Tomorrow the Australian & New Zealand SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) conference starts in Sydney. For anyone interested in writing or illustrating children’s books, this is a wonderful organisation to be a part of.
Although conferences can be fun they can also be daunting if you don’t know anyone. It is a chance to network, which is not something I am very natural at. Below are some networking tips I wrote some time ago for people like me:
An excerpt from A Networking Guide by Nathan Luff
Let’s start with approaching a person. It is advisable not to make eye contact or show teeth, as this is seen as threatening. Sidestep slowly up to the person, keeping your eyes on the ground but being careful not to physically bump into them. In the case of a collision (especially if spilled wine is involved) leave a note and get the hell out of there. Return in a disguise and this time try to be more careful, or at least pick someone drinking mineral water.
Conversation starters are hard but must be mastered. If it is a rainy day, for example, no one wants to have the same conversation about the weather (eg So, how about this awful weather? or I’m glad I’m not out there …)
Instead try to be more creative:
- Rain always reminds me of Paddington Bear. Did you read him as a kid?
- How good/awful was that band Wet Wet Wet?
- Can I borrow your clothes – mine are soaking?
- Is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed. (This movie quote is probably best reserved for a potential romantic moment)
If by this stage you have initiated a conversation, well done! Don’t pat yourself on the back straight away though, mostly because it looks odd but also because it is not necessarily smooth sailing from here on out. With authors and illustrators in particular there are some things you should avoid saying:
- Don’t say: I’ve never heard of you. Instead, say: I must read your book(s)
- Don’t say: Give me all your ideas now or I’ll hit you! Instead, say: So, what are you working on next?
And finally remember the old adage when talking to publishing folk: If you can’t say anything grammatically correct, don’t say anything at all.
I hope this helps you in your networking endeavours.