How to Shine at a Writing Conference
How to Shine at a Writer's Conference
Writing conferences can be intimidating, especially if it's your first time attending. You'll be face-to-face with industry greats, award winning authors, agents that hold your future in their hands, and editors that love to make manuscripts bleed. It's a lot, but take a deep breath because I'm going to walk you through it and tell you how to stand out from the crowd.
1. Dress Appropriately. Most conferences post pictures from previous years, so do a little research and check out what others wore. You'll most likely want to go a little nicer than t-shirt and jeans, but no need for formal attire (unless there's a gala which some conferences do have). The best tip I got on conference attire was, dress like you're going to be interviewed on Good Morning America.
2. Avoid Gimmicks. Let your personality shine through during conversations and networking. There's no need to wear a "free hugs" pin or bake cookies and pass them out. It's not the worst thing to do at a conference, but it won't win you any extra brownie points and some editors/ agents may think it's over the top or cheesy. So just to be on the safe side, put aside your "ask me about my cats" tshirt.
3. Have business cards ready to go and don't be afraid to hand them out. Ask others for their cards. Remember, the purpose of these conferences aren't simply to learn, but to network. So have your business cards in an easy to reach place and be ready to exchange with others.
4. Research those from the industry that will attend. Especially if you're pitching. Know their names (pronounce them correctly) and take some time to read their blogs / websites before the conference.
5. If you are pitching a manuscript, have a one sheet, elevator pitch, and print out of at least your first chapter ready to go. Research ahead of time to know what specific agents require and have all necessary documents. Rehearse your pitch until you feel confident. Get your critique partners to check your one sheet. Be prepared to answer questions about your work and make small talk about your genre, including other authors who have influenced you.
6. Be authentic. If you don't like Stephen King books, don't use him as an example for authors that have influenced your writing. Agents and editors meet tons of people and they can tell if you're faking it to try and impress them. Relax. Be humble and stay true to yourself.
7. Follow up. Remember all those business cards you got? Go on social media and connect with them.
8. Have fun! :)