By Laura Marshall
The 2014 World Fantasy Convention is right around the corner. I couldn’t be more excited to buy books, see old friends and make new ones. One of my favourite parts of a convention is meeting awesome new people. When I come across those rare people who I instantly click with.
The part I hate is being stuck in a conversation with someone who is clearly trying to “network” with me. I’m not an editor and I’m not a writer. Sometimes when I tell people that, I can see a light go out in their eyes. Because they were talking to me to network.
Is Networking Really That Bad?
Now, I’m not saying that I’m against networking. Not at all. Networking is an important part of attending conventions.
But the danger of networking is that it can come off as inauthentic and disingenuous. There’s nothing worse than having a conversation with someone and feeling like they’re “networking” with me. You know that feeling. That feeling like they’re just talking to you to get something from you.
Don’t be that person.
Connecting vs. Networking
So what should you do? Instead of networking try connecting with people. There’s a big difference between the two.
Networking comes across as one sided. What you want. What you need. What they can do for you.
Connecting is a two-way street. It comes from being authentic and having a genuine interest in the other person.
And the best part? Connecting is more natural than networking. You don’t need to try so hard. Just relax and have fun. You’ll be better off in the long run.
Hang around the bar – I know a lot of people enjoy attending panels 24/7 at a convention, and not everyone drinks beer, but everyone drinks something (even if it’s just juice!). It’s a great place to catch up in a low pressure environment where people can circulate more easily.
Buy a round – You’re already at the bar anyway. It’s only polite. And if you’re asking someone for advice or for market tips, reward them for spending their valuable time on you.
Have fun – The key thing is that you’ve gotta be cool at these things. You’ll be more relaxed and approachable if you’re just having a good time. Sure, worry about who you want to meet, but don’t worry about it all the time. You catch more flies with honey than with crazy.
Pitch your novel – Unless someone asks you what you’re working on don’t start pitching them your book. Nothing makes an editor’s eyes glaze over faster than someone trying to sell them something when they just want a quiet drink. Pick your moments. Try to read your audience. Wait for the invitation.
Cock block your friends – If one of your friends has finally managed to get up the courage to ask Fantastic Author for her autograph or a blurb or a date or whatever, let them have their moment. Don’t interrupt. Don’t interfere. Don’t jump in unless invited.
Assume someone is a nobody – Just be nice and polite to everyone. I know this sounds very Canadian of me, but there’s a cunning side to it as well. You never know who is important – seriously, never. And you never know where people are going to end up in the future.
If you’re ever in danger of forgetting my advice, just ask yourself WWCD (What Would a Canadian Do?). Be nice. Smile a lot. Say please and thank you. And stick close to the beer.