Cons and their pros:
Chance to connect with people. To make the most of this, do a little legwork beforehand and contact the people you want to make sure to connect with, try to have coffee or lunch or whatever. Sometimes people buy me lunches or drinks at cons in return for asking advice; if you plan on really pumping someone for info, this is a graceful gesture, and one I need to be better about.
Chance to build some recognition. To make the most of this – participate in panels and be a good participant who comes with some interesting things to say and has done a little thinking and/or research beforehand. Also, be good at public speaking. If you want to do this and are bad at it, it might be worth investing some time into practice. Connie Willis told me Toastmasters participation is very good for this. If you really want to make the most of panel participation, take notes to use as blog post fodder (and then remember to post them, I always think I will and manage it about 1 time out of 3.)
Chance to sell things. Have promotional material and think about how you’re going to use it. In my experience, stacks of postcards dumped on a table yield little return; it’s much better to be passing them out yourself and talking them up a little. Here again – be a good guest first and a sales rep second.
And they can be fun!
Cons and their cons:
They’re expensive! Be aware some of that may be tax deductible and if so, keep your receipts scrupulously. Ways to save at a con – get a roommate, bring a box of granola bars so you can skip the inevitably expensive hotel breakfast, learn where the sources of free food at a con usually are (con suite and green room are usually a good place to start for that, also parties).
They take time away from writing. Take a notebook with you and spend some time doing it, but also remember that con time is work-time for you, and treat yourself accordingly.
I just came back from a GoH stint at MidSouthCon. While I was there, I tried to be a good guest — I participated in everything asked of me, I spent time mingling, I was friendly and approachable for fans, and I made sure I knew what was expected of me. (Which made a great con experience even greater!)
I should have spent more time researching the dealer’s room and making sure the dealers had my books if I’d wanted to be even better about things. I did take a number of books, but mainly I swapped them or gave them away as thank yous while there.
And hey, I’m reading there tomorrow at 11, come see me! It’ll be the story from Apex, “So Glad We Had This Time Together,” which I think most of you haven’t heard. Talk to me while you’re there, and I’ll give you a coupon for $50 off an upcoming online class! (To see what’s coming up, click on “Upcoming Classes” up above.