Writers’ conferences are a great way to learn and network and maybe even make some lifelong friends. Getting together with others who actually get you can be invigorating. After all…
“A good writer possesses not only his own spirit but also the spirit of his friends.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
But, there are some things you need to do to prepare that you may not know if you have never been to a writers’ conference.
I recently attended my first one in Cuenca, Ecuador. I met some cool people and learned a lot about writing. A range of advice from get up and shake your booty, thanks for that one Mark Sullivan, to what genres work great for self-publishing through Amazon. But conferences take a lot of energy, especially for the introverts among us, so there are some things you should know and do to get ready.
Before your first writers’ conference
Check your online presence
Are your website and social media accounts current and updated with your latest works? As long as you make a good impression, the people you meet at a conference are going to want to check you out online.
How is your portfolio or CV? Does the work you have listed represent where you currently are in your business and where you want to go? Remember you do not have to include every piece you have ever written. That health article from three years ago may not be a good fit if you are currently writing about blockchain.
Let some things go and highlight your best.
If you do not already have an online portfolio, Clear Voice has a free customizable one that you can create one here by walking through the easy process.
Check your branding across platforms for correct information and consistency before you head to that conference.
Have an abundance of business cards
Do your business cards need to be updated? Do they contain inaccurate information? Are they out of alignment with your current brand?
Before a conference is a great time to get your business cards on point. You want to make sure you have plenty to hand out to people you meet and connect with. If you are willing to make genuine connections at the conference, people will often ask how they may contact you to stay in touch. Business cards are an easy way to put your info into new hands.
Make sure you have your current and best contact information, website, and relevant work title. And for digital naysayers: Yes, physical business cards are still important.
Have your elevator pitch ready
Along with your business cards, it is a good idea to develop a short statement about what you do and why. Your elevator pitch has the high calling of being precise and persuasive but keep the focus on how you help or the problem you solve rather than just facts about you. Short and sweet, the time it would take you to ride up with someone in an elevator, thus its name.
Make it relatable like you are telling a friend. Cliche-free.
For inspiration, try watching a few episodes of Entrepreneur’s Elevator Pitch Series.
Have a tracking system
You meet people and you think you will remember them. Jane was the one you met who lives in New York and has a terrier mix, right? Or was that Janice?
Making great and lasting connections with people is often in the details. You need a way to keep track of who you meet, what they do, and some details they have shared with you so you can follow up later and keep the relationships going.
While at the conference, you can write their details on the business cards they give you. But, each day after the conference it is a good idea to file away those details while they are still fresh in your memory.
You will also want to keep up with names and details of your contacts for referrals. You can pass on a referral if you have too much work or receive requests that are not a good fit for you. Or you may want to ask for a referral when you are in a slow season.
Now that you have your online presence in top shape, let’s take a look at managing the conference itself.
Choose and mix up your sessions
When you have access to the conference agenda, look it over and make note of the sessions you want to attend. Often sessions will overlap and you may have to choose between two that would be valuable. Read the descriptions for each session to decide.
But make sure you do not get stuck just in your field or niche. Attend some sessions that are outside of your genre or comfort zone. If you write non-fiction, attend some sessions on fiction and vice versa. If you are a journalist, attend some poetry or self-publishing sessions. This boosts your creativity and can bring new techniques and ideas to what you are currently writing.
There is so much writers can learn from each other in all different genres. For instance, I attended a scriptwriting session even though I am a business writer. The session was fascinating and inspiring even though I have no intention of writing a television script anytime soon.
Making the most during a conference
Take great notes
You think you will remember the content but you will likely be learning so much and be taking in so many new ideas that you will forget things easily. Take great notes.
You can do this old school with pen and paper, with a note-taking app on your smartphone, or bring your laptop and type there. Whatever you choose, grab the ideas, tips, and resources that stand out to you.
At the end of that day’s sessions review the notes and add some color if you can, through highlighting or maybe even some doodles. This will engage your creative brain and help you lock in the material and remember it longer.
Exploration, downtime, action
Explore the city you are visiting for the conference. Looking at a new place and new people can also reignite your creative flow. Try to implement some of the techniques you are learning in your head as you sightsee and people watch.
Also, be sure to give yourself some downtime to write and recover. You will have lots of new ideas, so do not overpack your schedule or the conference will leave you feeling exhausted.
Plan your action. You are taking some great notes, but don’t forget to act. Create action steps while you attend sessions and commit to following through with them when you return home. Otherwise, the enthusiasm may fizzle out and all that great info will just sit in a notebook in your office.
After the conference, follow up and follow through
Follow up with your favorite presenters and thank them for what you learned. Also, any participants that you connected with. Remember: Take interest in others, and they will take interest in you. If you have followed the previous steps, this should not be too hard. You have all the information you need tracked.
Check out the resource list you have from the conference and start using the new tools that can make your work easier. Try to write in a different genre with tips you learned even if it is just one page. You may just discover a new love.
Review your handouts and notes to see what you can implement right away and what you may be interested in exploring more later. And schedule in your action steps to make sure you keep the creativity and momentum going. Then go ahead and schedule in your next conference adventure. Here is a list of some amazing conferences to consider. Just be sure to give yourself some recovery and implementation time in between.
Enjoy your next conference!
Notable calendars for 2018/2019
- Top Conferences for Freelance Writers and Creatives, Summer 2018 – Spring 2019
- 500+ Events to Jump-Start Your 2018 / 2019 Content Calendar
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