(This post is a longer version of an interview question for later in the week. A twitter conversation with Eleri Stone convinced me to post it here as well. If you're going to RT--or any large cons--this year, enjoy. If not, uh...sorry? Sucks to be you?)
People often ask for advice when attending a convetion like Romantic Times. It's a big place, packed full of people, and it's easy to lose sight of little things. (And it's easy to think other things just won't matter--they will, trust me.) So, with three RTs under my belt, I have a lot of advice to share. Take what you want and leave the rest, but I've erred where a lot of these are concerned so you might want to learn from my mistakes ;-)
- Hydrate—first and foremost, stay hydrated. It’s really easy to not think about this and then you end up weak and tired and cranky (and that’s before the alcohol gets involved). Hotels are notoriously dry anyway, so why make the problem worse. Keep a water bottle on you at all times and use it.
- Don’t forget to eat! I’m notorious for this. When I am busy and having fun, I will forget to eat. I’ve learned to pack protein bars so I can shove one in my bag when I leave the room in the morning. That way when I finally realize I haven’t eaten in hours, I have a quick healthy(ish) snack that I can munch between panels. Other things that work well for this (some more packable than others: little boxes of cereal, fruit, string cheese, jerky... Point is, have something with you. I also usually take protein powder and my blender bottle for a quick and easy breakfast.)
- Plan your wardrobe in advance. I will honestly start packing about a week ahead of time (at least) because it's easy to forget costume pieces or the shoes that go with your pitching outfit or... Figure out what you want to take and then minimize where you can. (This last bit is especially important when room-sharing because of limited space.) I am a big fan of items that can do double duty for both parties and day wear.
- Have a plan. Nice and tight or loosey-goosey. Doesn't matter. But know what you most want to get out of RT and what your "can't miss" events are. (Might I recommend the Steampunk Tea and Hero Speed Dating?) Do what works for you, but I don't suggest completely winging it unless you are just hanging at the bar (which I totally support too :P)
- Dress up...or don't. Every party has a theme. Not everyone will dress for it. You don't have to, but some of us really get into that. It goes back to packing. Figure out what you're most interested in dressing for (or what you have to) and go for that. (I, for one, won't be doing the disco theme. I don't have the clothes. I dont' want the clothes. I'm not wasting money on the clothes. But that's me. I fully support everyone else in their attire choices.)
- See that last bit? It's important for more than just clothes. Don’t judge people because they sin differently than you. Some people’s idea of a good time is a little more loose and carefree than others. This is okay. If you aren’t comfortable in that atmosphere, find a spot where you are comfortable, but let them have their fun their way.
- Don’t be a wallflower. I’m naturally an introvert, so this was hard for me, especially my first year. I was lucky in that my roommate was really outgoing and then I met another really outgoing author at the pitch sessions. Between the two of them, they wouldn’t let me wallflower. There are thousands of people at RT, even if you only meet one new person a day that you can talk to, it’s one more than you knew the day before (Note: the bar is great for meeting people.), and odds are they’ll introduce you to one or two of their friends. By the end of the week, you'll know a bunch of people and have some new friends from around the globe.
- Business cards! Have them. Use them. When you talk to someone and they give you theirs, try to jot down a note or two on the back about who they are and what you talked about. It won't always help you to remember them, but sometimes it's enough...especially after a couple hours at the bar.
- Try not to be intimidated by authors. Most authors are extremely excited to meet and talk to fans and potential new fans. It’s why we’re there! And a lot of us are at least as nervous about chatting with new people as you are. So talk to us—about our books, our costumes, the toilet paper stuck to our shoe…
- Oh yeah, shoes—bring comfy ones. Yes, bring cute ones for the parties, but you will be walking a lot (think a day at Disneyworld with a six-year-old), so you’re going to want to be sensible during the day. (Also, back to hydration…drinking water helps keep you from retaining water which means the cute shoes should still fit by the end of the night. Swollen footsies are no one's friend.)
- Unless you're required to be somewhere (ie--if you're speaking on the panel, you should be there unless you're in your room puking your guts out or otherwise dying), don't feel like you have to go to everything. Of course someone will want you there, but if you need a break or you have to choose between two awesome sounding options, it's okay...do what you want. No one is going to hate you for not showing up to their panel. (Except maybe me, but I'm evil, so it's part of the gig.)
- However...if you have promised to help someone (with a panel, corset tying, supply moving, whatever) do your very very best to be there. If you don't want to help, don't say you will. Or say "maybe" if you genuinely plan to try. Just don't leave someone in the lurch because you got a better offer.
- The models...yes, they are very attractive. Yes, they've chosen a profession where they are used to being ogled a lot. This does not, however, make them playthings. They're human beings. Please treat them that way.
That's probably not all of the advice I could give, but it's a lot to take in. Feel free to hit me with questions and I'll be happy to tell you everything I know.
Also, Angela James did a brilliant post about staying safe at conventions. It's well worth a read.