3 ways to get more out of writing conferences

Does this sound familiar? You sign up for a writing conference. It’s months away. It falls off your radar until a week or two before when you realize the massive amount of stuff you have to get done in order to attend the conference. Not to mention book a hotel that isn’t crazy expensive.

Writing conferences tend to cost a lot of money. They can be enormously helpful to you and your development but if you’re going to get the most out of it you need to plan in advance. Here are three tips I’ve learned the hard way.

Go in with a goal

Have you ever walked away from a conference with a vague sense of disappointment that it wasn’t exactly what you expected? It’s so disappointing to feel that way especially if you’ve taken time off of work, traveled to attend the event, and of course dropped a lot of money for it. The best way to prevent post-conference to be intentional about your goals before hand.

Some conferences are great for networking. Others offer the chance to pitch agents. Others are master classes in craft.

When you know what you need at this point in your writing career, you can focus on the events that are the best match.

Virtual events aren’t as good for networking because you don’t have those serendipitous run-ins that you would at a live event. But they can be a great way to learn craft and tend to be more affordable. Agents and writers are like say they prefer virtual events for pitching. So it all gets back to goals.

After you sign up for conference ask yourself these questions: What do I want to get out of this event? What does that look like for me?

If networking is your focus, success might look like five new connections with writers in your genre. If it’s an agent pitch event, success will be manuscript requests.

Harsh t: Connecting with writers and getting manuscripts requests aren’t in your control.

If you go into the conference with a goal that’s out of your control and it doesn’t happen, you’ll wind up feeling disappointed. How can you reframe that goal so the action you take is in your control? Then, no matter the outcome, you’ll know you did what you could.

With making connections, a reframe might be starting conversations or pushing yourself to attend those meet and greets even if you’re a natural introvert like me.

For agent events, something entirely within your control is your pitch for your book. Practice that pitch in a mirror until you know it up, down, and sideways and you’ll feel so much more confident going into the pitch event.

Two BIPOC women talking at a table
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

Stay near the event

When I went to Writer’s Digest NYC Conference in 2017, I had to miss an entire panel because I spilled a coffee on my pants on the commute and I had to go from midtown back to the West Village to change.

At the Writers Hotel conference, I had to drive back to my cabin because I forgot the pile of manuscripts we were discussing.

Compare this to the travel conference I attended where the hotel is 5 minutes walk from the conference venue. Everything was just that much easier than if I’d had to commute in.

Since I didn’t have to spend energy getting around I had that much more of my own energy to give to the event.

photo of white ceramic coffee cup

BYO snacks/supplies

If you have any particular food needs or caffeine needs, do yourself a favor and bring your own supply.

A conference may promise to have coffee, but if it’s too weak for your liking you’ll miss out on a panel walking to get a cup so you can focus for the long afternoon of seminars.

Snacks might not fit your vegan/ vegetarian /gluten-free diet. Trust me, you don’t want to be hangry and needing to decide what’s more important, getting a meal after a long drive to the conference or making good first impression on the other writers you’ll be spending the next several days with.

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