Writing conferences can be an invigorating experience where you learn new skills, network with industry professionals, and gain confidence in yourself as a writer.
I’ve left some great conferences flying high and ready to write. Then there were a few that I walked away from wishing I could get my money back. So, how do you ensure you have the first experience and not the second?
1) Prepare – I won't spend a lot of time on this since I talked about it here: http://writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/2017/02/preparing-for-writing-conference.html
2) Read – when you check out the panelists in the preparation stage, continue by visiting their web pages, blogs, and maybe even their books. That way, you’ll already have context and questions ready for the speakers you are most interested in meeting. You’ll also be better acquainted with the style of books and industry professionals they like to work with which helps you find the people who may be the right fit for you and your work.
3) Partner Up – in your preparation stage you should have studied the conference schedule to figure out which sessions you’ll want to attend, and which you’ll want to miss. Many times, conferences have multiple (sometimes even ten or more) sessions taking place at once. If you attend with friends and colleagues, it’s easier to divide and conquer. Plan out ahead of time which of you will attend which seminars so that you can share notes later.
4) Pitch Perfect – when you sit down across from an agent or editor to talk about your work, nerves can set in making you tongue-tied, flustered, and in some cases downright incoherent. Instead of an impromptu conversation, practice beforehand what you want to say, how you will describe your work, and perfect your hook so that you can grab the audience attention and desire for more.
5) Goals – go to the conference to seek specific skills. Whether you are polishing a manuscript, hoping to find a publisher, wanting to learn more about self-publishing, or looking for tips on marketing, you should have specific goals. That way, when listening to a speaker, you can ask appropriate questions, or be ready to apply what they share to your own project(s). Go into each part of the conference ready to attain some new skill, knowledge, or idea.
6) Take Note – Don’t just attend, engage. Take a specific folder and bag (especially useful for bringing home all the books you won’t mean to buy, but always end up doing anyway) to keep up with conference lessons, materials, and news. Take notes, collect handouts, and organize business cards. Only keep the information you like and find useful or appropriate to your work since you may receive more information than you want at larger conferences.
7) Network – the opportunity to connect with others is a large aspect of the conference. If you’re a natural wallflower, you’ll have to fight that urge. Plan to introduce yourself frequently, join in discussions, eat and drink with others, smile a lot, and generally chat with anyone around you in line, at the shop, or waiting in the lobby. Tell people about your writing, and then listen to what they are working to complete. The publishing world is much smaller than it at first appears. Getting to know others who work in the industry can open all sorts of doors for you.