- Panels can be fun, but opportunities to socialize can be amazing. From the science-fiction conventions I've attended in the past as a fan and from reading other trip reports, I think that Philcon was a fairly "typical" convention. There were a number of programming tracks running throughout the day with mostly hour-long panels where two to six people would discuss a topic for (and generally with) the audience. I attended quite a few of these and was a participant on a panel about how Amazon is changing the literary life for writers, readers, booksellers, etc. And I had a good time at almost all of those panels. But, especially with a bit of distance, the parts of the weekend I by far remember the most are those where I was socializing with other attendees over meals, at the bar, or in the lobby. Socializing is not the most natural activity for me (as I'm sure many of those who met me that weekend could tell) but even when I was being quiet and listening rather than talking, I was having a good time.
- Writers really value people showing up to their readings. I went to two readings at Philcon, one by Fran Wilde and one by Tom Doyle. Both were very enjoyable and I know that both authors appreciated their audiences. I think that I would probably enjoy doing a reading at a convention; though I'm not crazy about my voice, I do enjoy an opportunity to perform. If you're at a convention where authors are reading, consider taking time to drop in on a reading or two. You'll probably enjoy yourself and the author will likely be very glad you came.
- Make the most out of your time; taking care of your body is part of this! I felt tired a bit more than I would have liked during the convention. Part of this was the good-idea/bad-idea I had of waking up at 3 AM to drive to Pittsburgh to catch a train to New York City where I met up with the friend I was traveling to Philcon with. This had some great aspects (Riding a passenger train between cities for the first time! Being able to work on editing stories while I traveled!) and some not so great aspects (Waking up at 3 AM!). I might have been able to do a bit more socializing if I hadn't been so tired to start with. And don't be afraid to take a nap if that will help you recharge. Missing one panel mid-day so you have good energy for dinner and the evening could be totally worth it.
I am definitely hoping to attend more conventions in 2013 than I did in 2012. It's an opportunity to get more information, make new friends and contacts, possibly do a bit of business, and have a good time.
Have you attended similar conventions? What lessons have you learned from them?