I’m off to San Antonio, Texas this week for the RWA National Conference, which means I’m writing this on the fly between loads of laundry and last minute tweaks to my meeting schedule. But I thought I’d leave you all with a few words of wisdom regarding conference attendance. Even if you’re not heading out to Texas, you might have some other conference on your radar, so here are a few quick, down-and-dirty tips to help you get the most of it.
Don’t over-schedule yourself. It’s tempting, when you see the array of offerings, to fill every time slot and set yourself running from room to room the entire length of the conference, but resist that temptation. Leave yourself a few small breaks to catch your breath, chat with a new acquaintance, or for an impromptu meeting with an agent or editor you might meet in a panel.
Do speak up and introduce yourself. Everyone at a conference is there to meet people and learn things, so get to know the person sitting next to you at lunch or in a workshop. And this includes agents and editors. Don’t interrupt them if they’re in the middle of speaking to someone, obviously, but do smile and chat and treat them like a fellow human being, whether or not you plan to pitch them something.
Pack layers. No matter what time of year you attend a conference, the chances are excellent that the weather outside and the temperature inside will differ, and indoor temperatures at conference facilities tend to vary greatly. Pack a sweater or light jacket to ward against aggressive air conditioning, and some lighter-weight shirts to combat excessive heating.
Watch your alcohol intake. Yes, writers spend time at the bar during conferences, but keep in mind you still want to maintain a somewhat professional demeanor. Plus, on the off chance the agent of your dreams asks you to pitch them, you’d hate to start slurring your words.
Have fun. It’s not all business, all the time. Conferences are a great opportunity to learn and network, but also to catch up with friends and make new ones. So enjoy!