For the longest time, I avoided conferences like the plague. The thought of mingling with hundreds of strangers, a small fish in a big sea, terrified me. I wasn’t sure if I was ready as a writer to hold my own. I felt like an imposter. But, after some time, I eventually felt “legit enough” to attend a conference for writers. And I’m so glad I did!
If you’re thinking about attending a conference for writers, here are some things to consider:
1. Start small
If you’ve never been to a writers’ conference before, ease yourself into it. Start with a smaller, local one to warm yourself up. After all, meeting the writers and authors in your area is probably going to be far more beneficial to you than meeting people from all over the world. Plus, the smaller conferences tend to be cheaper, so you won’t have to invest too much on something you’re not sure about.
I started with a small, local conference with only a couple hundred attendees. It was the perfect size! I didn’t feel too overwhelmed and I didn’t have to fight to speak to anyone or attend anything. There was plenty of wisdom and bestselling authors to go around!
2. Come prepared
If possible, check the schedule in advance, know which sessions you want to attend, or know which agents/authors/publishers you want to try and meet with. Make a plan. If you don’t, you’re guaranteed to wander aimlessly and not get the full value of the conference.
3. Drink lots of water!
It seems minor, but seriously, this will save your life. Bring a water bottle! You’re going to get thirsty from all the talking and it may just help you save your voice. And, if you’re a coffee addict like me, make sure you fuel up on all the caffeine you need to stay alert throughout the event.
4. Speak to professional
If you get a chance, try to speak with a published author, an agent, or a publisher while you’re at the event. You don’t have to pitch anything. You can come in with the intention to learn.
I got to meet with a published author and ask her advice on how to start educating myself on the publishing process and how to make myself stand out in a crowded market. I wasn’t sure I wanted to, because talking to strangers is difficult for me (I’m an introvert with a touch of social anxiety, so that’s fun), but I’m so glad I did. She and I talked for fifteen minutes about the publishing industry, writing, and preparing for authorhood. She gave me several resources to continue my learning and recommended another conference in my area. I’m so glad I calmed my nerves enough to speak with her!
5. You don’t have to mingle
It’s okay to go to a conference solely for the purpose of learning and self-improvement. No one says you have to mingle or network. If that’s not your thing, don’t beat yourself up about it. Don’t let others tell you how to spend your conference time. At the end of the day, what you get out of the event is mostly up to you.
I went to several sessions and talked to lots of people when they spoke to me, but I didn’t go out of my way to “build my network” or add as many people as I could to social media. I just went with the flow and did what felt right to me. And I’m okay with that! I still came out of the conference a more informed, empowered writer, and that’s why I went. So it’s all good.
So there you have it. I wish you all the best luck on your conference adventures!
Until next time, writers.