Thursday, July 02, 2009

There’s More to Schmoozing than Schmooze

We’re continuing today with our discussion of conferences. We began with Why Conferences Cost So Much, then moved to Learn Without Going, then, yesterday, talked about How To Choose A Conference. Today, we’re talking schmoozing - or Networking.

No matter what your reason for going to a conference, be it to find an agent, learn about writing, meet authors, or sell books, you’re going to be meeting people. I certainly hope no one reading this would go to a conference and be a total wallflower.

Step away from the wall, people!

Even if you’re the most shy person in the world, pretend you’re gregarious. Never hide at a conference. Walk right up to someone, stick out your hand (unless your hand holds a margarita, in which case, use the other hand or someone will snatch your drink), and say “Hi, my name is…” Especially do this to the person you see looking uncomfortable and sitting or standing by him or her self. If they look at you like you’re crazy, lean in close and whisper, “Helen Ginger told me you were very interesting and I should introduce myself.” They’ll either smile and offer their name or they’ll run screaming. In which case, move quickly onto the next person.

Each time you meet a new person, give them your card. You have cards, don’t you? If not, order them before you go. They don’t have to be expensive or custom made. Keep them on you in a place easy to reach and hand out. Ask if that person has a card. If they don’t, ask, at some point in the conversation, if they Twitter or blog or have email. Get some kind of contact for them. Write it down in your little notepad you’re keeping handy. Make sure you put their name down, as well. If they have nothing to give you and they don’t tweet, post or have a site, after you leave them, take out your notepad and at least note their name.

If they did give you a card, when you have a quiet moment, on the back make a note of when and where you met and the things you want to remember about that person. You may not have time to do this for every person you meet right after you talk to them, but do it in the evening before you fall into bed.

Networking is more than just meeting people and listening to them. It's keeping track of all those encounters. All right, I admit, it can be a pain and time-consuming, but it could also pay off big in the future. You meet not only experts, but authors who might provide cover blurbs, other writers looking for critique partners, business people who might give you personal attention when it comes to printing your business cards because they know you, people who can give you the inside scoop on upcoming workshops or up-and-coming agents, and more. All these people are out there. You just have to meet them.
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19 comments:

  1. You offer the most practical information! I'm printing this off so I can take it along with me to the conference I plan to attend in October. I'll read it before every socializing opportunity. Thanks.

    JaneKennedySutton

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  2. Luckily, Jane, it'll quickly become second nature. You're gonna be a schmoozing whiz!

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  3. This whole conference series has been great advice and, as Jane said, I'm going to print it off for reference. I would probably fall into the "shy wallflower" category (*sighs, recalls high school dances*) but would put it to use to market myself. All I've got to do now is write a book...

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  4. Much sound sense and advice that can easily be taken by anyone. Well posted.

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  5. You don't have to tell me. When I was in network marketing I went to conventions all the time - several a year. And I am a shameless self-promoting marketing maniac life of the party animal in that setting.

    You'll see. One day I'll make it to one you're at and see if you can keep up. (wink)

    Hey Helen - I'm shouting you out with appreciation today on my blog. :)

    The Old Silly

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  6. More useful info. Thanks, Helen!

    I'm such an introvert, but I think I could fake it for a little while at a conference.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  7. I'm saving this for the next schmoozing opportunity. So hard for me in crowds, but we gotta do what we gotta do. Thanks so much for this great series on conferences. Very helpful. Now I just have to make myself go to one!
    Karen Walker

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  8. It sounds like we should all just follow in Marvin's wake at a conference.

    Sometimes you do just have to fake it. Tell yourself that at home you're the writer (or the mom or the dad or the nurse, etc.), but when you're at a conference you're the author (even if you haven't published yet). You are outgoing and love to meet people. You can fake it for 12 hours a day for a couple of days. Then try to keep it up after you get home when you're out to parties or at friends' houses. It'll get easier and easier.

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  9. Excellent advice! Amazing how many writers/authors go to these things with no material to hand out to others.
    And another tip - don't go hang our with the other negative, not-going-anywhere author/writers!!! Be an eagle, not a turkey.

    L. Diane Wolfe
    www.circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com
    www.spunkonastick.net
    www.thecircleoffriends.net

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  10. Good advice, Diane. Fly like an eagle and you won't get eaten like a turkey.

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  11. I laughed at the "Step Away from the wall, people!" comment. It's spot on for a conference environment. I attended the WLT in Austin and it was really a blast. I met new people and met some Internet friends in person.

    I appreciated the interaction with agents at the conference. They were very accessible and indulged our pitches. I also appreciated the ones, who were kind enough to say, "no thanks."

    I learned an important lesson when I almost skipped one event (kind of tired from the grimaces from my pitch, "That's so sad."). Anyway, I had my most fruitful contact in the session that I wanted to skip. There is no way any online or printed guide would have provided the information I learned about the agent at the conference.

    So, I'm doing some spit and shine on my chapters this week.

    Maybe this question has been asked on other posts, but I wonder: How many people really submit to agents following a conference? I wonder what the follow through rate is?

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  12. I would have never thought to make notes on the back of another person's card. What a great idea. I'm just TOO straight line. I gotta get more curvy. Anyway, good points all. I'm kind of Elizabeth's boat...I could do it for awhile. And you know what? I better get to it and quit "thinking" about it.

    Best regards, Galen
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

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  13. Yay, Stacy! I can't give you figures on the follow-through rate, but my guess is it's high. Attendees will submit to not just the agents they met, listened to, or pitched to. They will submit to any that remotely look at their genre or who at any time at the conference said they were accepting submissions.

    It's usually a waste of money and/or time to submit to an agent who does not consider the kind of book you write, though.

    Galen-- it does pump you up to hear from others who've been to a conference and loved it, doesn't it?

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  15. Thanks for posting this. I used to stay in the background at conferences thinking who would want to talk with me, but found that if I looked for someone who seemed as uncomfortable as me and talked to them, it helped. The thing is the more I went the more relaxed I felt.

    The card thing though. That's a great idea. Better than digging through my handbag for that Starbuck's receipt!

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  16. Keep those receipts for your CPA! Business cards are really inexpensive. There are places online you can get them pretty much for free. I got mine at a close by office store. Very reasonably priced.

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  17. I'm going to present in a romance conference in August and now you give me another "homework" to do! I need to prepare cards with my pen name and a script to work around the group. Dear me!

    Bargain with the Devil

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  18. I'm an introvert but gregarious. My favorite trick: to pretend my book is not my own, that I'm selling it for someone else. Makes it much easier to talk to whoever about it!

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  19. Enid, you definitely need cards!

    What a great idea, Conda. I like that. I should have thought of it since I've actually gone to a conference and pitched someone else's book to agents and editors. They couldn't go so I did it for them.

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