If you haven’t figured it out yet I’m a bit unconventional. I like to think that makes me normal. I’ve read several blogs on prepping for a conference. I’m assuming you guys know how to pack an overnight bag and don’t need my help picking out what underwear to bring so let’s move on to the more important advice, actually helpful conference going advice.
- Everyone you meet at a conference is there for the same reason as you. No one shells out hundreds of dollar to attend a writing conference to be an unapproachable snob. Well, not many at least, yet lots of writers are introverts. Don’t be afraid to sit at a table with people you don’t know. Don’t worry about asking the girl in the cool boots a question about where the next workshop is being held. See a party in the hotel room with an open door, walk the hell in and introduce yourself!
I’ve been lucky enough to travel with extroverts who don’t let me sit in my hotel room and sob. They’ve forced me out to parties and dinners and get to know you events and I am forever grateful for them. If you don’t have one of those in your posy, find a way to do it yourself. It’s what you’re there for!
- Beware of your resting bitch face. I’ve been told when deep in thought I could shrivel the balls of a Brahma bull. I take that as a compliment most days, but not at conferences. Remind yourself to smile. Loosen your mouth from time to time. Chew gum…wait…don’t chew gum. It makes it worse. Have a friend remind you to relax your face. Think friendly thoughts. Whatever you need to do, don’t send the wrong message with an unapproachable face.
- A drink or two is a grand thing but public intoxication is a death march to your career. Yes, I’ve seen it happen. I may have even come close to it once, but I had my girls to remind me to sheath the claws and come back to reality. A good rule to follow: Two for you and then you’re through. Two drinks a night. That’s enough to take the edge off yet stay professional. That said, what happens behind closed, locked hotel rooms doors is your business.
- Okay, this is a given but needs repeating. Trash talks spreads faster than an STD in a whore house. Don’t trash talk agents, editors, publishers, other authors, event coordinators, ect. You never know who’s standing two feet away and overhearing bits of your conversation, or who’s friends with who. Just keep your words kinds while you’re in the company of conference goers and you’re golden
- Safety first! Most conferences are held in cities you’re not familiar with. Before you leave make a plan. How are you getting to and from the hotel to make your flight? Will you have enough cash to pay the cab? Who are you traveling with? Never leave the hotel alone! Never stand around the hotel alone! Never accept rides from people you don’t know! Just because you feel all warm and fuzzy with your new group of friends don’t drop your guard. Predators prey on those in their comfort zone. Don’t be a victim.
- Volunteering is one of the best ways to network. From monitoring a workshop to handing out welcome packets, there is no better way to get one-on-one time with other authors/editors/agents than to volunteer. If you’re an introvert, it’s an excellent way to insure you’ll put yourself out there. Do it!
- Attend the workshops. As with the drinking tip, you’re not attending a conference to party…well some are, but not you. From the day you walk in the hotel to the day you slide into the cab home you are on an interview for a writing position. Even multi published authors are on display for their readers. Relax. Have fun. Enjoy your time with like minded writerly peeps, but keep it professional.
- Hang out in the bar. All the cool kids do! Really, the do, along with the editors and agents. True story, I recently queried an agent and mentioned the conversation we have in the bar of a hotel years ago. She remembered. I’m convinced that comment, and our conversation years ago is what got my foot in the door with her.
- By now you’ve heard not to shove your manuscript under the bathroom door, but what if an agent/editor asks you about your book in passing? Are you ready to drop a 60 second logline on them? Are you confident enough to free think a pitch and answer questions? Again, true story. This happened to me. I freaked, but I know my book so well I was able to hit the high notes off the top of my head in a conversation that started over coffee in a Starbucks before a workshop. Know your pitch, but be ready to wing it if needed.
10. This tip comes from the Officer. Safety always comes first with him. In your excitement to leave the house in something other than yoga pants and talk to real people instead of the characters in your head, don’t post specific details about how long you’ll be gone, where you’ll be, or travel plans on social media. You never know who’s watching your accounts and coming home from a killer conference to face a B&E report would totally suck, not to mention other things that could happen.
Most Important, enjoy yourself and take lots of pictures!