There are some people in publishing so well known to us online or through reputation that they are rock stars at conferences. I'm pretty sure Nathan Bransford and Kristin Nelson have wigs and fake noses in their laptop bags--how else to get through the madding crowd? I sat at the same table with Arthur Levine for dinner after a conference and he asked to look at my book. He touched it! This was like nirvana for me. I told my own editor about Mr. Levine's and my little exchange and she reacted the same way I did!
It's exciting to recognize people in publishing, but it's important to remember that although you feel like you know them, you don't, and they don't know you.
Conference tip #3: DON'T BE A STALKER, part 1
Now I'll be the first to tell you if I saw Nathan Bransford walking down the conference hall, I'd probably go over to him and tell him how much I've enjoyed his blog and his thread on Absolute Write. I'd mention one or two specific things he's said that helped me and of course I'd ask for a picture with him for my blog!
But that's different from waiting for him to emerge from the men's room, following him, cornering him (haha! I've captured my prey!), and saying, "Hey, I know you used to be an agent. I write X. Who in your former agency should I send it to?" That's just using people. And you can't disguise this kind of opportunist. "Hey, I read your blog. Can you read my manuscript?" WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!
Conference tip #3: DON'T BE A STALKER, part2
Don't reduce people at the conference to your means to getting published.
Now all that said, if you should be eating lunch and suddenly discover you're sitting next to a BIG NAME IN PUBLISHING, it's perfectly fine to introduce yourself and enter into small talk. If BIG NAME asks you what you're working on, WOW! YES! go ahead and talk about it--but briefly--key word--BRIEFLY. Return the favor--what are they working on? What was the last book they read and loved? How do they like the city you're in and have they had time for sight seeing? Basically, treat them like another person, because that's what they are.
Good luck, conference goers!