8 Ways For an Introvert to Enjoy a Convention

by Vinnie Hansen

As authors, we often attend conventions. Probably you have done so as well in the course of your career.

After several Left Coast Crime Conventions and one Killer Nashville Convention, as a painful introvert, I finally have the hang of how to enjoy these events. This is the wisdom I’ve gleaned:

The Willamette River in Portland

The Willamette River in Portland, Oregon

1.  See the venue. On my trip to Nashville, exhausted as I was, I caught a hotel shuttle to the downtown strip at night and walked place to place until I heard music that appealed to me—The Don Kelley band at Robert’s.

At the recent Left Coast Crime, the sun was shining when I arrived in Portland. Knowing the weather wouldn’t hold, I seized the moment and walked to Powell’s Books. These were unforgettable experiences. In both cases I went with another person I didn’t know well. I feel bonded to them through the shared activity, which brings me to tip #2.

My new friend, Cindy Brown, author of MacDeath

My new friend, Cindy Brown, author of MacDeath

2.  Attend the convention alone. If you go with a good friend or spouse, you’ll spend too much time together. It’s natural, especially for a shy person like me. A huge benefit of a conference is meeting other writers and making new friends. Which brings me to tip #3.

3.  Park the idea that the conference is mainly about selling books. All writers want book sales, but that’s my point. Attendees can develop marketing fatigue. They tire of people thrusting books in their faces. Calm down. Let people get to know you. Share yourself. Then maybe they’ll buy your book. But . . .

Vinnie's bookmark
4.  Be prepared. Take bookmarks and/or cards and have them handy. Tuck some in the conference lanyard pocket. I kick myself for every time I had interest in my book and was not able to hand the person my info.

5.  Promote others. If you like someone else’s book, give it a plug. It builds friendships and good karma.

6.  Get involved. I’ve asked for and been lucky to receive panel assignments at all the conventions I’ve attended. I’ve made lasting connections with my panel mates. But volunteering is another way to form bonds. I don’t regret a minute of the hour I spent “manning” the Sisters in Crime table in Portland, or the time I spent helping Robin Burcell heft around boxes of books in Monterey.

Lovely, Dark & Deep: What Makes a Literary Mystery panel with authors John Addiego, Jennifer Bosworth, Deborah Reed, Susanna Calkins and Vinnie Hansen

Lovely, Dark & Deep: What Makes a Literary Mystery panel with authors John Addiego, Jennifer Bosworth, Deborah Reed, Susanna Calkins and me (far right)

7.  Observe your surroundings. As writers, isn’t that imperative? I met people who holed up in their rooms to make their word counts and I admire their discipline. But what do we write about if we don’t observe what’s around us?

judge with a fluffy white catThe Portland DoubleTree had a Cat Fanciers Show right next door. For the nominal fee of four dollars, I discovered a fascinating foreign world and gained a wealth of information.

8.  Take photos. They are so important for follow-up Facebook posts or blogs like this one. And, at my age, they really help me to remember all those people I met!

These simple practices have transformed my convention experience from intimidating to stimulating.

Have you had to attend conventions for your job? How do you feel about them?

OneToughCookieComing soon! The re-release of One Tough Cookie, A Carol Sabala Mystery, under the misterio press imprint. So stay tuned.

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her cozy noir mystery series, the Carol Sabala mysteries, is set in Santa Cruz, California.

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18 thoughts on “8 Ways For an Introvert to Enjoy a Convention

  1. shannon esposito

    Such good advice, Vinnie! As a fellow introvert, I think you’ll appreciate the fact that I literally hyperventilated at my first conference. Now I love them…my favorite part is meeting other writers. I really feel like I’ve found my tribe every time I go to these things. (Kass and I met at a conference!) But, I think it helped to attend a few smaller, local conferences to get comfortable being around so many people and so much stimulation. Also, wine. Wine helps. 🙂

  2. Kassandra Lamb

    *snicker* Yes wine definitely helps!

    I love conferences, but I’m more of an extravert. These are still great tips for getting the most out of the experience. Thanks for sharing them, Vinnie!

  3. Vinnie Hansen

    Shannon, I never would have pegged you for an introvert! Another thing, besides wine, that helps breaks the ice is an interesting article of clothing. I own a man’s silk tie that has been made into an art piece (still worn like a tie). When I wear it, people always respond to it and I end up telling them it was made by an artist in Santa Cruz . . . .

    1. Kassandra Lamb

      It was a small mystery conference down here in Florida. The group that sponsored it is now defunct, unfortunately. It was my first conference and I was scared silly. I temporarily turned into an introvert that day, but Shannon and I still managed to connect up there. While others were wooing the agents and publishers, we sat in a corner and drank wine and plotted how to start misterio press.

  4. Vinnie Hansen Post author

    Tracy, do you remember us meeting at LCC 2014 in Monterey? The wait for the elevator was so long, we went looking for the stairs down. We opened a door marked as a staircase exit, but there were no steps down. I still wonder what the hotel had in mind???????

    1. Tracy Weber

      The hotel in Portland wasn’t much better. There was a stairway down, but it had no exit to the first floor. And it was CREEPY. 😉
      Nice to “see” you again!

  5. Kirsten Weiss

    Thanks for these reminders! I’ll be attending a convention in May, and had thought of ditching my camera since I’m bringing so much other stuff. But you’ve reminded me of how important it is!


  6. Vinnie Hansen

    I was using my camera at LCC 2015, and some youngin’s teased me, “Are you going to run down to Walgreen’s next?” Ridiculous, of course, since it’s a digital camera, but still it made me feel ancient!

  7. Morgan C Talbot (@MorganCTalbot)

    A super post! Enjoyed your perspective and found myself nodding along. I am a huge introvert, and LCC 2015 was my first con ever. But I had the biggest blast of my life. I surprised myself by talking to perfect strangers like I was some kind of uber-extrovert. It really helps to know we all have something in common already. Looking forward to breaking more ice at Bouchercon.

  8. Vinnie Hansen Post author

    Morgan, I wish we’d met at LCC. Bouchercon is too far away this year for me.

    Since I wrote this post I’ve thought of two other tips–look for other shy people, standing alone. And have something other than a blue background for a bookmark. If you noticed the tables laden with bookmarks at LCC, most got lost in the messy heap. My friend, Cindy Sample, has made her last two bookmarks bright yellow and neon green. They really pop. Of course, she’s writing a cozy where those colors are more appropriate.

  9. K.B. Owen

    Great post, Vinnie! (A little late to the party; I’ve been out of town all week). I’m quite the introvert, so conventions are a definitely challenge for me!

    My bookmarks were blue…rats….

  10. Vinnie Hansen

    Your bookmarks seemed to be popular, though. At the end of the conference, I dug around trying to find any leftovers for you and Kass–didn’t find much. 🙂

    1. Kassandra Lamb

      Don’t change your bookmarks, Kathy. Yours were super popular at the St. Pete Festival of Reading as well.

      Mine unfortunately, also have a blue background. Maybe I’ll make it red next time I order some.


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