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10 Tips To Prepare You For Attending Your First Writing Conference

Preparation Ensures A Better Experience.

10 Tips To Prepare You For Attending Your First Writing Conference

Photo by Christian Fregnan on Unsplash

Last month, I attended my first writing conference, and it was the best thing I could have ever done for my growth as a writer who wants to have a professional writing career. There were workshops on craft, writing as a profession, marketing, how to pitch, etc. I admit even despite all my planning, I was a bit overwhelmed at times. Besides all the great workshops, I met many writers that offered support and encouragement and allowed me to get different perspectives when it came to traditional publishing v. self-publishing. Writing conferences are definitely crucial to help you navigate writing, as well as the publishing world. If you’re planning to attend your first writing conference, here are some tips to help you be prepared and have an enjoyable experience.

1. Pace yourself. Understand you can’t do it all. This is so important so I will say it again. YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL. There are so many workshops and sessions programmed at conferences. You will burn yourself out trying to attend everything. If you try and split your time between too many sessions, you’ll find that you’ve retained nothing, or you miss information because you left a session early.

2. Attend any important sessions that won’t be recorded or won’t be accessible in the future. Speakers or lecturers at conferences have the right not to have their presentations recorded for future use. If this is the case for a few of the workshops being offered, you want to make them a top priority because this means the information won’t be available to you again. Try and make a friend or conference buddy that wants to attend the same sessions and divide and conquer so you can swap notes later.

3. Spend the money and buy the recordings. You won’t be able to do it all so this will come in handy later and also put your mind at ease about trying to do it all. If you’re not the best note taker, this is going to come in handy months from now when you’re trying to decipher the chicken scratch you call notes or recall a key piece of information.

4. Wear sensible shoes. You do a lot of walking. If you have to wear the cute, toe pinching, I’ll-only-last-an-hour-before-my-feet-are-killing-me shoes then put back ups in your bag so you don’t find yourself man down before the day is over.

5. Self care is important. Conference sessions will usually last from early morning (8am) to late evening (around 7pm to 9pm), and there will be some of those nights where mixers, parties, award nights or networking takes place making the day even longer so make sure to stay hydrated. I suggest packing a water bottle that you can refill throughout the day. Usually, the hotels have water stations so there is no need to pay for water, just fill up and keep moving. Pack snacks to eat on while you’re sitting in sessions because some sessions are shorter at 1 hour and some are longer at 3 hours. If you take medication, make sure it’s handy and not sitting in a hotel room. Have medications such as Tylenol, Advil or cough drops handy, if needed. Get plenty of sleep. Planning a sleep or nap schedule can help ensure you have a great time at the conference. This way you’re not falling asleep in sessions. Plus, you’ll focus better if you’re not groggy from lack of sleep, and you won’t be prone to illness or other ailments.

6. Pack casual, dressy and formal attire since conferences usually run the gamut of different types of events. You might be able to arrange private meetings or interviews with editors, agents or publishers. You want to look your best and if all you bring are jeans and tennis shoes, you can’t make the best impression. Remember as an author you’re a brand. Also, the award events or parties may be formal so come prepared.

7. Network. It’s important as a writer to build a community. Don’t be afraid to approach or talk to people. You never know who you may meet that will be willing to mentor you, offer feedback or critiques, help you or offer advice, suggestions or recommendations that may be helpful to your growth as an author or help getting an agent or publishing contract. Knowing other writers and having them for support and encouragement is helpful because they understand a writer’s life.

8. Business cards are a must. In tip #7 I talk about the importance of networking. Business cards help make that networking even easier and shows that you’re serious about being a writer. This is how you let people know who you are without having to need pen and paper handy to write down all your details. Don’t think you can get away with using some business cards you already have that mention an unrelated field. Your business cards should be specific to you being an author. Key things your business card should include are: name, type of writer you are (i.e. my business card says romance novelist), website, social media profiles, phone number, email, professional headshot (optional). Get creative with the card and use it to showcase your brand and who you are as an author. The back of my current business card showcases the book cover of my latest book. If you Google “author or writer business cards” you’ll see some great examples of business cards.

9. Free books are offered in book signings and book rooms – Get them! Who doesn’t like free stuff! Also, there is a more practical reason I say this. Those free books you pick up can be used as giveaways to your readers.

10. Pre-plan for getting your SWAG home. The hotel usually will have a mail and shipping center to ship your swag home. Pick up the white priority boxes from your post office before you leave for the conference and print out pre-paid shipping labels so you can mail the books home without it costing an arm and a leg. (Priority shipping isn’t based on weight, which is why it’s cheaper.) You can lay the flat boxes at the bottom of your suitcase. You can also bring an extra suitcase to carry all your free books, goodies and swag home.

If you follow these tips you’re sure to have a great conference experience.

**Many of these tips are useable for any type of conference.

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