I love writing conferences. Listening to experts, trying new techniques and ideas in workshops, mingling with authors (and sometimes illustrators and editors)… Just thinking about a writing conference makes me want to jump for joy!
Who am I kidding?
I love conferences of almost any kind. There is something about a gathering of like-minded people who are dedicated to learning more about their craft that gets me excited. Heck, I even managed to have a good time at an electrical engineering conference a few years ago (although that may have been due in large part to the hotel pool and the complimentary margaritas).
I think part of the reason I love conferences so much is that I love learning. And lucky for you, I love to take notes while I do. I’m the nerdy friend you want to have in class so you can borrow my notes while you ditch to play Ultimate Frisbee on the green. I was actually a paid note taker as an undergrad, but today I’m offering my services to you free of charge!
I’ve compiled my notes from conferences I’ve attended over the past year and put together my top seven takeaways. These are tips and tidbits I’ve gathered from experts, fellow attendees, and my own experiences. Some relate directly to improving craft, others involve different aspects of the writing life, and at least one includes practical advice about conference logistics, such as where to sit and food choices.
Rather than overwhelm you with a long, detailed list of my seven takeaways, I thought I would break up the list into separate posts that will come out over the next several weeks. So stay tuned for items 2-7!
Without further ado…
Number One – Networking is Key
While it may be possible to make it in writing without doing any networking, this seems to be the exception rather than the rule. At every conference, successful authors talked about other writers, editors, and agents they met at conferences, through local writing groups, or online. These connections proved invaluable every time and helped the presenters or panelists land jobs, get their manuscript published, and market their work. After all, it’s not just about what you write – it’s who you know.
This tip echoes my recent post on making writing connections. And networking at conferences can be the essential first step in forging lasting, deep connections.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that every person you meet will prove invaluable to your writing career. But you never know who that person will be or when and where you may meet him or her.
So go to conferences prepared to chat (talk to presenters, fellow attendees, and conference organizers), exchange business cards (if you don’t have them, get them made or print them up yourself), and attend the pre- or post-conference festivities (I know, I know – you’re tired after being around people all day … time for the big kid pants – go anyway!).
Follow up these initial encounters with an email, phone call, Tweet, or visit to your new friend’s blog. Offer to write a guest post, review a book or collection, or simply pay it forward by promoting their work or services. At a conference last month, a group of three Young Adult authors explained that their books became popular because of peer marketing – authors banding together to promote each other’s work on blogs, social media, and at live events.
“Sounds amazing! How do I do that?”
Network, network, network.
Conferences are the time to break out of your introverted writer’s shell and mingle! (This includes step one – signing up for a conference!) Almost everyone else there is also an introverted writer – so shake your groove thing and make the first step toward connecting. After all, the person you’re worried about approaching is probably as shy/nervous/embarrassed as you.
Tip: If you don’t have a writing platform, get one! (For help, follow this link to the Writer’s Digest October Platform Challenge and complete it retroactively.) Even if you haven’t published a thing, having a platform when you network helps boost your confidence as you mingle because you have somewhere to direct all of your wonderful new acquaintances. AND… you can post about attending upcoming events and make plans with followers and friends to meet up at live events!
Have you networked at a conference? How did it go? I’d love to hear experiences, good or bad – after all, there are bound to be some funny stories (I have a few doozies!). OR if you have questions, drop me a line in the comments box and I’ll do my best to answer!