Networking National

July 5, 2007 | Karin's Blog | 28 comments

Before you think for one minute this blog is about which pocket to have your business cards in or how you should run out and buy a business suit, think again. I won’t bore you with such dreary details. Coz, I don’t care which pocket you put your business cards in, and if you run out and buy a business suit? Well, good for you.

These are the things you really need to do:

Act like you are somebody. No, I don’t mean act like your pooh don’t stink, but walk with your shoulders back. Your jaw horizontal to the floor and your eyes open and forward. Scan. DO NOT LOOK AWAY OR HEAVEN FORBID DOWN when you make eye contact. The only thing you can do is smile. Period. Anything less is bad.

*Even if you don’t feel confident, look the part. People are drawn to positive energy.

*note: do not raise nose so high in the air as to get a nose bleed. Nose bleeds are messy and those of you who walk with their nose so far up in the air? We can see your boogers. Keep nose horizontal to floor. Even if you think you deserve to stick it straight up, you don’t.

Dress neatly, shower and use deodorant. Please, a little hygiene goes a very long way, so does a smattering of cosmetics. If you don’t normally indulge, mascara and flesh-toned lipstick with a clear gloss is perfect. Oh, and no cracking and/or peeling nail polish on toes or fingers. Ew.

Instead of glomming with the same group, spread the love.
Ask if you can sit with a group, if they look at you like you have the clap sit down anyway. Look the beothces in the eye and then spit at them. No seriously, move on. You’re probably nervous as it is, who needs to be stuck with a bunch of snotty smelly chicks?

Go find another table. When you sit down, smile, look around, and without being in-your-face or acting like you’re starved for conversation, introduce yourself to the person next to you. Ask them something. What do you write? is always an icebreaker. Listen to the conversation at the table and jump in.

*Remember this: People love to talk about themselves, so let them by asking questions.

*And Never look or act desperate!

Don’t do this or anything closely resembling this:
So in Reno, I’m sitting with my agent, her colleague and several of their authors when this chick, a very published chick, walks right up to my agent, sticks a bookmark under her nose and introduces herself. Never mind my agent was in the middle of a conversation and the bookmark nearly sliced her nose off. Needless to say, my agent was not amused, and frankly I was appalled by this author’s behavior.

Another don’t. Don’t get sloppy drunk. Hey, we all like to get a buzz once in a while and that’s ok, but um, if you can’t hold your booze, don’t drink. Fall down sloppy drunk writers are ugly. And worse than that? While we all forget your sloppy behavior at some point. You won’t.

*Above and beyond everything, be polite.
Professionalism is imperative.

Now my fav part of networking at National consists of two things.

A martini (or a glass of wine) and a cigarette. Now I only smoke at conference (okay, I sneak ’em once in a while at home) but let me tell you this: Find the smoking section and you find the movers and the shakers. I have met so many nonsmoking people in the smoking section it’s amazing. Case in point. Atlanta last year. I’m having a smoke after dinner, lots of people heading back into the hotel. I see this gal walk by who um doesn’t appear to be too happy with something. “Hey,” I said (or something close) “You don’t look too happy, what’s wrong?” Now mind you I have never seen this person before, but boy oh boy did she need to unload. She introduced herself as Margie Lawson. We ended up chatting for a long time. I bumped into her at every turn from that point on. I officially made Margie my new best friend at the RITA’s. And the rest they say is history.

I met Deb Werksman, romance editor, Sourcebooks the same way. She’s not a smoker either but she passed by after dinner and for some reason stopped and we chatted for some time. Since Atlanta, I have passed several people Deb’s way.

So even if you aren’t a smoker, if you can stand the stench, come on out and chat.

Networking is about spreading your message, your energy, yourself. And when all of the dust has settled, selling yourself is more important than any other commodity you will ever sell.

There is a noticeable divide between genuine and fake. Fakes are easily pegged at one hundred yards. If you are fake (and I have met the best fakers in the industry), and don’t really give a crap about humanity in general, and are just flitting from one conquest to another, collecting names and pretending, it shows. Blindingly so. No matter how masterful you think you are. If you don’t care. My advice is stay home.

Am I saying you have to be nice to everyone? Nope, not at all, hell be bitchy if the situation warrants (last year I overheard two jealous harpies dissing a very dear friend of mine. I pounced.). I’m just saying if your heart is genuinely cool so then will be your energy, and your smile.

Fortunately most people are genuine and friendly. I bet if you’re reading this blog you are too. No mean girls allowed.

For those of you sitting there reading this, hunching over moving back into yourself shaking your head saying, “I can’t do any of that!” I say, yes, you can. I bet you are more of a people person then you think. I bet you have a great smile and a sweet voice. And I also lay odds you have more to offer in a conversation than you think. I met some wonderful ladies last year in Atlanta who I knew were uncomfortable with themselves. I wanted to say, “Hey, sit up straight and smile.” It would have made all the difference in the world.

While National is first and foremost a business event, it is also a social event, a chance to connect. So remember to breath. Relax, and more than anything, have fun.

Now! Shoulders back, ladies, and be prepared to smile and let’s do Dallas like it’s never been done before!

This brings me to the inevitable question: What are your networking tips, or if you don’t have a specific one, how about your personal, don’ts at conference?





  1. Lee

    Love the advice Karin. Actually it’s very easy to do, and makes perfect sense. If you like yourself it will show, and others will like you. RWA is a large communitee, with long memories. Keep that one in mind. Its a massive network, so if one person is impressed with you, others will hear about it. Every bit of behavior is a choice. So one can be a wallflower, ice princess, or just a conference goer having a great time, trying live the adventure to the fullest without dancing on the table in the bar.
    I’m looking forward to everything, the workshops, networking, editor agent appointments, networking a few parties, more networking. Its a time to shine if one chooses. Take advantage of it.

  2. Amanda

    My fave is always, ‘don’t get sloppy drunk’. You don’t want what you did Friday night to be the talk over Saturday coffee and croissants.

  3. Edie

    Karin–and Lee too–great, great advice, though I know some of it was tongue in cheek, it was all valuable. Like Lee, I’m looking forward to it all. No advice right now, except hanging around the bar is also a good way to meet other writers. I can nurse a drink all night, so getting drunk won’t be a problem for me. 🙂

  4. Karin

    Right on, Lee. Every bit of behavior *is* a choice!

    Amanda, I want to be talked about, but not coz I was dancing on the table.

    Edie, I’ll see you at the bar!

  5. Amie Stuart

    SMILE!!!!!! that’s my advice.

    And I haven’t had a ciggie in nearly two weeks but/so I’ll definitely be outside with the smokers, sniffin’ it up…er networking.

    *looks around for Raine then darts off*

  6. Elisabeth Naughton

    Love these, Karin. Esp. the boogers in the nose one. Though, you tall people have to worry about that way more than the rest of us. 😉

    I second the “people love to talk about themselves” quote. Easiest way to start a conversation is with, “What do you write?” Of course, you have to be careful of those writers who only want to talk about themselves and never ask a question in return. If that happens, it’s time to move on.

    Looking forward to seeing you next week. 🙂

  7. Karin

    Amie congrats on being smoke free for two weeks!

    Eli, one would think that when those who can’t stop yammering on about themselves see our eyes glaze over they’d get a clue.

  8. Margaret

    Great advice, Karin, right on the money. I almost snorked Diet Rite up my nose.
    My advice echos Karin’s, be nice to people, especially newbies.
    My first National was four years ago in Dallas, and I introduced myself to a gal who chatted a lot on the PRO loop (no, it wasn’t Allison–she’s a big sweetie!)–let’s just say this chick had the evil eye down pat. Talk about a bit*h! And yes, elephant that I am, I have a long memory.

  9. Virna

    Thanks for the great advice, Karin. I’m looking forward to meeting people just as much as the workshops. My tip? Shake hands like you’ve got some substance. A limp grip just takes the fun out of it for everyone!

  10. Amanda

    Virna, great advice. I hate wussie hand-shakers.

  11. Lynne

    Karin, this is the best advice I’ve seen yet. Seriously. If people would do just these things you’ve said, not only would they have a better time at National, but the whole conference would be a helluva lot cooler place.

    There’s something about National that makes a lot of people turn inward and think only about themselves — how they look, what other people are thinking, whether they’re impressing the “right” people — and that’s why I think the experience is so draining, not only for the people who feel that way but for others who come in contact with them.

  12. Karin

    Hey, Lynne, thanks for popping in. I must admit, I do so enjoy watching some people at conference over try. I want to go up to them and say, “Hey, turn it down a notch. We’re aware of you.”

    Virna, I’ll see you Sat. And how lucky for you, you get the live version!

    And I so agree on limp grips! Me no likey nothin’ limp. 😉

  13. LaDonna

    LOL, Karin! You go! Great advice and so well done too. Okay, I love to people watch too. Every example you’ve described stirred up memories. I remember one of those Fakers you so described perfectly. She actually walked up to our table and told me, “I’d love to really chat with you some more but…” Here she tilted her head to another section. “People that count are over there, and I have to go.” Ask me if #1 I gave a rat’s ass anyway, #2 Do I want to get to really know this broad? No way in hell!

  14. Amie Stuart

    OMG LaDonna I just fell out of my chair!

    BTW I love your name…my brother’s first serious girlfriend’s name was LaDonna!

  15. Karin

    Echo what Amie said.
    You *must* point this person out to me!

  16. LaDonna

    Amie, whatever happened to your brother’s LaDonna? I did find out, though, my mom named me after an old boyfriend. Nope, my dad is really my dad. But, interesting family fodder. The guy’s name was Don.

    Oh, hope you didn’t bruise your hinny there on the fall. hehe

  17. LaDonna

    LOL,Karin. I can point her out, but I’m crappy on names. I think I was so shocked, the moment froze in my noggin’. Every night, this gal was spotted in the lounge stalking this editor, acting like an infatuated fan. Pretty scary if you ask me.

  18. Tawny

    Great advice! The only thing I’d add is to just have fun. I love conference and for every snotty person, there are at least 10 friendly ones just waiting to chat and enjoy– or more, waiting for someone to please come talk to them and pull them out of their introverted shy corner.

  19. Karin

    Ok, one of you email me with a name!!!!

  20. Karin

    Nama *and* picture? Oh, Lynne you are priceless!
    LaDonna send it!
    And no taking names is a good thing.

  21. Lynne

    I remember that conference, LaDonna! After she left our table, she made a beeline over to a table where an author and an editor were deep in a *private* conversation. They did not look pleased about being interrupted. She didn’t shove a bookmark under anyone’s nose, but I bet she would’ve if she’d had one.

  22. Lynne

    LOL, Karin! I just sent LaDonna the name and a link to a photo. 😛 She has your email addy, right?

    I have this personality defect that compels me to forever remember the names of people who’ve behaved like jerks around me. Sad, isn’t it?!

  23. spyscribbler

    I think I’m officially panicking now. Is there a post anywhere detailing what we need to wear when? On two of the days already, I have to wear two outfits! What is that?! I am definitely a jeans and outdoorsy type. I don’t know how to dress!

    At my other conferences, I don’t give it a second thought, but everyone is talking about it!

  24. Amie

    LaDonna…Karin all this teasing isn’t nice. *ggg*

    Spy I am too — heck I wear denim capris and t-shirts to work! I still haven’t finished panicking. I’ll be the chubby brunette with the white streaks in the front of her hair, feeming for a ciggie and laughing really loud (cuz I do).

    LaDonna as for that first g’friend…I dunno. Her last name is on the tip of my tongue. I think I even have that prom picture around here somewhere (I stole an entire box of piccies after Mom died). She and my bro went to LD Bell HS in Hurst, Tx ages ago. I’m 37 and he’s 7 years older than me so she’d be around 42-44 now (I dont know how much younger than him she was).

  25. LaDonna

    Thanks for the info, Amie. And I hope to meet ya. Also, please don’t panic about clothes. Seriously, I look at the person, not what’s hanging on them. You’ll do fine.

  26. Karin

    Spy, relax. You do not need a suit, or a fancy dress. Casual jeans, with a nice top are fine. But you may want something a bit more dressy for the RITA’s. Some women wear gowns, some dresses, and others evening pant suits. Nice black slacks and a jazzy top are poifect.

  27. Lynne

    Last year, my goal with the clothes I chose for National was basically to feel good about myself. If I was comfortable and felt like I looked professional and reasonably well put together, that was plenty for me.

    I didn’t go to the awards ceremony in Atlanta because my husband and I had our monthly Dungeons & Dragons game that night, but if I had gone, I would’ve worn something like Karin just suggested: dressy black pants and a glitzy blouse.

    Unless you show up in a bathrobe or a belly dancing costume, many people are so caught up in their own worries that they’re unlikely to notice much about what you’re wearing. 🙂

  28. Carol

    Karin Wrote:
    *note: do not raise nose so high in the air as to get a nose bleed. Nose bleeds are messy and those of you who walk with their nose so far up in the air? We can see your boogers. Keep nose horizontal to floor. Even if you think you deserve to stick it straight up, you don’t.

    OMG, I thought I’d die laughing when I read this. You are just too much, Karin!!

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