • Try to read at least one book by every speaker. It makes their keynote more illuminating.
  • To be a real overachiever, come up with a question or two you’d want to ask each faculty member. If you ever end up sharing a table with them or in a Q&A session, you’ll be ready to participate.
  • If you’ve been to prior conferences, go through the contacts you made back then and refresh your memory. For extra credit, check out their websites to see what new stuff they’ve been up to. There’s nothing worse than introducing yourself to someone only to hear “um, we met last year.” (Sorry about that, Rodolfo.)
  • If you’re attending sessions with assignments, make sure to do your homework ahead of time.

2. Stuff you should probably bring with you

In addition to your underwear and toothbrush and so forth, don’t forget the following:

  • Your portfolio/dummy books/whatever.
  • Postcards and/or business cards.
  • A sketchbook/notebook and something to write with.
  • A copy of any of your recently published books that you want to show to your friends.
  • Copies of other people’s books that you want to get signed.
  • Warm things (it’s ALWAYS cold in the hotel. Plus it’s New York in February.)
  • Earplugs for sleeping if you’re sharing a room with friends.
  • Sleep mask (ditto to above.)

3. Networking tips for introverts, or something

I probably shouldn’t be giving advice at all in this area.

  • Try to avoid looking at your feet while talking to people.
  • Resist the urge to apologize for your work.
  • Be genuinely interested in other people.
  • Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself.
  • Don’t be one of those annoying, pushy people who stalk the faculty members.
  • Sit in the front. You can see so much better. Actually, never mind. DON’T sit in the front, because I want to sit there.

4. Chilling Out

For an introvert, a big conference in New York City is remarkably taxing. While the whole point of the conference is to network and go to keynotes blah blah blah, it’s okay to take some time to get away from it all in order to survive.

  • Use the gym or pool if there is one to get away from people for a little while.
  • Have your own room if you can afford it. This helps a ton, but it’s like $400 a night so I get it.
  • Skip a keynote if you have to. Or two.
  • Leave the hotel and go somewhere else. Cafes are good.

Have you been a national conference or book fair? What tips would you suggest? Feel free to share in the comments!

 

Off to New York
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