Here’s part three of my Summer of Conferences posts. In Part 1 I talk about Fishtrap. Part 2 was about Willamette Writers and the Hawaii Writers conferences.
After attending both public radio and writers conferences for a number of years, I find a positive experience really depends on your attitude and the preparation you do ahead of time. I’ve gone to conferences generally to network, promote my latest projects and learn something new. Here are some tips I can offer if you’re thinking about investing time and money to go to a conference:
1. Open your mind and let go of expectations. Don’t assume everyone is dying to hear about your project or book. Think about meeting people and learning about them as people, not rungs on a ladder to success. Do your best to promote yourself and your passion but set the bar low on expectations. You’ll leave yourself open to getting more out of the conference.
2. Study the schedule and presenter bios and photos BEFORE the conference. A good many interractions happen in the hallways, events and after a workshop or session. Be very choosy about which session you’ll attend. Try to learn as much as you can while you’re at the conference.
3. Be prepared to meet anyone, not just people you THINK may be helpful to your career. I don’t know how many times people have been rude or have ignored me when I meet them at lunch and then later I’ve presented at a panel and they’re friendly after they find out who I REALLY am. That’s just plain silly. Don’t be a conference snob. Be nice to everyone! The worst case scenario: you’ll make friends!
4. Prepare a postcard or small flyer ahead of time with your project or book idea. Have the title, your name/contact info and a short book/project blurb in 25 words or less. Include a great photo to draw attention to the idea. It’s simple and something you can do and print out in color at home. You don’t need a lot of copies. Just enough to hand out when you meet people.
5. Practice your pitch at home in 25 words or less. Write up your blurb and then paraphrase it. Say it in front of the mirror or with a friend. It can’t sound memorized. Just conversational. I even added a bit of Hollywood to my pitch about my memoir: It’s “Joy Luck Club” meets “Terms of Endearment.” And an editor at a prominent publishing house loved it!
6. Have fun! People love hanging out with people who are having fun. Don’t you? Guaranteed, if you’re having a good time, people will want to meet you. That’s just human nature.
Check out the flyer for my memoir that I took with me to the last writers conferences. And send me your tips for getting the most out of conferences!