Two weeks ago I went to one of my favorite mystery writers’ conferences, CrimeBake. It is co-sponsored by Sisters in Crime New England Chapter and Mystery Writers of America. This conference is small, but packs a lot of punch. Several great panels featured all types of mystery writers. There were two expert presentations—one on lock picking and one on blood spatter (hey, it’s a mystery conference). A wonderful banquet ended with dancing. I pitched to an agent, just like I practiced. And, thrillingly for me, there was a release of the Level Best Books Anthology Thin Ice, in which I made my publication debut. All good, right? Absolutely.
By nature I am an introvert who fights it every day in order to function in an extroverted field. Give me a reason (like I need to schmooze someone for my job), and I excel at small talk. But without a purpose, aka mingling, I never do as well as I would like. An agent is sitting there. Do I talk to him? No? Julia Spencer-Fleming is waiting in line for coffee. Do I talk to her? No. I think about it, but I let these moments pass. And at a conference, these moments are precious. I need to learn how to step up, show up and fake it till I make it.
Step Up: When an opportunity comes up, take it and run. Think of questions to ask for a Q&A. Be pleasant and say hello. Make small talk. Don’t hide. Step up.
Show Up: By going to the conference I did that. But other ways to show up? Go to readings and talk to people. Use social media to build community. Volunteer to help at a conference or an event. Don’t wait until you need a community to build one. Show up and pay it forward.
Fake It Till You Make It: Pretend to be who you are until you are who you want to be. Easy for me to write, but what does it mean? Dress like a successful author (and define that for yourself). Walk with assurance. Get your supporting materials like Twitter accounts and blogs in place. Put them on a business card, and have them at the ready. There is something about self assurance that is very appealing. Practice it so that it is second nature.
And another piece of advice for us introverts? Plan some breaks where you can go to your room and decompress. We can only do so much before we hit a wall, and we need to respect that.
Any other tips for making the most out of a networking opportunity, especially for us introverts? Let me know.
J.A. Hennrikus teaches and works in arts administration at Emerson College, is a proud member of Red Sox Nation and a social media fanatic who tweets as cozytwitt. She is also a member of Sisters in Crime, on the board of the New England chapter and a Guppy. She blogs at jahennrikus.com and has a Facebook fanpage.