Friday, April 29, 2011

Eight Tips for Getting the Most Out of a Writers Conference/Convention

For most of us, money is always an issue. These days, even more so. If you’re going to spend your hard-earned, scrimped and saved cash to attend a conference you’ll want to get all the bang your buck can hold. Here’s hoping these tips will help.

1. Know why you are attending – Be selective. What can the conference offer you? As writers oftentimes we attend to sell books. But that’s not enough anymore. Are there business/craft/educational opportunities available? Not things you’ve already done, but new fresh subjects that pique your interest, and spark your creativity. Are there editor/agent appointments available? Are they representing publishers you are interested in working with?

Find out beforehand how well the conference is attended. Some people prefer larger conferences while some are more at ease with a smaller group.

2. Address your fears before you go – Don’t let fear keep you from achieving your goals. Crowds make some people very nervous. Talking to total strangers makes other people ill. Have an action plan in place so when you find yourself in what may have been an uncomfortable situation in the past, this time you’ll be able to work through it, or at the very least, make positive steps toward your objectives. Remember, these people aren’t your enemies. More often than not, it’s your own fears that make them seem so. Most of them are here for the same reasons you are, and are dealing with similar issues.

3. Have a plan – Familiarize yourself with the schedule, so you’ll always be on the way to an event, or coming from an event. Have a destination in mind. That way you don’t find yourself aimlessly wandering, not knowing where to go, or what to do with yourself. This is when those monster fears find a foothold. If you run across friends, plans can always be changed.

4. Dress appropriately – Business casual is always a good bet. Even the most bohemian of us need to make a good impression. Yes, you are a creative person at heart. We know you don’t want to be one of those awful, greedy, corporate types. Still, this is business. If you don’t play the game, you can’t win. I’m not saying don’t wear what you are comfortable with, I’m saying just make sure it represents the best of who you are, not who you are when you’re doing laundry. Dress with care, and self-respect. You are worth it.

5. Be prepared to network –We all know writing is solitary. Conferences are about people! Old friends, new friends, acquaintances, and people we’d like to meet. Be sure to have business cards, bookmarks, postcards, something to give people so they will either remember you, or be able to contact you after the conference is over. Not everyone will contact you, but those who want to do business with you will.

6. Volunteer –this is a great way to meet people and make lifelong friends. It’s a safe way to get you out of your comfort zone. You can share an activity with others, and help at the same time.

7. Smile – This sounds crazy, true? But it works. If you’re waiting in line to register for something, smile at the people around you. Be brave, make eye contact. This will make you feel better, and will put them at ease also. And one of you will speak. It will happen. Viola! Instant networking. Even if you’re nervous, or insecure, it will make people think you are enjoying yourself, and they will want some of what you are having. Even if it’s only airspace.

And here’s the last, and what I feel is the most important tip.

Share your passion.

We attend these events because of books. We love them. We are passionate about genres, stories, characters, and authors, all of it. We each have that in common. It’s what gets us out in the first place. And that’s a lot of ground to cover.

Now. Go enjoy yourself. Fill the well. So you can come home and write.


  1. Very good advice.
    I've found writers to be a group of very talkative, interesting people. Never bored, when talking with other writers.
    I'd love to attend a writers' conference sometime.

    Now, where'd I put that bucket list...

  2. I've never gone to a conference, so this is helpful! I smile a lot and like to dress up, so those are givens!