Off to Origins
However, no matter what convention you go to I have a lot of tips I have learned over the space of some years:
First- It's never too early to book a hotel. Really. As soon as you are sure you're going book it!
Second- Conventions are about meeting people. I know there are keynote speeches and boards of people and many experts who want to tell you exactly how much they know while giving away none of their secrets that make them valuable to others.... but that's really not that important in comparison to the MANY important people you can meet. Don't get too worked up in your 'schedule'... when in doubt I say just sit down with someone who looks important and join their conversation.
Third- The BEST way to meet 'professional' people is by common goal or interest. That usually means finding your favorite game (or loading your own) and drawing attention. Really, don't be afraid to be the center of attention no matter how introverted you are.
Fourth- the best way to meet members of the press is to find out where the heck they go. Most conventions have a press area. This means if you hang out near it (or in it, if you can sneak in) you'll meet way more press personelle.
Fifth- Most people won't turn down an offer to buy them drinks. If you need to use this as an excuse to get yourself invited to come along with them for an event later in the evening so be it. You pay a lot of money to go to this place, get a hotel, ect. Don't skimp on an extra 50 bucks in drinks for a potential contact with a lot more. Philanthropy baby!
Sixth- If you really want to play hardball- bring your wife/girlfriend and have HER scout out people for you. A girl interested in games ALWAYS draws attention... and then she can casually guide them to you- ripe for the plucking.
Seventh- Drinking is cool but know your limit. Better to spend your money getting a new contact drunk than getting yourself drunk!
Eight- Soda, Coffee, and Alchehol are ALL bad for your voice. Drinking them will cause you to lose your voice much faster (not to mention it dehydrates you more). Drink water. If you hate water, drink sports drinks.
Ninth- If you DO lose your voice there are a number of solutions. Sign language is one, but its a little hard to learn and harder to find someone who knows it fluently. Instead I suggest tea with honey in a pinch. Do NOT ever use a spray like Vicks 44- while it would restore your voice it would also probably cause dangerous amounts of damage... sometimes perminent. Also a product named Singer's Grace, if you can find it, will restore your voice instantly without any ill effect. However... it tastes like roasted butt. (Opera singers use this stuf though, it really works)
Tenth- Conventions are all about attitude. if you feel out of place you'll act out of place. The whole world will approach you if you look comfortable, approachable, and are having fun. So have FUN. Keep in mind why you are there but kick back and relax and you will find the people you meet will hang around you longer and remember you later.
See you at Origins!