I just spent an hour or two getting ready for the up-coming NESCBWI conference for children's writers and illustrators. It's a weekend event that i have attended for the past several years. Here is a list of the things I did to prepare:
1. Volunteer! I feel so much more involved when I am helping out, and I have met some wonderful people. This conference, and many like it, depend on volunteers.
2. Know the faculty. Here is a fun excuse to hang out in the children's library. See what books the presenters of your workshops have written. Do they write books in the same style you do or is it something new and different?
3. Read the assignment. Some workshops request that you bring a work in progress in a certain genre. Make sure you do. The time you spend on it during the workshop, whether it is looking at character, plot, rhyme, pacing, first paragraphs..is time well spent.
4. Muster your courage. As someone who enjoys the crowd, but not being at the center of it, I sometimes need to remind myself that there are many out there with the same apprehension about jumping in and meeting new people. Set a goal for yourself, even if it is small. Meet one writer who works in the same genre you do. Ask for one person's card. Remember, most people like to talk about themselves and what they love, so be a good listener.
The items on this list may seem obvious, but it took me a conference or two before I was doing them all consistently.