Be brave! Talk to people around you, be friendly! You never know who you might meet! At my first conference, when I didn't know a soul, I met dynamite illustrator Richard Jesse Watson this way. The folks who attend SCBWI tend to be almost universally friendly and welcoming. I've met some of my very best buddies at these conferences.
|Awesome illustration buddies and fellow mentees Maple Lam and Lisa Anchin (and me).|
Have your business card stashed in the front of your conference badge: it fits right under your name, and if you have an image on it, then not only can people can pick you out as an illustrator, but they will connect your name with your work (it is really exciting when someone looks at your card and says, 'hey, I know your stuff!').
Be on time! The portfolio showcase is only open to general conference-goers for about an hour, so be on time if you want to see all the books (plus they announce the awards at the beginning). The keynotes often run overtime, but the workshops will still start as scheduled! It is also easier to say hello to the speaker before the talk – afterwards they will be mobbed!
Do it all!!! Sign up for a critique, put your book in the portfolio show, and go to the social events. Often the optional elements of the conference are my favorite parts.
Get some rest. The conference is exhausting! While you want to take advantage of everything you can, it's ok to take a break and recharge a bit. Also, you can meet some pretty amazing illustration folks out on the pool deck (just sayin'). Also, bring a sweater – sometimes those rooms are coooooold!
Do homework prior to networking: look at the faculty bios and decide who you want to meet. Look them up on twitter so you know what they look like and you can walk up to them in the hall. Read their tweets and books so you have something to talk about. Go to their workshops! Look up the twitter hashtag for the conference (#la17scbwi this year) and join in the conversation.
Be receptive to feedback: whenever someone spends the time to review your work, take notes, listen, and don't be defensive. Send thank you notes to anyone who critiqued you: As well as just being a nice way to show your appreciation, most people don't do this, so it helps you stand out. It is also a chance to show another image to them. One year I got a personal letter back from an art director (decorated with cute stickers!) responding to my thank you note.
After the conference, follow up: look up folks you connected with on facebook or twitter, or send a postcard. I find it helpful to write a tidbit of info on a person's business card or postcard when I get it, which makes it easier for me to relate the name to the conversation we had (which can be important if you pick up 50+ business cards over the weekend).
For more info on:
Portfolio Tips from SCBWI Mentorship Winners - SCBWI Insight
Editing Your Portfolio - by Andrea Offermann (winner of the 2013 SCBWI portfolio showcase)
Mentee vs Grand Prize Winner Portfolio - by Juana Martinez-Neal (winner of the 2012 SCBWI portfolio showcase)
Portfolio Comparison - by Eliza Wheeler (winner of the 2011 SCBWI portfolio showcase)
Creating a Children's Book Portfolio - by Jen Betton
More Conference Tips:
For First Time Attendees - by Debbie Ohi
The Portfolio Showcase - by Debbie Ohi
After the Conference:
What next? - by Jen Betton
I encourage everyone to go to both their regional and national SCBWI conferences! I'm so sad I won't make it to the LA conference this year, but hope to see you there next year!
Jen Betton wrote and illustrated HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG (Penguin-Putnam) coming in summer 2018, and illustrated TWILIGHT CHANT by Holly Thompson (Clarion-HMH) coming spring 2018.
You can find her here: