22 May 2014

5 BookExpoAmerica tips from a veteran

I'll be attending my fourth BookExpo America conference this year, and I'm super excited. I'm not a conference-type person, but BEA is just the most fun ever. I probably shouldn't give away my trademark BEA secrets since they allow me to see more conference stuff, get more awesome free books... too late:

1. Wear the most comfortable shoes you can get away with for the purpose of your visit. The home of BEA in New York (for now) is the Jacob A. Javits Center on 34th Street and 11th Avenue, practically falling into the Hudson River (if only). If you're from out of town or you just haven't visited it recently, let me tell you: The Javits Center is far. It's three avenues or about 10 walking minutes away from the nearest subway stop (that's the A/C/E at 34th) and the physical plant is massive. You're smart enough not to wear brand-new shoes, but I cannot impress upon you enough how much walking you will be doing (and want to do). Admittedly, I am spoiled in this aspect since I am visiting on my own behalf and can wear something casual but clean, but my advice still stands.

2. Ask all the questions. What's this line for? Where are you visiting from? What did you think of that guy? Do you have a fall catalog I can take a look at? Where did you come up with the idea for this booth? Who are you looking forward to seeing? BEA is way more fun to schmooze at than most conferences, and I'm an introvert, so you can trust me on that.

3. Pack snacks. You may have time and inclination to sit down for a meal at the Javits Center, or you may not. But the food is expensive and you may find your time better spent going to a session or getting in line to meet an author. Anything non-perishable like granola bars or trail mix oughta work. But, make sure to get at least one actual meal a day. For health reasons I must insist. The McDonalds on Tenth Ave doesn't count (although it's a great place to buy a soda and spend half an hour catching up on emails). I mean, go sit down somewhere. You've earned it!

4. The wifi is not great, but you can use it for free in the food court. That is the best reason to go to the food court (see #3). Around lunch time, get there early so you can camp out at a table.

5. Wear a backpack and carry a tote bag. The backpack is for all the swag you will accumulate throughout the day; the tote bag can be carried in your front with essentials like a pen and paper (necessary), cash money (so necessary) and your conference pass after you leave (so necessary). I know it's dorky, but you'll thank me when you have to grab yet another free book (see #2) and you see someone else weighed down with half a dozen tote bags going for the same prize.

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