Writer’s conferences. Love them or hate them, they are part of this crazy business. I attend at least one a year- this year I hit the road and spoke at a conference in Shreveport. (No, that fountain isn't in Louisiana. That's found in Orlando in 2008, my first conference ever.
I'm more focused on pitch opportunities now than classes. But I've been surprised at the quality of craft classes, even at small conferences. Even classes focused more on freelance writers than novelists, I came away with something to think about and improve my writing.
Secret One: Sign up early. At a local conference last year, I got my first, second, and third choice in pitch assignments. Why? I took advantage of early registration rather than waiting to the last minute. Bonus-I got early bird pricing.
Sometimes it’s hard to commit to a conference. Especially for people with personalities matching my Libra mentality (read wishy-washy). This is where effective goals help. I knew I was attending a local conference as soon as my annual goals were written. Why not get the registration process done and mark one thing off the to do list?
Secret Two: Search the website for any and all information as soon as it’s available. I copied off a draft workshop schedule months before which allowed me to focus on which workshops I was attending. Of course, I switched a couple once I’d been introduced to the faculty, but I had a game plan to put into action as soon as I walked in the door. Many conferences also have a Facebook page for status reports.
Secret Three: Look for contests attached to the conference. Some are for members only, but others open to registered participants. Take advantage of these contests. Often the entry fees are reasonable and the feedback amazing. And if you win, you get attention at the presentation ceremony, in front of all those agents and editors who you’re sending your requested submissions. Free publicity.
Secret Four: You don’t have to be an extrovert to meet new people. I’m shy in new settings. I knew four or five people at this conference. But I wasn't alone. Talking to the people sitting next to me at lunch, I met two people who were born in Idaho (my home state.) I've lived in Missouri for five years without meeting another native Idahoan. What are the odds I’d meet two in one day?
Secret Five: Dress well. One conference I attended started at noon on Friday. Friday’s are casual at my day job. Even with the blazer thrown over my silk shirt and jeans, I felt under-dressed with all the suits in attendance. Business casual is never a bad idea.
Don’t know what business casual is? Dress pants with a soft shirt. Dressy skirts that don’t cross the line into cocktail wear. Basically what you would wear to work in a nice office not including bankers or lawyers. Google the term for more ideas on whether or not your look is date night dressy, picnic casual, or business casual.
So now you have my five secrets. Anyone have their own secret on making the most of a writer’s conference that they’d like to share?