1. if you're an extrovert like me, you're probably fine. if you're an introvert, like so many authors are, then you have to force yourself to reach out and talk to people. Sometimes you'll be surrounded by strangers. Look for other people with FIRST TIMER on their conference badges and strike up a conversation. Likely, they're just as freaked out as you and will be happy to meet new friends. Some of the people I met at my first conference are my best friends in the WORLD today, 11 years later, because they've gone through it all with me.
2. Even if your head is spinning, try to go at least take a glance at all that's offered to map out what you want to do. The conference booklet in your registration bag is a great resource - I generally try to get mine Tuesday night or Wed. morning and then I take time to sit with a cup of coffee and go through the entire thing with a highlighter, marking out sessions I'd like to see or book signings I really want to attend.
3. If big hotels overwhelm you, take 20 minutes to walk the hotel (the conference room part) before things get kicking. Then you'll have a general idea and won't be lost when you're trying to get to a workshop. There is usually a map in the conference booklet.
4. As speakers, we all know audience members will be coming in late or leaving early for pitch appointments, editor meetings, or whatever. But if you know you have to leave a session early, please be considerate and sit on the aisle near the back instead of front row center.
5. At the lunches, introduce yourself to everyone at your table. Asking "what do you write" is a sure-fire conversation starter because we're all excited to talk about that to someone other than our pets, right? <g>
6. Even if you're overwhelmed, try to go to as many sessions as possible. if two or more of your favorites conflict, check the program to see if one of them won't be taped. If so, go to that one and listen to the other on the conference CDs.
7. When noise and chaos get to be too much, a room service lunch or just a nap can be extraordinarily refreshing.
8. If you don't have a publisher party or agency dinner to go to, Thursday and Friday evenings can seem deflating. This is a great time to set up a dinner with friends or sightsee in the city, so you have exciting plans, too.
9. Remember that whether the speakers say it or not, almost every workshop on craft should be prefaced with "This is the way I do it, but different things work for different people." We all write in different ways--do NOT, no matter WHAT, walk out of a workshop and think "I'm doing everything wrong because my POV shifts happen by chapter instead of by scene" or whatever. Many roads to Shangri-La, my friends; learn how to improve, but NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER!!
10. Finally, and not to be trite - I really mean this - have FUN!!! The chance to learn and network with hundreds (up to 2000, right?) authors does not come along every day. Take in everything you can and worry about digesting it all when you get home. Meet new people, make new connections, and enjoy this grand adventure!!
Good luck!! And if you see me in the halls, come up and say hi!! I really mean it!! I'm looking forward to making new friends!!
Watch for THE LONESOME YOUNG, by me as Lucy Connors coming in April!!