You save all year for this special conference that you hope will teach, inspire, rejuvenate and restore confidence in your writing. These events aren’t cheap so squeezing every possible idea, session and banquet in, can feel like a rush to the finish line. I compare it to working in a two-week Vacation Bible School, without any help, Kool-Aid or cookies, in just two days! Exhausting! Here are a few tips to get your money’s worth without crashing and burning.
THINGS TO TAKE SO YOU LOOK LIKE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING
Business cards – pass them out to authors you meet, agents, editors, publishers, waiters (they love finding new books to read).
Notebook – Important to take notes. You’re not going to remember things a year from now but you’ll have it recorded.
Several good ink pens – Kind of embarrassing when you have to ask someone for a spare because yours ran out of ink.
Laptop – I don’t usually do this unless I’m also working with a deadline. Some people like to take notes here instead of a notebook. I have a very lightweight one I use for conferences, but mostly it just stays in my room. Just added weight for me to haul around. Your choice.
Charger – Your phone, computer, etc. may need backup. I also like to keep an extra charged battery in my purse in case I can’t plug in where I’m sitting. At least have one in your room to charge up at night so you’re ready to go in the morning.
Water bottle – These hotels that host a conference circulate so much air you’re going to feel like a camel walked through your mouth by the end of session two. Stay hydrated. Your body will thank you.
Jacket or sweater – For some reason these events think everyone is having a hot flash and keep the temperature comfortable enough for a Chinstrap Penguin. If you don’t have enough room to pack all those fashionable sweaters and blazers remember this; denim jackets go with everything.
Dress for success – Don’t come in ripped jeans (well unless it’s those really cute ones you pay and arm and a leg for. Even then, where a blazer with it). Don’t wear a faded tee shirt advertising the Grateful Dead concert you attended ten years ago. Business casual is usually a good look and not too difficult to accomplish with the garments already in your closet. Comfortable shoes are a must because you sometimes have to sprint to the next session. I have several pairs of flats where the soles are like tennis shoes.
Synopsis of your WIP – I like to have several copies of something I’ve written in case an agent, editor, publisher is interested. Chances are they’ll ask you to email it to them, but it doesn’t hurt to have something on hand.
Pitch – If you plan to pitch your WIP, then be sure to have some note-cards of what you plan to say to your new publisher or agent. It helps to memorize it, but trust me, you’re going to feel nervous and those cards will be like a security blanket. Leave some time for questions or be ready to tell something about yourself and why you wrote this particular story. “Duh…I donno,” won’t make a good impression.
Cash – You might want to purchase a quick coffee, soft drink, or snack and cash is sometimes faster. Vending machines aren’t very good about taking a credit card. Remember you only have a few minutes to get to that next session. There will be books to buy too, maybe even a coffee mug (like you need another one), tee shirts, raffle tickets for fundraisers or snacks.
A Plan – Read that conference program like you’re Indiana Jones searching for lost treasure. As soon as I get mind, I go over each session and circle the ones I think will help me reach my goals or inspire me the most. If I have a conference buddy, then we split them up. There is always a chance there are two at the same time you need to attend. With a buddy you can divide and conquer. Get an extra handout, share and discuss later.
Book Brag – If you’ve published your first or even tenth book, have them on hand in case someone wants to buy one. I take a few in my car and it isn’t unusual for someone to ask how to purchase your book. That’s when you spring into action and make that sale. If you leave it up to them to order the book then you’re competing with everyone else who had a book at the conference.
Be That Person – So basically writers are introverts. We create worlds, characters and lives we want to live. I’m no different. That’s why I have a pen name. When I’m Tierney James, I become fearless, outgoing, talkative, and interested in what everyone is working on. I want people to remember me and continue wondering about my website, books and life after they’ve gone home.
Briefcase or tote – I like to carry my writing materials, wallet, conference schedule, lipstick, misc. items so everything is at hand and organized. There’s even room for a water bottle and a snack. Plenty of room for giveaways like business cards, bookmarks or swag.
THINGS NOT TO DO AT A WRITER CONFERENCE
- Don’t scroll on your phone during a presentation. RUDE! I see people do this all the time. Granted some sessions will be a disappointment. But try to put yourself in their shoes and realize they are trying.
2. Don’t talk during presentations.
3. Don’t show up late or unprepared for your pitch to an agent or publisher.
4. Don’t complain about how bad the conference is to anyone who will listen. Chances are it’s you. A lot of work goes into preparing for these events. If you want to make it better leave your comments on evaluation sheets provided during the conference then volunteer.
5. Don’t stay in your room during times of planned social events. It’s all about networking!
6. Don’t drink too much alcohol and make a fool out of yourself. Out of control—out of luck. You want to create characters not become one. Make a lasting impression.
7. Don’t run yourself ragged and become exhausted. If you miss a session to take a nap, I promise it won’t affect world peace. Take care of yourself.
8. Don’t starve yourself to save money. You need energy. Take snacks such as trail mix, granola bars, nuts, raisins, protein drinks (there’s usually a frig in the room), peanut butter or cheese crackers already prepared, fresh fruit, or whatever you consider comfort food. I usually pack my Ganoderma coffee packets for a pick-me-up and decaf tea for the evening.
9. Don’t be snarky, crabby or unfriendly to your fellow authors. Young, old, new, experienced, all writers have something to contribute to your life. Treat it as a gift from God. You never know who is going to be your next biggest fan or will introduce you to a new direction.
10. Don’t forget to encourage. This means so much when you are with writers. We all wallow in self-doubt about our work. It’s nice to hear words of wisdom and encouragement from a stranger.
11. Don’t talk about religion or politics. This is a no win situation.
These are only a few of the things I consider when I attend a conference. I hope you’ll give conferences a try. They make me a better writer. I hope you’ll sign up for future blog posts about writing, travel, adventure and authors I recommend. Books are portals to exciting worlds of escape. Follow me there. Thanks for stopping by today.