Have you ever stood in the corner of a conference room full of strangers and wondered, “Now what?” Many writers are introverts, and jumping into the crowd at a conference can seem daunting and a little disorienting. But networking is a huge reason to attend a conference. How can you make the most of your conference experience? Remember these tips the next time you find yourself at a new writers’ event:
Conferences can be pricey, and the first instinct is to wring out every drop of value by taking in all the information possible. But don’t forget to share your know-how and experiences, too. There will be plenty of attendees who are where you were two, five, or ten years ago. Pour encouragement, resources, and help their way. Volunteer to help organizers with cleanup. Basically, be a giver–not to get something in return, but to give back to a cause you passionately believe in.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You may think a presenter is tired of hearing the same questions over and over, but they’re there to share their expertise–they want to hear from you. And ask other attendees questions, too. You may be surprised to hear what they gleaned from a workshop. Their perspective will be different than yours, and may open up insights that never occurred to you. Compare ideas and notes. All it takes? Ask, “So what did you love about today?”
Be friendly and make contacts.
This is a biggie. After exchanging contact info at a conference last summer, I was invited to join a writers’ critque group. This bimonthly meeting has made all the difference in my momentum throughout the year. It’s priceless to be able to get feedback on current works-in-progress, and to bounce ideas off of others. (“What do you think about third person objective point of view…?”) Again, remember to be generous with your time, and to set appointments to stay in touch. Everyone says they’ll keep in touch; be the one who actually does.
When attending a conference this summer, be strategic. But don’t just think about input. Remember to make the most of your experience by giving, asking questions, and making contacts. Cheers to the best conference yet!
Now you: Have you attended an incredible conference? What made it memorable?
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The challenges presented by attending conferences are well worth any inherent stress. By and large, the more seasoned writers are there to put you at ease. They were once newbies, too. The wisdom gained is worth every bead of sweat.
Very true, Sarah!