“Preparation is the Key to Success for a Conference” by Joan Y. Edwards
I have attended many SCBWI conferences and a few other writing conferences and workshops in person and others online. Here are a few key ways to prepare for a conference that you will attend in person. I wrote this with writers and illustrators in mind. However, I believe most of the ideas would be beneficial and could be adapted to anyone attending a conference in any profession. It’s in 3 parts: before the conference, during the conference, and after the conference. I hope that by attending a conference, you’ll learn a new skill or marketing technique that inspires you to reach your goals. Preparation is the key to success at a conference.
Before the Conference
What skill do you most want to improve? Attend the workshops that will help you improve that skill.
Visit the webpages of at least three of the presenters that interest you. If they have a website, read the about me. Check out their books at your local library or on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
If you have specific questions for presenters, write them down on 3×5 cards and ask them at the conference during the workshops. If you don’t get a chance to ask them in person, most handouts or websites give contact information so you can write and ask them later.
Get business cards with your name, address, phone number, email address, website, and blog. Many people put an image and link to their published books on the back. Use www.VistaPrint.com, www.Gotprint.com, or local print shop. You can also create business cards on your computer.
Giveaways – Get bookmarks printed: www.VistaPrint.com, www.Gotprint.com, or your local print shop. You can also make bookmarks by hand or on your computer.
Giveaways – Get postcards printed with your best illustrations or of your book covers with a selling pitch for them at www.VistaPrint.com, www.gotprint.com, or your local printer. You can also make bookmarks by hand or on your computer.
Buy a new spiral notebook with a bright colorful design or a composition book with a black and white cover. This way all of your notes are in one place. You can put it in front of your computer when you get home, and transfer your handwritten notes to your computer. You can add information from handouts by scanning them into your computer, or by typing what you want to remember from the handouts.
Buy two pens that are dependable and write just the way you like a pen to write. Put them in your pocketbook to take with you.
Write a pitch for three of your manuscripts. Print out your pitches on 3×5 cards, 4×6 inch cards, or plain 8.5 x 11 printing paper. Carry two copies of each pitch with you to the conference. Put one copy in a folder and the other in your pocketbook. Practice giving your pitch in front of a mirror. Use eye contact. Memorize it.
Take comfortable clothing to wear in your favorite colors to keep your spirits high. Take a sweater or blazer, in case the air conditioning is too cool for your inner thermostat. If you’re hot, you can take off the blazer. A good work attire for writers/illustrators is a pair of jeans, a shirt, and a blazer. Linda Rohrbough, writer, says that you want the editors to think you just left your computer to meet with them. Be comfortable. If you feel better being all dressed up, dress up. It’s important for you to be comfortable and feel distinguished.
Check your laptop, iPad, or iPhone. Charge its battery. Purchase a portable disc drive or flash drive. Most of them are USB port compatible. Copy your full manuscripts of the Works in Progress and other pertinent information you may need for the conference to a portable drive. If you use Dropbox, you can put your manuscripts in it on your main computer. Add the Dropbox app to your iPad or other electronic device. You can see your manuscript from all devices. Check it out before you leave home.
At the Conference
Take notes using your new spiral notebook or composition book or take notes on your laptop or other device.
2.Hand out business cards.
Hand out business cards to everyone with whom you talk. Ask for their business cards, too. This will give you resources to check after the conference. The more you do this, the more comfortable and natural it will be for you. Make a goal of handing out at least 10-30 cards and getting an equal number in exchange.
3.Talk to people sitting beside you in a workshop.
Do you feel lonely and out of touch with people? Talk to the people who sit beside you in the workshops. Exchange names, email addresses, and business cards with them. Here are possible questions to start your conversation:
“What are you writing?”
“Are you in writing group? Is it online or face-to-face?”
“How do you find time to write (illustrate)?”
“Do you (draw) write best in the morning or at night?”
4. If you meet a publisher or agent, ask them questions about themselves and their projects.
If you happen to meet an agent or editor in the elevator or at lunch, remember he/she is human, like you. Ask one of these questions or one of your own:
“What is your favorite project right now?”
“How do you know when a book is right for you?”
“What’s your advice for writers(illustrators)?”
5. Be ready to answer questions about your writing with a pitch.
After your question for an editor or agent, there is a great possibility he/she will ask you, “What kind of writing do you do?” This is a perfect lead in for your pitch. Hold your head high. Look the editor/agent in the eye. Pretend he’s your best friend and tell him your pitch.
6. Take a short walk for exercise in between sessions.
7. Get plenty of sleep.
8. Eat healthy fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Drink plenty of water. This will keep you alert and focused.
9. Enjoy yourself and learn as much as you can.
10. List twenty things for which you are thankful each morning before you get out of bed.
11. Thank the presenters and the organizers.
Tell the presenters and organizers what you liked about the conference. Make suggestions for improvements.
12. If you a book inspires you at the workshop, buy it or ask for it at your public library.
After the Conference
1. Sleep, if you’re tired.
Accept yourself and others as you are. Focus on what you want. Be thankful for what you have. Be grateful for where you are. Put the fun back into your writing.
2. After you’ve rested, read and organize your notes from each workshop.
Edit your notes and add information from your handouts. You can scan pertinent information from the handouts into your computer. Write at least three major things you learned from each workshop. You can write down more details if you want.
3. Make a top ten list of things that you learned at the overall conference.
4. Write/Revise Your Writing/Illustrating Goals
After this information soaks into your mind, body, and spirit, write/revise three writing/illustrating goals using the skills and information you learned. (Be patient with yourself.)
5. Writing Skill/Genre Goals
a) Read ten books in your chosen genre and three books on the craft of writing and/or illustrating.
b) Revise your favorite manuscript and submit it to an editor or agent.
6. Marketing Goals
a) Learn a new technology.
b) Submit manuscripts/sample illustrations to different agents and/or editors often.
c) Submit manuscripts/sample illustrations to different agents and/or editors often.
d) Follow my 4 Step Essentials for Submitting to get your manuscript and supporting documents ready to send off to a publisher, agent, or contest. Do it often. Do it well.
Step 1 Get your work critiqued, edited, and proofed.
Step 2 Choose the publisher, editor, agent, or contest for this writing project.
Step 3 Write the pitch, query letter, cover letter, resume, bio, and/or proposal as required by the guidelines of the editor, agent, or contest you chose for submission this time.
Step 4 Proof and Submit to publisher, agent, editor, or contest.
d) Prepare a book presentation for schools/organization.
e) Prepare a proposal to present a workshop for a writing conference.
f) Prepare a pitch for a manuscript. Go from a page summary and then focus on the words to hook readers. Keep shortening your pitch: 200-100-50-25 words. The ultimate goal is a pitch that is 140 characters long (approximately 25 words) that fits in Twitter. If you have all these different lengths, you will have a pitch to use in your cover letter, proposal, and for the rave blurbs for the back cover of your book. Your pitch is the magnetic tool that will entice people to buy your book.
g) Prepare a post card, business card, bookmark, signature for email to promote you and your writing. Use your book titles and pitch blurbs.
7. Networking Goals
a) Create a website and/or blog.
b) Join a critique group that focuses on genres you write or illustrate.
c) Give book presentations/workshops for schools and organizations
d) Create an author/illustrator page on Facebook and post news of your publishing journey.
e) Create a Twitter Account. Twitter your blog posts and your publishing news.
f) Visit the website of three people who shared a business card with you. Email them. Here are possible points to include in your email. Remind them of how you enjoyed talking with them. Thank them for sharing a resource. Congratulate them on their manuscript or book. Compliment them for being brave if they read their story at open mike. Thank them for giving you a new way to look at a problem.
g) Make a list of your followers on Facebook and Twitter. When you get your book published, they will be helpful in spreading the word about your book. Interact with at least 25 of them on a regular basis.
I wish you much success at your next conference. I know you will discover that preparation is definitely the key to your success at a conference.
Kristen Lamb, “Getting the Most Out of Writing Conferences:” http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/getting-the-most-out-of-writing-conferences/.
Margo L. Dill, “Writers Conferences: Five Reasons Why You Should Go NOW, and How to Get the Most for Your Money:” http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/13-FE-MargoDill.html/.
Marita Littauer, “Four Keys for Writers Conference Success:” http://www.right-writing.com/conference-keys.html/.
Thank you for reading my blog. Each time you read one of my articles, you honor me. I hope your success is better than you ever imagined.
Results of Giveaway:
Four people left a comment on this blog post before Midnight, October 16, 2018:
Linda Andersen Gutheil left a comment, but asked not to be entered in this contest. So that left the following 3 people in this contest.