How to confidently talk to people at conventions and whatever

Prelim: read these two articles at XOJane.

TL;DR: You need to
a. know that you’re awesome and that you have value to contribute to relationships/conversations/etc. None of that “I’m not worthy” crap!
b. go in prepared for the conversations you’ll be having.

So my advice is:

1. Take a deep breath.
I know! It’s scary. Lots of bookworms are also introverts, and meeting new people can be terrifying. Having to then establish a tentative working relationship (or just a friendship) is even scarier.

Doctor Who screaming

Just remember that: it’s NOT that big of a deal to talk to people, that everyone’s there to meet new people so they’re all nervous, too, and that you’re a lovely person who deserves to make new friends.

Breath deep!

2. Do your homework.
What sort of people are going to be there? Publishers, authors, other bloggers? People who love books? Since you love books and you’re at the event, too, it should be pretty easy to come up with small talk– look at how long the lines are, it’s so frickin’ hot in here, what panels have you been to, etc.

If you want to have more in-depth conversations, though, you need to prep beforehand! Not, like, to an insane level of flow charts or whatever. But it helps to know, for example: upcoming book releases that you’re interested in, books you’re read before that they published, and a few favorite books you’ve read recently (because you’ll ALWAYS get asked that question).

Be sure to write down that stuff! You’d be amazed at what you can’t remember when you’re busy hauling around tote bags of books and dodging people determined to run you over. Check your list right before talking to a publisher (or author, whatever) and you’ll go into the conversation confident and knowledgable. Yay!

3. Have a list of questions to ask.
Not to interrogate! But if establishing new publishing contacts is one of your goals, then you’ll probably need to ask one or more of these questions:

  • are you on Netgalley/Edelweiss? Do you accept review requests from bloggers?
  • who do I get in touch with if I want to request review copies?
  • if I wanted to do a feature/interview an author, who should I get in touch with?
  • which books are you personally most excited for?

(And then be sure to give them your business card!)

One last thing to remember: like anything, being able to talk to people at events without feeling like an idiot takes practice.

The first time I went to a big conference was Book Expo America 2011, and I didn’t feel confident about ANYTHING until day three. By that point I’d talked to so many people that I knew I could do it without wanting to throw up, and that confidence then helped me make new friends.

Basically, DON’T WORRY. Things might be bad at first, but then they’ll get better! Keep talking, keep networking, keep making new friends, and HAVE FUN!

For more tips about BEA and stuff, check out the tips page!

4 thoughts on “How to confidently talk to people at conventions and whatever”

  1. Thank you so much for this post! Hopefully I can use some of these tips at BEA. I’m the kind of person who has no problem being chatty if I have things to say. So if someone asks me questions, I can reply no problem! BUT, I kind of suck at INITIATING conversations. I’ll try to work on that!

    1. I have the same problem! So what I usually do is either try to think of what I’d like someone to ask ME, and then ask that person that thing (“Met any cool authors today?”), or I use my standard small talk conversation-openers (“Gee, this line is long, huh?”). With bloggers it’s even easier because you can ask them about blogging stuff! How long have you been blogging, what do you blog about, etc. (Don’t forget to exchange business cards, too!)

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