Upon going to my first writer’s conference last year, I had no idea what I was getting myself into and tried profusely to find a guide, any piece of advice, on the internet to help me out. There was nothing and I went into these events blind and stupid.
It took me three tries to get this writer conference stuff down. The first time at the FF&P chapter of the RWA’s conference in New Orleans, I could definitely tell I was a newbie. I walked around all shy, not making any conversation unless someone else initiated it first. To say the least, I did not take advantage of all the opportunities that were available, and highly regretted it afterwards.
The second time, I attended RT Times Convention in Chicago, IL. This convention was at a much higher magnitude than the first one I attended. Though, at this point I felt like I would know what was going on, my mind was still blown away by how much there was to do. I was not as prepared as I thought I was, thus the outcome of me sulking in my room and hiding.
The third one I attended was a writer’s retreat on the Isle of Ithaca, Greece. By far, it was one of the best decisions of my life. I took advantage of every opportunity possible, made great connections and new friends. However, I do not know if that would still be true if I had not done the two trial and error experiences prior to the event.
Here are my words of wisdom to skip the trial and error steps I had to face. These eight key things will work while attending a writer’s conference, convention and/or retreat of any size and magnitude.
Do NOT stay in your room. Let me repeat, do NOT stay in your room except to sleep or shower. In fact, the less you see of your room the better. Most writers are naturally introverts. We want to hide away and write. You need to fight that urge and go mingle. One of the main reasons why you paid so much to attend a conference is to attend the provided workshops and to make connections. Not to do something that you do everyday at home. You are in a place where everyone loves to do things you do. Take advantage and make some friends.
2. ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS
Bring a notebook and pen rather than your laptop. Though we writers have a love affair with our computers, it is a distraction and may lure you to stay in your room. Instead, nip that temptation in the bud, and bring a notebook and pen to take notes of workshops you attend instead. While we’re at it, it probably wouldn’t hurt for you to leave the iPad at home too.
3. TO BRING BUSINESS CARDS, OR TO NOT BRING BUSINESS CARDS?
Business cards are nice, but not necessary. If given to agents, they are more than likely to throw the cards away by the time they get home, if not sooner. If they want your work, they will tell you how to contact them. The main reason to have a business card is for peer connections. You never know who you meet at one of these conferences will be a huge connection for you later on. Make sure that you are nice to everyone and give your contact info to help build your platform. In addition, the business cards that you do bring should have a picture of you on it. It’s easier to remember faces than it is names. Use your best judgment on whether or not you want to spend the money to have them made.
4. DRESS THE PART
Chances are that is you are attending one of these events as a new writer fantasizing of being published. If that’s the case, then you probably have meetings with agents and editors lined up. Make sure that you are dressing the part that you would for any job interview. That is what it is after all. You are interviewing for your dream job. If you go in there in your sweatpants, do not expect them to take you seriously.
Good chances are that there will be multiple parties of all kinds: formal, semi-formal, costume, and in my case, an-authentic Greek dance festival. Make sure you look at the schedule provided on the conference’s website and bring an outfit suited for this, even if you think you won’t wear it. It is better that you bring an outfit and decide not to wear it later and not bring one and wishing that you had.
5. KNOW THE SCHEDULE
It would be in your best interest to have a copy of the conference’s schedule before you leave. Mark the workshops and speakers you would like to attend and some alternates. If you are attending conventions held by RT, RWA, or something of that magnitude, then there’s a good chance that there will be too many events for you to attend. Narrow down your choices and go from there. Make sure you get an updated schedule when you get there. More than likely it may have changed.
6. ELEVATOR PITCH
Have your elevator pitch ready. You should be able to hook someone with your book in the time it takes for you to ride an elevator to your floor. No longer than 90 seconds. Make sure you have key points to talk about once you get them hooked. You do not want to go in there with a killer hook and have nothing else to say. That could be as detrimental as not saying anything at all.
7. BE EXCITED
If you do not act excited and in love with your book, chances are that the agent or editor you are pitching to, won’t be either. The goal is to get them to fall as much as in love with your storyline as you are. If you are not confident about your work or are unsure of yourself, my best piece advice to you is to “Fake it til you make it!” Fake confidence and excitement and eventually with enough practice, it will come natural.
8. HAVE FUN
Chances are that you have paid a lot to attend a writer’s conference in a different state or maybe even country. Make sure you are having fun, relaxing and meeting new people. It is also your vacation, bring a camera and make some memories!
What are your thoughts and ideas? Did I leave anything out? If so, I’d love to hear your opinions.