My agent (Christine Witthohn http://www.bookcentsliteraryagency.com/ ) recently paid me a visit to Arizona to speak at my Desert Rose writer's meeting and she kindly agreed to take individual pitches from the writers in my group. I was so very proud of my friends! They acted professionally and although the nerves were high, bravely faced the dreaded pitch. Laurie Schnebly Campbell spoke at my Valley of the Sun meeting last night with a fabulous presentation on how to compose and present a pitch (she offers on-line classes as well at http://www.booklaurie.com/ ) as many of my friends will also be pitching at the upcoming Desert Dreams Conference in Scottsdale.
I was very impressed with one of my fellow writers when we had an impromptu lunch with my agent (Yes, you could find yourself with an unexpected opportunity). She asked how my agent went from nursing to opening her own literary agency. My agent smiled and launched into an explanation and I guarantee she will not forget the lady who asked this question. It meant that the writer had done her homework. It only takes a few minutes to go to the agent's website and read a bit more than what he/she accepts for submissions. Besides making an impression on your professionalism, it also shows that you are truly interested in this particular agent. This is a person that could be your partner long into the forseeable future and I can't stress enough how important it is to know that person. If your personalities don't mesh it can make for a difficult relationship. If your vision of what you expect from an agent does not match with what the agent is willing to do you are going to be disappointed.
If you can't determine that information from their website, look up the agent's authors. Most of them have contact information on their website. Ask them what the agent is like to work with. I often get queries and I have no hesitation in answering them with why my agent is perfect for me. I prefer a down-to-earth, honest agent who has my best interests at heart and strives to meet my needs. Who is interested in long-term career planning and answers my e-mails or phone calls in a timely manner, and who I feel as comfortable enough with as if she were my own sister (well, okay, this last one is an added bonus).
I would like to add one other caution, whether you're attending a writer's meeting or a conference. Be professional at all times (yes, this means even in the bathroom!) You never know who you are likely to run in to. People have long memories and a good attitude can make a good impression and provide you with unexpected opportunities.
Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,