At Intervention this year, we decided to set up a booth in Artist's Alley. We weren't selling anything for, you know, money. All we did was tell people about Awesomeography and collect information for the Meet an Awesomeographer series.
As this was our first convention, we had no idea what to expect from the experience. There was every possibility that we'd spend some time just not doing a lot while people didn't visit us. It didn't end up being a wasteland or anything, and we had a decent number of people drop by to talk with us. We weren't continuously bombarded by visitors, though, so I'm glad that I took the chance to bring my ukulele.
The thing about the ukulele is that it's a relatively quiet instrument. The thing about me is that I've never played ukulele solo in front of strangers. I'm really not very good. I can play roughly 2.1 songs, and to play something that I'm not embarrassed of on video, it takes me roughly 20 takes.
As a general rule, I try really hard to be consciously present whenever I'm at an event like this (or in any social situation). I'm not saying I'll never pull out the phone, but I'll do my best not to unless it's relevant to the current discussion. Still, the ukulele is something that I could put down when someone came by, and it actually ended up being a bit of a draw to the table, which was great.
The advantages to bringing the ukulele:
- I got some practice in, which I really needed;
- I got the experience of playing in public, without the actual "people listening to me play badly" experience foisted on them;
- It was a reasonably effective marketing tool.
So, when you're stuck in a situation where you don't know what sort of free time you'll have, consider finding a venue-appropriate way of working in the thing that you want to be awesome at.