This is part of my series “An Introvert’s Guide to Writing.” For more tips on going to conventions see post #5 in the Introvert series.
I’m going to Reno next week along with several thousand others, many of whom will, like me, wish they were somewhere else. Like in the hotel room writing or watching “House” reruns.
Why go to these endless networking confabs? People who say “To see my friends!” are doubtless looking forward to the dozens of close friends they have made in the biz. Maybe even hundreds of best friends! However, for the introvert, we are happy to see friends, of course, but both of them live in Indiana. So why are we going to Reno?
1. Because we learn stuff.
2. Because we may be able to do business with editors and collaborators.
3. And because, like it or not, we shall meet people.
Here is the thing about meeting people
The world is run by people, the writing/publishing business is run by people and the people we meet may know someone else who knows someone else who will be fun or productive to know. Thus, meeting people at conventions is a very nice door into the world you are trying to break into.
It just won’t happen all at once or all at one convention. It will be incremental. Your first goal is to meet a few people and establish a little rapport. You can say hello next convention and remind them of your name. Over time, you’ve met a dozen, two dozen. And once in awhile a few of these people introduce you to someone else whom you just might love talking to or who ends up giving you a key piece of information. So we have here a geometric progression in your world of acquaintances.
This kind of progression doesn’t work very well on-line. Therefore we’re going to Reno.
Let’s not call it networking
First of all, introverts consider networking cynical and obnoxious if not downright degrading. We have our reasons and since we know we’re right, there’s no point going into it here. We don’t need to “work a room” and we don’t need to look for people who will be worthwhile to know.
We are just looking to meet other people for a bit of a chat and to see what makes them tick. We are open, curious, relaxed. If asked for our business card, we don’t even have one with us. We’re just striking up a conversation. We have no expectations for productivity or to flog our book/manuscript.
The idea is not to meet people who can do you favors or lift your boat to the next level. If it happens, great. But if that is your goal, you will tighten up and, as in the golf swing, tension will cause you to hit the ball all wonky.
Another reason we’re not stalking influential people at the convention is that they are sometimes hard to meet. Everyone wants to meet them. So what’s left?
You guessed it, people like you. People tend to congregate with folks at the same level. Why is this? Well, if you were a best-selling author, would you want people pulling on your sleeve for introductions and favors all the time? This is sadly what happens. So writers congregate with people at their level of achievement and that is just fine. Because you are more likely to make a real friend among people at your own level. Not only that, you’re more likely to enjoy the conversations. You’ll have lots in common.
And one of the great things about such a circle of acquaintances is that over the years, if they stay in the biz, you’ll likely keep that friendship or quasi-friendship no matter if the friend succeeds sooner than you, or more spectacularly.
You are establishing a group of peers. They may become friends, or stay acquaintances. But because they are peers, they will pass on contacts, information and their career experiences. Remember, they’re looking to you for the same things.
Make a list
So in Reno, we’re going to make a list of the people we meet. Write their names on your iPhone note app, on the conference program cover, or in ink on your forearm. Just remember to do it. People love it when you remember their name. Next convention, comb the list of attendees for all those who you’ve met. Write their names down before going to the event.
And meet some new people.
Will it be fun? Maybe not, but by God, you won’t be alone in the universe, and you will not be alone in publishing and writing, either.
You can do it. I’m rooting for you. Say hi in Reno if you see me.