1. Pack a mental image of the people you want to connect with. If this is your first conference, you’re going to be meeting a lot of friends you currently know only in cyberspace. Before my first conference, one of my cyberpals admitted he’d gone to his friends’ Facebook pages and downloaded a close-up shot of them so he could recognize them when he saw them. That sounded creepy at first, but it’s still a great idea to study the images so you’d know who’s who. If you are planning to pitch to agents and editors, be sure you know what they look like, too. That way, if you have one of those wonderful elevator happenstances, you can take full advantage.
2. Pack a smile, a hug, and a firm handshake–and keep them close to the top, so you can grab them at a moment’s notice. Of course, you probably couldn’t chisel that smile off your face if you wanted to. This is an exciting time. I’m just warning you, next time you need this trio this much will be at a family reunion (well, if you have a family consisting of over 600 members).
3. Pack a spare memory–and I don’t mean for your computer. If you’re anything like me, the minute you find yourself in the position you’ve been dreaming about for a year, absolutely everything you’ve prepared is going to fly out of your brain through your left ear. If you can’t keep your wits about you, at least have a spare.
4. Pack your wits to keep about you.
5. Pack your rhino-hide. If you’re getting ready for any kind of interaction with an agent, editor, or mentor, be prepared just in case what you hear isn’t what you were hoping for. And remember not to take anything personally. These folks are on your side, and any information they give you is for your benefit.
6. Pack your woot! just in case you do hear what you were hoping for.
7. Pack your grace, humility, and love if you’re a finalist in one of the contests. Win or lose, you’ll need them (and if you win, you can always whip out your woot!).
Oh, and don’t forget the practical things–you know, clothes, shoes, deo, etc. Maybe I’ll cover these things Friday. I don’t mind playing the role of mom. “Don’t forget your toothbrush!”