In part one I discussed a bit about attending a convention and some of the things to look for when selecting whether to attend or not. Here in Part 2, I’ll discuss how to go about attending as a panelist.
Getting into a convention as a panelist is quite a bit more difficult than merely attending. For some conventions (looking at you Dragon Con) they’re very selective and you may never hear back. For others, as long as you present yourself as a benefit to their convention, they’ll be happy to have you.
The first part of that is to be professional. For most of these conventions you can browse their websites and find out who will be running the panels or programming for the convention. That’s the person you want to contact.
When you do email them, write a professional introduction. Tell them who you are and what you write. Tell them what you’ve heard about their convention and why you want to participate. If you bring ideas to the table, that’s generally a good thing, especially if you have an idea for a panel that would be fun and won’t require any additional effort on their parts.
The second part of this is remembering that the people running conventions are volunteers and they volunteer their time and effort because they like conventions and they enjoy getting people together to enjoy their genre of fandom. If you present them with ways make a convention more enjoyable, then generally the people running the convention will be happy to have you.
The next part of that is how you behave at the convention. Remember, this is about presenting yourself in a good manner. If you’re participating in a panel, be sure to give other people time to talk. If you are moderating, try to keep the panelists roughly on track, try to have some topics of conversation prepared, and most importantly be friendly and personable to everyone you meet. Having dealt with rude panelists and audience members, it’s the quickest way to alienate a potential reader or connection.
As far as what to say, generally if you’re an author you’re passionate about things in the genre. Talk about the things you find interesting, but gauge your audience. If people are yawning, checking their watches or phones, or worst of all filing out of the room… well, that’s a bit of a sign. Try to be entertaining, intelligent, and charming. Basically you’re trying to establish yourself as someone who has something interesting to say. That way they’ll remember you and maybe look at what you have to write.
Lastly, remember that bad impressions are more likely to stay with people. The unfortunate truth is that most of the people you encounter won’t remember you at a convention, especially not the other professionals. They meet so many people at so many conventions, that everyone sort of blurs together. What they will remember, though, is if you’re the jerk who snapped at people or said derogatory things about other authors. Good behavior may not get you a book deal or gain you lots of readers, but bad behavior will gain you notoriety and not in a good way.