It’s the convention season, so it’s time to talk a little bit about networking.
The convention season is great for networking, but you have to be somewhat prepared before you go. This post isn’t about networking itself, but to prepare to network. And some of you need as much help as possible.
This shouldn’t have to be said, but I’ve crossed enough of your paths at conventions that I have to say it. Don’t be offended if it doesn’t pertain to you. It’s really pretty simple, and you should be doing it anyway: wash your ass. Personal hygiene is important when you’re trying to network, because you don’t want to be remembered as the person with the bad body odor. You want to be remembered for whatever it is you do. So wash your butt, put on deodorant, and if you’re prone to sweating through your clothes, bring a fresh shirt and some deodorant with you. It’s okay.
Speaking about personal hygiene, try to have a neat appearance. Jeans and a t-shirt are fine, as long as the shirt is clean and non-offensive. You’re there to introduce yourself, and you don’t want to make a negative impression. A neat appearance goes a long way.
Next, you should have a card. The card should have a few things. Your real name, what it is you do (made simultaneously as plain and as clever as possible), and how to contact you. The contact information is crucial. It should be, at the least, your email address and a phone number. If you’re very active on Twitter or Facebook, have those on the card as well. If you have a website to visit, have that on the card, too.
A few words about your email address: it should be professional-sounding, and it should be one that never goes away. You may have an email address that you’ve used for years from your local internet service provider, and that’s fine. However, there are pitfalls with that: you could move to an area they don’t service; you could become dissatisfied with their service; or worse. If you have an email address from one of the free services such as Google or Yahoo, then that will never go away. (Personally, I’d go with Gmail, because Yahoo has been going through its own troubles lately. MSN went to Outlook about a year ago. Gmail hasn’t changed or gone through hard times since its inception.)
Don’t make the card oversized. You want it to fit in a wallet. Oversized cards are easy to throw away as so much flotsam. Make sure the card is one-sided. This is because you want the person you give it to to have the possibility of writing on the back of it. If they do, then there’s the possibility of keeping the card longer. (And to that end, don’t make the card very glossy. Glossy cards are hard to write on.)
Finally, relax and be personable. It’s hard to just talk and shoot the breeze with someone who’s uptight. Just let conversations flow where they may. Don’t try to monopolize an editor’s time. They’re busy people on a regular day—during conventions, they’re nearly insane. Say hi, stay for a few minutes talking about the books they publish, maybe see if they’re interested in seeing some of your work or pitching them an idea in the near future, give them your card, and then move on.
Then, you wait patiently. If you see them again at the convention (in a different area or on a different day), just say hi, but keep it moving. Don’t ask if they’ve had a chance to go over your stuff yet or if they have time now to pitch or whatever. Patience. If they remember you and want to talk, then let them. Otherwise, leave it until after a decent amount of time after the convention.
Networking isn’t too difficult, you just have to be prepared. Follow these tips, and you’ll be ahead of the pack.