If you're actively participating in the event, you have a certain level of obligation, just like you have an obligation to actively participate in a tabletop game. Nobody likes the guy who isn't paying attention and groans with exhausted relief when you finally get to the part that he was waiting for.
Organizers are supposed to make sure that the road to the fireworks factory is neat, but what can you do as a participant to make sure that your interest stays up, even during the parts that drag before you get to the fireworks factory? As you've probably, guessed, I have several suggestions.
Do something else
I will readily admit that it seems counterproductive to get involved in a roleplaying event and then do something other than roleplaying to keep enjoying yourself. But unless you're particularly selfish, there are going to be points when the event is not about you, and there may even be points when the event isn't all that interesting to you or your character.
You shouldn't be playing another game in the background or on a portable system, but you have every reason to be reading a book, or reading articles, or tabbing back and forth to check email, or whatever. I'm talking about something that's fairly low-key and that allows you to still focus on the roleplaying event while also allowing you to avoid getting bored.
With very few exceptions, events will not be so involved that you have no time to do anything else. So instead of sitting around waiting for someone to engage you, go ahead and engage yourself a little out of the game. There are only so many opportunities to get people in on the action during an event, after all.
Get your playing in earlier
I can't speak for everyone, but all of the games that I roleplay in are games that I actually enjoy playing. You might not, and if so, you can safely ignore this point altogether, accompanied by my incredulous expression wondering why you keep playing the game if you don't enjoy it. But that's another discussion.
One of the troubles of roleplaying events is that when things are slow, you find yourself staring at the horizon and thinking you could just go over and do something in the actual game instead of continuing on with this event. I frequently find myself wanting to explore more or craft a bit or do something else in the game without getting rid of the event.
The trick is, then, to get the chance to do all of that before the event starts. Make RP events the ending to your day, not the beginning. That way you don't feel the same sort of urgent pull to rush through the event and get on to the parts of the game you absolutely must play. You can relax a little more, and if you see something you want to explore in more depth, you've got the time to do so later.
As Final Fantasy XIV's last phase of closed beta went on, one group of players took it upon themselves to start running big events for the whole community. They were uniformly awesome and I had a grand old time at all three of them, partly because the planned event involved the large group splitting off into smaller sub-groups before taking part.
Even then, there were a lot of other things going on aside from the main event. The most recent one had a very active verbal sparring match with two players who were playing their characters very well (and keeping open OOC lines of communication) while at the same time offending more or less everyone else there. Which meant that even during the lulls in the main event, there was a second plot running.
You don't have to watch much television to know that most shows have a secondary plot running alongside the first one, sometimes involving different characters and sometimes involving the same people. When done well, it keeps your focus swapping back and forth and lets you focus on each plot just long enough for your interest to be piqued without waning. So as long as you're going through an extended roleplaying event anyway, you might as well have something in place to encourage your fellow players to use the same mechanism. Go ahead and run a B-plot.
Build yourself an out valve
Assuming that the people that you're roleplaying with are your friends -- which seems like a reasonable assumption -- you don't want to just slip off in the dead of the night and abandon them. But it's often a good idea to have an established reason why you might have to leave in the middle of an event. Not because you expect to, not even because you ought to, but because sometimes it's easier to stay focused when you know you can leave.
I have only actually left during one event that I can think of, and that was due to an emergency that no one could have anticipated. But I always try to have a way to bring things to an end if I want to, a good reason to step out and say that I can't keep going with this event. As a result, I never feel as if I absolutely have to stay, giving me freedom to stay or leave as the situation dictates.
When you have to stick around, it's an obligation. When you choose to stick around, it's something you want to do. And that's a lesson that can be extended to many things, really.
Feedback is welcome in the comments or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, like in previous weeks. Next week, I want to talk about making prophecies that work, and the week after that I'm going to dip my toes into dealing with siblings.
Every Friday, Eliot Lefebvre fills a column up with excellent advice on investing money, writing award-winning novels, and being elected to public office. Then he removes all of that, and you're left with Storyboard, which focuses on roleplaying in MMOs. It won't help you get elected, but it will help you pretend you did. If you need a refresher, check out the Storyboard Library.