Yesterday Michaeline introduced the concept of the Stay-Con, a time and cost-efficient, individually tailored one-person conference held at home or a convenient location of the writer’s choosing. I’m a fan of this idea for many reasons, not least of which is that it doesn’t require interaction with other people.
I’m not shy or anti-social, but I’m definitely an introvert according to the Jungian or Myers Briggs definition. I get my energy from ideas inside my head, in my own inner world. I enjoy the company of others, but I much prefer to know a few people well rather than a wide range of people casually. So it goes without saying that a conference made up of half-a-dozen friends (thank heavens) and more than two thousand complete strangers is not my natural milieu.
The least stressful way to approach RWA14 would be to stay within my comfort zone – have breakfast with my husband, attend the workshops that interest me most, take lots of notes, ask no questions, avoid eye contact, and have dinner and brainstorm with my fellow McD alumnae. I have to say, it’s tempting.
Except that would be dumb. If I can make the effort to fly nearly five thousand miles to be part of the biggest gathering of romance writers on the planet, the least I can do is make the effort to connect with my fellow delegates when I get there. It’s not about networking in the career advancement sense. It’s about having the most complete, enjoyable and rewarding experience I can – and maybe even helping another writer or two to do the same: since most of the other two thousand participants are also writers, chances are that many of them will feel the same way I do, and I’m thinking maybe they’ll appreciate it if I take the initiative.
I know generalized good intentions won’t cut it, so I’m setting myself a concrete, specific interaction plan for RWA14. I don’t expect to become the life and soul of the party, but I reckon if I play to my strengths I can push myself outside my natural boundaries and maybe even enjoy it. This time around, I’m going to:
- Volunteer. I’m going to spend the day before the conference with a bunch of other delegates helping to set up the author signing event in aid of literacy charities. I find it much easier to relate to people when I have something useful to do, so this is a perfect way to meet new faces and get into the swing of things.
- Think quality, not quantity. The aim is not to hand out as many business cards as possible by the end of the weekend, but to add richness to my conference experience and (if I’m lucky) make a new friend or two.
- Initiate. Be the one to reach out. Don’t force it, but smile, make eye contact or a small, friendly remark that invites an interaction.
- Listen. Take every opportunity to ask other delegates about their work and learn from their experiences.
- Share. Be ready and willing to talk briefly about my WIP, or 8LW, or McDaniel, or myself, if asked.
- Ask questions. Not for the sake of it, but if something crosses my mind in a workshop, this year I’m going to raise my hand.
- Remember we all have a shared interest. It’s easy to break the ice when you know what to talk about.
If you’re a natural extrovert, spare a thought for those of us that are not blessed with outgoing personalities. If you’re a fellow introvert, do you have any ideas to add to my list?