This is conference season for writers! Not just the national conferences like RWA and ACFW, but smaller, regional conferences. There’s probably a writing conference or retreat somewhere in your area this summer or fall.
I’m planning to attend the ACFW conference in St. Louis in September, and it will be my second. As I’ve been signing up for classes and preparing my wardrobe (comfortable shoes are a must!), I’ve been thinking back to my first ACFW conference two years ago. I hope what I learned will benefit you.
- Don’t be afraid to go. You won’t be the only newbie. Not only will you find other first-timers (at ACFW you learn to look for the tell-tale ribbon on other attendees’ name badges), but the veterans will welcome you as a new member of the family.
- Don’t retreat to your room. Writers are prone to enjoy our solitary existence. We like to be alone. But conference isn’t the place for it. You paid a lot of money to meet other people who speak your language, so make sure you meet them. Introduce yourself. Sit next to strangers. Join someone who is standing alone. Strike up a conversation. You never know who you might meet. Two years ago, I ended up eating lunch with the most charming veteran author who writes in the same genre I do. What a treat to talk with her in that non-threatening environment!
- Don’t sweat it if you can’t attend all of the classes and workshops you signed up for. Buy the sessions on the MP3 download or CDs and listen to them when your mind isn’t filled with the busyness of conference.
- On the other hand, try not to skip the sessions you signed up for. There’s nothing like the immediate, in-person teaching by an industry professional to spark your enthusiasm.
- Enjoy your appointments with editors and agents. Be confident, relaxed, and friendly. And if they ask you to submit something, do it. Since they really want to see it, email it to them as soon after conference as possible.
- Exchange business cards with the new friends you meet. It’s helpful to have your picture on your card, if at all possible. You’ll be meeting so many people, it will be hard to connect names with faces a week later.
- Most of all, have fun! Enjoy the meetings, the down times, the after-hours sessions with your new friends. Meet new people, become inspired, and get fired up!
Are you planning to attend a conference soon? Will you be in St. Louis in September for ACFW? If so, be sure to look me up!