NESCBWI16 is only days away. Here's some things I've learned in my years of conference going that may help you prepare for your experience.
What to Wear:
Clothing at the conference is business casual. The rooms fluctuate in temperature so make sure to bring layers.
What to Bring:
These days you can do almost everything from a smart phone so as long as you have one, you are covered for taking photos and getting online. I also always bring a pad of paper and my laptop. The days are long and there are a lot of workshops. Something someone says may inspire you to work on your own manuscript. If you are an illustrator, some of my favorite note taking at the conference has been shared in pictures. Business Cards are helpful for keeping track of new friends. You can print some yourself using store bought Avery Business Cards or have them professionally done.
Things to Know:
Agents and Editors - They are people too. If they are sitting in the conference room, hanging out in the common areas, giving a presentation, or especially, going to the bathroom, they are not looking to hear about your latest manuscript. A good rule of thumb is not to talk about your own work unless someone asks. Instead, if you should meet an agent or editor in a random place, say hello. Ask them how they are doing. The conversation will give you a starting point in your query and may be more likely to get a publishing deal them pulling out your work in an inappropriate place. Don't be remembered for your rudeness, be remembered for your polite and thoughtful conversation. If you are asked about your work, make sure you have your elevator pitch ready - but again, do not use it in an elevator.
Twitter - If you are not already a Twitter user, I highly recommend getting an account, even if all you do is follow #NESCBWI16. It will give you an insiders perspective and access to sessions you don't attend yourself.
Put Yourself Out There! - While the sessions are informational, and the keynotes are inspiring, the best takeaways I have gotten from the conference are from the attendees. People expect you to talk to them, so don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Take advantage of the regional meetup on Friday night. You never know if that random stranger next to you ends up being a new good friend, a critique partner, or one day, a well published author or illustrator. If you've ever experienced one of those terrible speeches when someone says, look to your left, look to your right, some of these people won't be here in four years - SCBWI is the opposite. Look to your left, look to your right, some of these people will be famous one day. It might even be you!
After the Conference:
Don't let your personal connection end after one weekend. I will be on hand throughout the conference making critique group matches and collecting information for the future. The best way to take a conference home with you is to meet locally. Check out the NESCBWI Open Group Site to see what groups are already available. New ones should go up within two to three weeks of the conference so don't get discouraged if you don't see one right away. You can also start your own group. It isn't very hard and I give lots of help.
Looking forward to meeting you!
ARA New England
NESCBWI Critique Group Coordinator