World Fantasy Convention is coming up this week, so it’s time once again, dear introverts, to talk about socializing. I see the look on your face. But, come on. Is this subject any more noxious than say, dieting or job hunting? Then let’s stop hyperventilating and bravely proceed.
The Secret Meeting Place of Cons
Since my second blog post on Writing for Introverts covered conventions in general, this time we’re going to look at something quite specific. In fact right here and now we’re going to discuss the biggest convention secret for newbies: The convention happens in the hotel bar.
If you want to hobnob with authors and editors, you gotta go to the bar. If you want to meet other fans, park bottom in bar stool. Sometimes people start drinking about 4:00 or 5:00, but at least by 6:00, folks start gathering in the hotel bar in solemn preparation for going out to dinner.
Getting Past the Door
So. How to force yourself to walk into the bar. Because, of course, everyone is sitting around tables engaging in lively and witty conversation. And you would rather stick toothpicks in your cheeks than walk into this closed circle, right?
But that’s what you’re going to do. If you have a friend attending the convention with you, don’t walk in with him or her. That way you’ll both look clueless and, besides, it’s harder to find two seats at crowded tables than one. (Have your friend meet you a half hour later. If things have not gone well, you will be uncommonly glad to see them.)
So, here we are at the door. Make a quick visual scan of the room to spot a good acquaintance with whom you can reasonably stop to chat–on your way to a bar stool. That’s right, you’re not desperate to sit with anyone because you have an appointment with a bar stool. Chat with this person for thirty seconds and if the conversation goes well, keep it going another minute. Then, to the bar. (If invited to sit at this point, graciously accept, tbut do not count on it. You have an appointment, remember?)
Leaving table #1, nod and greet anyone else you even vaguely recognize on the way to your bar stool. If you don’t see anyone you know, that’s OK. Really, it is.
Park self on stool. Order a drink. Well done! You have just done something that you thought would kill you, and it didn’t.
Getting to Stage Two
Stage two is finding someone to talk to. We are now at leisure to truly scout out the room. Only we must not look like we are. Keep eye on doorway. After all, you’re expecting someone, right? Whether you are or not, act like it. Try to sit at a place at the bar that provides a good angle to watch the door without turning fully around.
Now you will see people whom you didn’t notice before. Someone you know fairly well is setting over there. Perfect. Check out how serious the conversation is. Is he sitting with just one other person? Might be a business meeting. But if it’s more than just two of them, and it all looks strictly social, take your drink over and ask if you can join them. People hardly ever say no. Really.
The bigger the group the easier this becomes. Sometimes bar groupings become largish. (A dozen people have migrated from bar stool to these groups already.) Sometimes, having spotted an acquaintance, you can just saunter over and, however slight the connection, you say: (Class?) “Can I join you?”
What Not to Do
The pecking order. The more well-known the people, the more reluctant we should be to invite ourselves in. However, if you have a more-than-casual acquaintance with an author, and they are seated on the edge of the circle, ask. The world will not come to an end if you have been a teensy bit forward. Now, you may not want to command the conversation. But as an introvert, of course, you would rather set fire to your eyebrows than talk too much.
The side conversations. Do not attend slavishly to the main conversation, unless everyone else is. People are sitting on either side of you. Talk to them.
Be aware of egos. Do not ask if the person sitting next to you is a writer. Of course they are. If they happen to mention something like a writing deadline, don’t ask what they write. Act like you know. You will both understand this is an act, but it preserves face.
Freeloading. If an editor is obviously paying for a few of his writers, you should pay for your drink when delivered.
If You’re Not Happy
If the group doesn’t suit you, and you really have tried side conversations, finish your drink and thank those nearest you, or whoever you managed to talk to. Now leave the bar. Try coming back in a couple hours when the mix at the tables has changed. Take in a panel, stroll the halls, check email in your room. For heaven’s sake, eat something yourself.
Try to arrange your dinners in advance. This will give you great peace of mind if you’re feeling particularly introvertish that day.
Conventions happen between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. If you’re an early riser, you’re doomed. Believe me, no one will be at the 10:00 a.m. panel. People will be having breakfast. So, you have breakfast at 9:30, lunch at 2:00, dinner at 8:00. Then we’re good to go until the early morning hours.
Therefore: After dinner, you might attend one late night panel, and then, instead of off to bed to curl up with a good book, what do we do? (Class?)
Hit the bar. Find the perfect bar stool. Maybe it’s the one you already know so well.
Give this strategy for extroversion in the bar a try. Otherwise, I’m telling you, you’ll miss the convention.
World Fantasy Convention, October 28-31, Columbus, Ohio
This years’ theme: The Whimsical Side of Fantasy. Panels, workshops, autographing, readings, parties; and the not-to-be-missed juried art show. The Dealers’ Room will have a strong emphasis on booksellers.
My reading: 9:30 p.m. Thursday
In the opening installment of my ongoing series on An Introvert’s Guide to Writing, I explained what introversion is and is not, and why we don’t need to be ashamed of being a tad more inner directed than those for whom a room full of people holding cocktails is nirvana. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.