Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Prep Work: A Conference Newbie Primer Pt 2

My business card holder.
Did I mention I don't know nothing about attending no conference? The advice I'm passing along is gleaned only from my own (current) experience.

Sign up for Everything (Free)
It's your dime, you need to throw yourself into the proceedings like it's the last day of the renaissance faire and you've got one of those cool pointy hats to show off.
That means sign up for the pitch sessions, the genre lunches, the critiques, the networking lunches/breakfasts/dinners. Anything that's free. Then, if there seems to be a paid event that really speaks to you, splurge on it, if you can. 

Look at the Schedule with a Critical Eye
It's a little like perusing a box of chocolates - all the workshops look good. All of them have something you can learn, something you need. But you can't attend all of them. So what do you do? As my yoga teacher says, create an intention for your practice. Meaning, what, if you could only accomplish one thing, do you want to achieve? Do you want to focus on your writing? On getting published? On meeting the most people? On self-promotion? Or is there a specific topic that you really need to master, like self publishing or using social media? You'll have the chance to accomplish more than one thing, but if you focus first on just one are, you'll be able to hone in on most of your workshops. Then, you'll see that you'll have some time for the extras. I'm concentrating on writing (the first page, story arc, voice) but I hope to throw in some pitching/agent info too.

Once you Choose your Workshops, Prep for Them
Some workshops have specific requirements, first two pages, synopsis, query letter, pitch. Most don't. But I'm going to make a radical suggestion. Even if it's not required, draft one up. Even if no one will ask you for it, have all of the above written and with you. Why? Because you'll go into all of your workshops with that experience already under your belt. Even if it's just the experience of trying to do them you'll understand a lot more about what the workshop leaders mean, if you've already 'trod' that road, at least once, before. 

Another way you can prep for your workshops is just thinking about the topic. What do you think about self-publishing? What questions/apprehensions do you have about it? What is the question you hope the leader answers? You'll have a better chance of getting those questions answered if you think of them, and write them down, before hand

Here are some links for reference:

So what do you think? Anything you want to add? Anything I'm so off base about?

Tomorrow: SNACKS! Not just for hiking or pre-school anymore, and what the hell does business casual mean in the real world?


  1. I'm definitely getting some simple business cards for the RWA conference. Like you said, I'd rather have them and not use them than need to give one out and not have one at all. Snacks...good one! I like bringing a small baggie of trail mix (nothing crunchy) with me. The nuts keep you full because of the fiber and protein, and help your blood sugar stay level. If I can, I'll bring a granola bar, but those can get loud if unwrapped, which is embarrassing. Definitely a bottle of water, too.

  2. I agree-do your research before you go! That said, once you're at the conference, be flexible. You never know if you'll meet someone interesting that you'll follow into a panel you weren't planning to attend. Conferences are about networking, and the more people you meet, the better time you'll have. IMHO.

  3. Great post! My business cards are ready for pick up. My business card holder, although not fancy like yours, is primed and ready. I've created and printed out my schedule for the three days, including alternate classes incase one fills up.

    Next, I'm working on mentally preparing myself to mingle and network with unknown people (very scary without a little social lubricant, i.e., alcohol). And getting my pitch, synopsis and first two pages of my novel ready for my read & critique session (also very scary without a little social lubricant).

    Excited and apprehensive!

  4. I found that getting to my business cards was an awkward hassle, so I began keeping them in my conference name tag. It was easy to instantly pull one out when asked for one.

    Definitely bring the snacks (and quiet ones that you won't be embarrassed to eat).

    I agree on picking what you want to focus on. Last year I went for classes on writing. This year it was all about querying, synopses, agents and self-publishing.

    Though I planned my schedule in advance, there were a couple times I went to a different course for whatever reason, but usually due to another person I'd met. Have it planned, but be flexible.

    Most of all, have fun! If you're too stressed, you won't take in as much information. Conferences are fun, you get to be around like-minded people. Good luck!

  5. Hey guys, thanks for all the great advice and feedback. I hear you about not 'over planning' and allow for spontaneity, it's just that if I don't have a plan, I fall apart.

    Shannon, I love your suggestion of keeping business cards in your name tag holder - what a fab idea, I would have never thought of that.

    Now I'm getting excited!


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