Friday, November 18, 2016

On Cons...

A few of my writer friends will be representing the Garden State Speculative Writers group at Philcon this weekend. I felt it might be appropriate to talk briefly about conventions (or Cons) and how to maximize the experience.

First, and perhaps most obvious, is to ask yourself, "why am I attending?"

It may be a simple question, but it is something you should know before you walk through the door and spend your money for admission. Having goals and reasonable expectations in mind early will help.

 The first thing I would suggest doing is checking out the programming schedule, and highlight the topics that may be of interest to you. When sitting in as an audience member at a panel discussion, don't feel obligated to stay the entire time. While some panel discussions are fluid, organic and could go on for hours, others become stagnant and forced, and frankly, a waste of your time. Some panelists take over the conversation and talk about themselves and whatever they want to promote. And if you do not have a good moderator to keep the discussion going, it can get out of hand.

As you meet people and learn about the panelists, you'll get a better understanding about which speakers are worth your time, and at your next convention, you can look for them. Don't think that an admirable author is necessarily a good speaker, and don't assume that a lesser-known speaker will hamper a discussion.

If you have time, feel free to step outside your comfort zone. Maybe you're not a gamer. Or, maybe you don't know that you'd like to be a gamer. Stroll into the gaming suite and watch a game for a few minutes. Ask questions. Most gamers are passionate about their gaming and would be happy to answer questions and show you what they're doing. You may be surprised at the experience.

Filking? What the heck is that? If you're new to cons, you may not have ever heard the term filking before, and would instinctively stay away from it. But again, you may be very surprised at the talent of the musicans at the filking sessions.

If you are going in as a published author, have work to sell and a table to sell it on, keep your expectations low, and you'll be less likely to be disappointed. Although I would guess that majority of writers are inherently introverts, this is not the time to sit in the corner silently. Your book isn't going to sell itself. Address every person who walks by, make eye contact, smile, find a non-awkward way to start a conversation. Lure people to your table with a professional appearance, and maybe even candy. Your table's appearance is the book cover before your book cover. If a customer sees you as a person and not a salesperson, it will help your chances of a sale. Most people perusing the dealer room do not know what they want. Prove to them why they want your book.

If you are sharing a table, be as polite, professional and accommodating as possible. We're all in this together, and working and bonding with your fellow writers will make the experience more pleasant for all parties involved.

Speaking of parties...

Part of the convention experience is networking. Strike up a conversation you are sitting beside before a panel starts. If you are staying for the weekend, meander over to the bar and find some night owls after the official programming has ended. Late night conversations over a couple drinks may well become enlightening discussion you have all weekend. Look for programming at the end of each night for an EYE OF ARGON reading or a CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY game.

Make the most of your time. Meet people, learn something, buy books, maybe even sell some books. But above all else, have fun.