(And by con, I mean convention. Or conference. Did you guys think I was encouraging crime? Minds out of the gutter, friends.)
This whole “Con” thing is new to me. Growing up, I never even thought about conventions or conferences as something that would be part of MY business since the only conventions I knew about were my dad’s “Association of Trial Lawyers of America” conferences, where he would go learn about boring stuff and my mom and I would go on conference-organized family activities like baseball games in San Diego or seeing ‘Beauty and the Beast’ on Broadway or shopping on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. As I’ve gotten older, and because of my involvement with Squaresville, I’ve been able to experience the Con life and have discovered that it actually is a BIG thing for my career.
I’ve been fortunate enough to do things like speak at Digital Hollywood’s Comedy Summit (and having to impress people with lots of clout and money. Eeeeeeeeeek.), be nominated and invited to the IAWTV awards at the International CES and seeing new cars and technology (and my face on the cover of Variety…it’s okay, fellow convention goers, I’m crying because of happiness and free things, not because I can’t handle Vegas), and of course, a two-time veteran of Hank and John Green’s passion project, VidCon. This year’s VidCon happened August 1-3, kicking off with a pre-party hosted by Big Frame and Tubefilter on July 31, and then three whirlwind days of working and signing things and panels and partying and free swag and bean bag chairs and more partying and photos and no sleep. In between all of the work I did, there was plenty of playtime. But of course, in the art of the con, you have to figure out how to get your play in while closing deals and pitching shows when you’re off the clock. Apparently, I am known as “the machine” because I am known to hustle hard, so I was responsible for pitching and promoting not one, but THREE web series.
Mostly by myself.
Talk about pressure to make sure important people (or just people in general) see the things you’re in so you can be in more things and have brand deals and make money, which is great on top of the social anxiety I tend to have in the most inopportune situations. Thanks to the trial and error of my life (and my Saturday nights), I’ve learned that conventions and conferences can work to your advantage if you know how to work them correctly, and it all begins with the hotel bar or a hotel room party.
Before you master The Art of the Con, practice your pitch speech. What do you want to talk about? What are some good things you’ve seen or experienced lately (i.e. music, movies, books, television, etc.)? Do you have cards on you to hand out (either business cards or postcards)? Making a connection with someone is always the key to a successful pitch, so if you can break the ice and talk about how amazing Kerry Washington is on SCANDAL or how Cate Blanchett should just win the Oscar already for Blue Jasmine, or even the pop wars between Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Sara Bareilles, chances are you’ll connect with someone and it’ll be easier to pitch and promote than shoving a card in someone’s hand and say, “hey, check this out.” Also, if you know someone at a party or the bar, there’s no shame in asking to be introduced to people they know to build your network.
The next step in the art of the con is picking your poison. Everyone will have a drink in hand, and so should you.
-Love wine? Great! Pick a nice, sippable vino (I prefer either a Sauvignon Blanc, a Riesling, or a Merlot) that will make you feel classy while also pitching and holding your glass (especially if you talk with your hands).
-Need something in the brewski aisle? Beer me! A flavorful stout or brown ale is my choice, but any beer will do (in a bottle, holding a full glass of a brew can get messy, and spilling beer is not allowed, both for etiquette and for not committing a party foul).
-Liquor? I barely know her! If you want to go the hard liquor route, stick with basic cocktails-vodka soda, G&T, Cosmo, basic margarita, old fashioned….just don’t go crazy, and don’t do shots (unless they’re buying.) (but seriously, don’t do shots.)
-Not a fan of drinking but still want to be around the madness? Try this: club soda with pineapple juice, a couple slices of lime, and a splash of GOOD grenadine (not the manufactured stuff). It’s like a delicious island paradise that’s non-alcoholic but still looks SUPER pretty.
Now you’re ready. You’ve practiced, you’ve broken the ice, and you have your liquid courage. It’s time to play up your personality and chat about your project/idea. Remember, this is self-promotion – you’re allowed to shine when you chat about your passion project, so even if you’re nervous, relax, breathe, take a swig, and just go for it. For some it’s easier than others, but once you hit your groove: flash those pearly whites, pull out a card, and show it off, ask for their card, and when you’re done, give a nice ‘it’s been great chatting with you! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m _________. Have a great evening.” If all else fails, you can change the subject and then later on, as you walk away, mention “oh by the way, here’s that thing I talked about if you want to take a look” and then RUN LIKE HELL. I’ve done both. Some find this very endearing. Others….well, obviously they think I’m some loud, ridiculous girl who has no idea what she’s doing, but at least I’m memorable! (In the worst way, don’t follow my example.)
When you get back from your con, make sure you follow up with your new contact with a pleasant and bright email or a message on social media. Don’t act like their new best friend, but a few short and sweet sentences to keep you in their rolodex is always a smart idea.
And there you have it. You’ve mastered the art of the con. The con can be a double-edged sword in many ways, but if you work it to your advantage, it can be the best networking experience you have…and you might get some free drinks and a phone number out of it. (I have.) (But like I said, don’t follow my example.)