As an extrovert, I LOVE attending conferences and I’m gearing up (with much anticipation!) for those I’ll be attending this year. I get buzzed meeting all of those talented writers, agents, and editors. This is not the case for some of you. Many writers are introverts and cower at the thought of working a room or being on the spot. How do you beat the conference jitters?
1. REGISTER IN ADVANCE It cuts down on the stress of arriving early. It also ensures you’ll get all of the proper tags, meal tickets, seating, and extra crapola like goodie bags.
2. STUDY THE ONLINE BROCHURE Print it out and read it cover to cover. Star the seminars you think you’d like to attend. Some may overlap so rate them according to importance. On the day of the conference, you’ll know what to expect and be able to spend more of your time actually meeting people instead of hiding behind your brochure.
3. RESEARCH THE STAFF The brochure provided by the conference is great, but there are many more nuanced bits of info you can learn about a particular agent, for example, by reading the agency websites, their blogs, etc. Just because Agent Joe reps historical fiction doesn’t mean he prefers Russian historicals. Maybe his thing is westward expansion in the U.S. These are important distinctions an author should know before pitching their work. It also saves unnecessary stress and rejection.
4. DRESS COMFORTABLY, BUT LOOK HOT I’m not recommending spike heels and suits, necessarily, unless that’s your “thang”. There’s a fine balance between looking great and being comfortable–find your zone and stick with it. You’ll feel more confident if you’re looking good.
5. PRACTICE YOUR PITCH This goes without saying. Record it, perform it for your pets, your kids, your husband, or better yet, your writing group. Listen to their feedback and make adjustments so it flows the day of the conference. But please don’t memorize it. You sound like Johnny Robot when you spew a memorized pitch and it’s reallllllly awkward to listen to. P.S. Even if you aren’t pitching formally, you’ll still have to talk about your book constantly so be prepared.
6. GEAR UP TO SPILL THE BEANS People want to know what you write about, why you chose to write about it, and other interesting hobbies or background info that led you down the writer path.
7. DON’T BE FREAKISHLY ANTI-SOCIAL Resist the urge to make a beeline for the deepest, darkest corner of the conference room. Circulate, especially during meals. They’re a great time to chat, plus eating gives you something to do to mask the awkwardness in starting a conversation with someone new. If all else fails, spike your coffee or order a cocktail. Speaking of cocktails, happy hour is often the best time to network. If you don’t drink, order a fancy coffee beverage.
8. BRING BUSINESS CARDS & A NOTEBOOK Give away your cards, accept cards from others. Take lots of notes. People love to talk about themselves. Get it all down and add it to your list of people you know in the biz. Keep all the cards you collect in a binder or file folder of some sort at home. This will come in handy later as you’re building your platform.
9. BE A PHOTOG Snapping pics are fun and are also a great way to remember people you met. Post them on your blog or Facebook after a conference. It shows that you’re out there and active in the publishing world. Agents like that. Other writers like that.
10. CONFERENCE AFTERMATH Follow-up with the people you met, then friend or follow them on Facebook or Twitter, or wherever they may be on the web. Send them messages. Check in to see how their book(s) are coming along. Make enduring connections. This is what building your platform is all about.
BE YOURSELF! What makes writing conferences great is the very different people they attract, from all walks of life, in varying stages of their craft, in dozens of sub-genres. Being yourself is the real key to rocking the conference circuit, or, frankly, anything in life.
What are your favorite conferences?