If you’re a writer and you want to make a career out of writing, writer’s conferences are wonderful things to attend. Not only do they disseminate a ton of information on everything from writing to publishing your book, but they also are great for networking and meeting agents one-on-one. You can often even pitch to agents at the conference. So you’ve found a conference to attend, but what do you do next? Let’s look at how to prepare for a writer’s conference.
It’s all about making a plan. Here’s what to prepare before you go.
Business cards. You can order business cards from a local stationary or office supply shop or use an online service like VistaPrint. Make sure the cards are clear and easy to read. Your name should be featured prominently on the card and if you use a logo make sure it matches your online presence. Having a matte finish makes it easy for someone to take notes on your card. And make sure you list where others can find you online on your card. Do not include your address.
Elevator pitch. You should have your elevator pitch perfected and memorized. You want to hook their interest in your story and want to know more. Keep it short and sweet. It should be no longer than 45 seconds. Practice your pitch in the mirror before you go until you have it down.
What to wear. You want to look professional, but also be comfortable. You’re there all day and don’t want to worry about yanking that ill-fitting shirt down while giving your all-important pitch to an agent. Business casual is a good bet for a conference. Also make sure you wear comfortable shoes you can wear all day. Brand new heels are probably a bad idea. Wear layers so you’ll be comfortable whether the room is hot or cold. Be prepared. If it’s a multi-day conference, plan each day’s outfit and pack them together. The less you have to worry about besides the conference, the better.
Have a plan. Know which sessions you will attend and where they are. Plan in breaks you may need and which agents you want to pitch to. Research each agent and the agency they work for so you’ll know who is the best match for you. Don’t be afraid to change your plan when you get to the conference if you’d rather network than attend a session or if you decide to attend different sessions than you had planned. Do what is best for you and your career.
Be ready to network. Introduce yourself to everyone you meet, give them a business card, and smile. Fight past the shyness and nervousness you’ll feel. Everyone will feel the same. If you do get overwhelmed, find a quiet corner for a moment and breathe.
Here is a list of things to bring to your conference:
Something to takes notes on. Whether this is a notebook and pen or your laptop is up to you. But remember if you do take your laptop you’ll have to keep it safe, carry it in a padded bag, and have a way to charge it.
Cell phone charger. I know I take a lot of notes on my phone and you’ll be getting lots of new contacts as you network. Don’t let your phone die halfway through the day. Be prepared.
Fine point sharpies. You may want to take notes on the business cards you receive and they’re also good for signing copies of your book.
Copies of your book (if you have one). Give them away for reviews or to pass along to someone in the publishing field who may be interested in it.
Something to put business cards in. Whether this is a business card holder or a Ziploc bag, you don’t want all those cards floating around in your bag.
Pens. Bring several in case one runs dry or you lose it.
A list of the sessions you plan to attend and questions you plan on asking. Most sessions have a Q&A section where you can ask any questions you have so think about what you’d like to know.
Snacks and a bottle of water. You don’t want to be distracted by hunger or thirst, or to start lagging because your blood sugar is low. You have to be at your best all day.
Something for a headache or an upset stomach or heartburn. Be prepared for anything that can distract you or make you perform poorly.
Make sure your bag will fit all of this and be comfortable to carry around all day.
These will help you to prepare for any writer’s conference you may go to. I’ll be going to my first conference in March and I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be sure to write about what I learned while I was there. What are your tips for going to a conference? Which ones have you attended? Share below and happy writing.