In a few minutes, I’m going to walk out of this really STELLAR breakfast at the Holiday Inn in Minneapolis (and when I say stellar, I mean that there’s a machine that makes pancakes and lots of fruit as well as bacon) and head to my first panel of the 2015 AWP Conference. It’s a panel on social media. I’m hoping to walk away with a few practical suggestions of things I can do to help me build community more powerfully on these amazing tools.
But since a couple of times, people asked me what my tips for AWP are I thought I’d share some stuff I do to make this wonderful, overwhelming time more manageable.
1. I get to panels early, sit about a third of the way back, and try to sit near an older woman. Here’s why: I prefer to have a seat or at least a comfortable square of floor. I don’t like to be in the back where people sometimes come and go and where hearing can be tough, and I don’t like to be in the front where I feel very obligated to look very interested (maybe that’s just me). I sit next to a woman older than me because I know I don’t find women my age or older to be intimidating, so I’m more likely to talk to them.
2. I choose, always, to talk with a person rather than attend a panel if the opportunity arises. The panels are great, but I’m here for the people. The connections – real ones – that I can make in this place.
3. I pace myself. Today, I’ll go to two panels, and then I’m taking a few hours off and to tour the bookfair and talk with the Painted Steppers. Then, I”ll be back to it this evening.
4. I try to connect for meals or coffee with as many people as possible. I’m not a great mingler – as evidenced by my performance at a reception yesterday. I don’t do small talk well, and so at a table, I can really get to know people.
5. I observe a lot. I love to see what people are doing, wearing, saying. I sit in corners and watch body language. It’s fueling for me.
Someone just joined my table for breakfast, and I’m going to talk to her. . . so exciting!
If you’ve gone to AWP, what are your tips?