The oddness of Twitter…meeting people for the first time who seem like old friends at #bib12 
— Ania Wieckowski (@agwieckowski) October 25, 2012 
Ania Wieckowski , Harvard Business Review’s Managing Editor, is nothing if not a poised tweeter.
She sweetly tweeted this — or tweetly sweeted it — at this week’s continually provocative Books in Browsers  (#BiB12) publishing conference in San Francisco.
This is one of the lesser known confabs in publishing, invitational and demanding, keenly focused on the future of the book and our relation to it.
BiB embraced the Archive’s latest milestone, 10 petabytes of data, in a celebration led by founder Brewster Kahle .
Meanwhile, Wieckowski and I have been in touch on Twitter for a year or more. Guy Gonzalez  introduced us online, artful bringer-together that he is. But we’d never met in person.
Wieckowski sought me out during one of the conference’s 15-minute breaks.
After a hug and a grin, we chatted beside my live-tweeting command center at the door of the sanctuary, dodging our passing-jostling colleagues as if we were the kind of joggers who trot around each other a few times in order to exchange morning pleasantries.
This pattern would repeat itself throughout the two long days of great material at Books in Browsers. Although I had met some of my favorite Twitter correspondents who were there in person, others — like Wieckowski — were still virtual-only to me.
Although #BiB12 is a small conference compared to Writer’s Digest Conference West and the transmedia-anchored StoryWorld Conference + Expo  in Hollywood, I still missed people in San Francisco with whom I’d like to have spent some time.
So as we move more deeply into confab season, let’s look at how to prep for the bridge these gatherings can be between usernames and name tags.
Making the most of time together: Five logical points
- Find out who’s going. Many conference organizers are learning to share their list of attendees with other registered participants on an opt-in basis. Tools of Change has done this for years, with a great system for being in touch with folks prior to the conference. Books in Browsers uses EventBrite , which lets you see the list of attendees.
- Prioritize your important folks to meet, of course.
- Now get into the conference schedule of sessions, work out the breaks structure, and plan out your breaks.
- If some of the colleagues you want to meet are presenting, try not to target moments just before or after their presentations.
- And remember to leave some true breaks for yourself — don’t fill up every single non-session moment.
It’s the act of making a hard appointment that will ensure your get-togethers occur. I have one associate, Viki Noe , who chases several of us around the digital block before each conference until we’re all lined up to get together.
- “We’ll grab a coffee!” No, you won’t. That’s way too vague. The presentations start flying, and you spend the breaks dashing to the next session rooms to hunt for power outlets for your laptop.
- “How about the 10 a.m. break — meet me at the door of Brian O’Leary’s  panel at 10:20 a.m. We’ll get coffee and talk. Will that work for you?” Yes, it will, because you’ve gone to the trouble to get specific with your plan. Add it to your calendar.
What will you talk about?
Consider that “oddness” Wieckowski refers to in her tweet. It might not be merely the surprise of how someone looks in person (not quite as youthful as the avatar) or sounds when they speak (not quite as authoritative when seated next to terra cotta Little People).
I think she’s also referring to the fact that you may not have as much to say to each other as you expect. All the times you’ve been in touch in the past were tightly wrapped around the news of the day or the latest bump in the industry! the industry!
If you’re worried this might be the case with someone, schedule your meeting as part of a session — try to meet just before a presentation you’re both going to attend, and suggest you sit together. The reason you get on like a house afire online is that there you have shared business. Let the panel’s comments do the job of those shared topics.
Yes, it’s hard enough just to get packed
But it’s not only authors who like meeting up with the herd from time to time. Everyone I know, from metadata experts and consultants to editors and startup CEOs can enjoy the camaraderie of a conference. And the smart ones make sure they don’t get lost in the swirl of “we should find some time to chat!”
Find that time before you get onto the plane. You’ll solidify important bonds for the long stretches of e-life between these vibrant ground-level confabs.
Share your own tips with us for getting around to everybody at a conference. What method do you use to be sure you reach the right folks?
— Bilbary (@bilbary) October 26, 2012