Monday, March 20, 2017

It's That Conference Time of Year

Writing is a lonely and complicated business. There are ways to keep the enthusiastic fires burning. One of my favorite is attending a conference every year. As an board member of Pennwriters, I attend that conference every year and do what I can to help the organizers. If you're in the Pittsburgh area the third weekend in May this year, please join us. Chuck Sambuchino is our keynote speaker this year. Read his advice about attending a writing conference.

Is Pittsburgh outside your comfortable travel zone, there are conferences everywhere. Check out IWSG's conference page. Pick the month you can attend and find something in your area. But there's more to picking a conference that it being a convenient location.

Picking a conference.

*First, find a conference that is within your budget. Some one day affairs can cost less than $100 dollars and other large weekend conferences may be priced in access of $1,000.
*Make sure the conference has offerings to fit your needs. Do you need basic writing craft advice? Do you need workshops on promotion and the use of social media?
*Will there be a opportunities for you to pitch your work to agents and editors?
*Will you get something in return for your investment?

Once you're at your conference, what things shouldn't you do?

*Don't just hang out with the people you already know. Sit with strangers at meals. Talk to people between workshops.
*Don't drink too much. The bar can be a great place to network, but be careful.
*Don't go to the conference expecting to be a perfect time. There will be blips and some disappointments.
*Don't go over your budget. It's tempting to buy lots of books at the book sale or spend a little extra at the bar, but you'll regret it later

Do this at your conference.

*Do have fun. Yes, it's related to your work and career, but you love writing.
*Do know what you want to get out of the experience and look over the schedule so you can plan ahead.
*If it's your first time at a conference, especially a big one, attend the orientation session they'll probably offer.
*Be flexible. You should make a plan but don't be afraid to alter it if you decide you want to change things up once things get underway. Don't get upset if s workshop gets canceled or a presenter doesn't show up. It happens a lot.
*Dress comfortably but still be professional. Shoes especially need to comfortable. You will walk more and stand more than you expect.
*Do carry business cards. You'll meet busy people and it's the quickest way to exchange information.
*Network, network, network. Meet people and then make sure you follow up with new friends and opportunities.
*Volunteer. Introduce speakers, help pass out things, take a turn at the information table.
*If they're not too expensive, do the after hours extras. Some are special social events and others are group critique sessions.
*Hangout in the social areas like the lounge and the hospitality suite. You'll get a chance to talk one on one with some of the presenters in those areas.

Have you ever attended a conference? Did you get your money's worth? What would be your top reason for attending a conference?


Natalie Aguirre said...

How awesome that you're going to a conference with Chuck Sambuchino. He's written a fantastic book on how to build your social media presence, and I love his blog. And agree with your tips on attending a conference. I've made writer friends through attending them.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Yes, network and take business cards. Never go empty-handed. Or go with super-high expectations. Most of the ones I've attended I've gone as a presenter, which is even more fun.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Great checklist. Yeah, I'd think drinking too much would be a really bad idea.

The Cynical Sailor said...

I've never been to a writing conference. This is a great list of tips for folks who are planning on attending one so that they can get the maximum benefit.

Christine Rains said...

Awesome checklist! I've never been to a conference, but I'd love to attend one someday.

Sandee said...

Very good advice. Conferences can be very costly and you will indeed regret it later. I love sitting with people you don't know. Probably the best advice.

Have a fabulous day. ☺

cleemckenzie said...

I just attended one of my favorite ones and this year the networking was the highlight for me. I met several new authors and we've already committed to meeting again to talk shop! And, I've been invited to a book event that I wouldn't have even known about if I hadn't been at that conference.

abnormalalien said...

Sounds like very good advice all around, regardless of the fear factor. I just got home from a professional conference in my field of study. As an introvert, I was a bit surprised that I met and exchanged contact info with a few peers. Not the 10 that the career experts demanded, but a few. I feel like this might even be easier among writers and readers because there's always the failsafe question: "What have you been working on lately?"

Pat Hatt said...

lol becoming a drunk sure wouldn't be the wisest mood. Mingle with new people is a great one too.

Fundy Blue said...

Hi, Susan. Thanks for an informative post. I attended Colorado Council of the International Reading Association conferences for years. It was for educators primarily, but there were authors and workshops on writing. It was always valuable. For me a conference is all about inspiration, learning new skills, and connecting with fellow attendees. I'm going to check out the IWSG's conference page. Now that I'm retired I had the freedom to attend one.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susan - good advice ... the important thing is to make the most of the Conference/s you've selected - don't waste your time ... mix and learn from others. Love the comments too ...we never know what's around the corner, or who we may meet - I have to say I've never attended one! Cheers Hilary

Patricia Stoltey said...

I love conferences but can't go to as many as I would like, especially if they involve travel and hotel. I'm so fortunate to have two great conferences here in Colorado to satisfy my needs. I'm attending the Northern Colorado Writers Conference May 5-6 in Fort Collins. For that one, I can commute so save on travel and hotel. In September I usually attend the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference in Denver -- I do usually stay in a hotel for that one, but it's worth it.

Mirka Breen said...

All good tips. It's also good to remember that the regional and less expensive events are as valuable, maybe more, for making friends and connections.

EliasM said...

I volunteered at ThrillerFest and had the time of my life. I also got to pick Donald Maass' brain. Kathleen Antrim and Jon Land were extraordinarily generous with their time as well.

Tyrean Martinson said...

I've been to a handful of them. Some I enjoyed and some I didn't. I like the small to mid-range conferences best. The largest one I went to was my first and it was overwhelming.
Great advice on what to do and not do! I think the next time I go, I'll volunteer.

Lux G. said...

Although an introvert like me is not a huge fan of meeting people, conferences are actually a good excuse I get to enjoy.

Great tips!

nashvillecats2 said...

Great to be going on the conference. Hope all goes well.


Gina Gao said...

I love conferences, especially if I know friends are going to be there. Have fun!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

LOL "Don't drink too much." I'm laughing only because someone once replied to me once after I admitted I was a writer, "You don't look like a drinker. Don't all writers drink? Great post. Thanks.

Michelle Wallace said...

I've never been to a conference and would probably be totally out of my depth.

Liesbet said...

I would really like to attend a writer's conference. Communicating with other writers, meeting agents and attending workshops sounds like a perfect use of time, and knowledge gathering and connecting with like-minded people is always beneficial and enjoyable. Problem is that - living a lifestyle as house and pet sitters - we move constantly and having a conference coincide with a location we are at, is difficult. It did happen once, however, when we were in Oakland during the San Francisco Writer's Conference last February. Then, a new problem showed up: the four-day event cost about $800. And, it was sold out anyway, not that I could have afforded it. Once I make more progress with my memoir, I will look into more affordable and convenient options. Thanks for the tips, Alex!

Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary