Going to your first writing conference? Congrats! It will be a great and fun experience. One you’ll never forget. I’m sure you’re nervous, I was too when I went to my first one. I didn’t know what to expect but wanted to get the most out of it.
Now I’ve gone to a few and I think I’ve learned one or two things that would help any conference attendee make it a great trip.
1. Bring Business Cards
You just need something with your name, your website, email, and twitter handle. Something you can give to new writers you meet who seem interested in being critique partners or might want to check out your website. Also be prepared to accept tons of business cards. I always write a description of the person who gave me a card so I remember them after the conference. (Example: Katie, Writing Blog interested in Guest Post.)
2. Find a Buddy
Going to a conference by yourself can be really intimidating and a little scary. Don’t worry though, usually if you reach out via twitter, facebook, or forums you’ll find someone in the same boat as you. Make plans to meet up somewhere and discuss what you’ve both learned so far from the conference (and of course talk about your writing.) This is an easy way to make friends and not feel so alone. Also, if you have a friend attending with you consider dividing and conquering the various workshops. Take notes and then download all the information with your conference buddy afterward.
If you don’t have a buddy, this is your chance to make some serious writing friends.
You are all at the same conference for one reason. Because you love to write. This means it should be easy to make new friends, right? All you have to do is smile at the nearest person and ask them what they write. I won’t lie, you might not make a best friend with the first person you meet and things are a little awkward at first. But hey, everyone has to start somewhere and odds are good that if you keep this up you’ll meet someone who likes reading and writing the exact same thing as you! The odds of this get better if you go to specific conferences or workshops. YA workshops, Querying workshops, these are just a few examples of places where you can find people who are in the same headspace as you.
3. Go in with a game plan
There are a lot of different workshops at a writing conference. It can easily get a little overwhelming. I suggest finding one workshop each day that you NEED to attend. This will give you a starting point for narrowing your selections. Most conferences post their schedules beforehand so you have plenty of time to plot and plan your day. Additionally, don’t feel tied to the plan. Be flexible. If you make a friend who is going to a different workshop that sounds hella interesting, go with them. If you need a break, take that break. If you are sitting in a workshop that isn’t going the way you planned, don’t be afraid to get up and leave. Your time at the conference is precious, make the most out of it.
4. Self Care is Important
Conferences are a lot of running around. They are fun, but you have to remember to take time to eat and stay hydrated. Bring snacks and a bottle of water! Also, make sure to wear comfortable clothes. You may need to dress professionally, depending on if you are meeting with Agents or Editors, but no one will look down on you for wearing flats instead of heels. And I do recommend flats since you’ll be doing a LOT of walking.
Do your best to prepare for success (I know I know, you probably hear that all the time.) No matter what you’ll learn about something that I didn’t put on this list, but these are some of the most common mistakes I (and others) have made. Hopefully, this advice gives you a good starting point.
I also recommend listening to the following podcast episodes that talk about networking at conferences and preparation! They are awesome and will make you excited for what is to come.