How to Get the Most out of Writing Conferences

8 Nov

I have had the pleasure of leading several writing workshops in the past month. In doing so, I’m always inspired by the excitement and exuberance I sense from the participants. I have found over the years, however, that an aspiring writer’s excitement often wanes once the conference is over. They, for one reason or another, don’t follow through with what they’ve learned.

That made me wonder: how can an attendee get the most out of a writing conference? I think there are several tips and tactics that can help you really learn a lot from the next conference or retreat you attend. (And, by the way: if you’ve never attended a conference, you should seriously consider doing so. They are wonderful experiences.)

Conferences can be wonderful experiences for writers and would-be writers, but they can also amount to a lot of pizazz, signifying nothing. A lot of participants attend, enjoy the sessions, make some new friends…but don’t benefit from the conference in a tangible way in their writing.

There is no reason, though, that your writing conference experience can’t be not only an enjoyable one, but also a productive one. Ideally, you should come away from a writing conference with fresh ideas, new approaches to marketing, and real-life contacts who can help you on the way to publication.

If that’s what you want from your next writing conference experience, consider the following pieces of advice:

(1) Study ahead of time, and go with a plan. Do some research into the conference; what speakers are you especially interested in? What agents do you want to set up a conference with? What goals do you want to meet from attending the conference? Don’t go willy-nilly into the day or weekend; have a plan and you will get much more out of it.

(2) Be a willing sponge. A conference is the perfect opportunity to sit back and simply soak in as much information and inspiration as you can get. Listen to everything with an open ear and open mind; be willing to learn new things.

(3) Network with other writers. One of the best things about a conference is the chance you will have to make new friends (and writing friends, at that!). Take every opportunity to talk with and network with other writers and aspiring writers. Find out what their interests are, what writing groups they use, any publishing contacts they have, any particular insights they have into any part of the writing industry or process.

(4) Network with professionals. This is also a fantastic opportunity to meet professionals from various writing industries. Bend their ear about trends and opportunities; if there is a time for sessions with agents and editors, absolutely sign up for one.

(5) Develop an after-conference plan. As you leave the conference, come up with a plan for what you will do now. What goals do want to meet? What did you learn about that you want to put into action? Don’t leave the conference with simply a lot of information. Do something with all of it.

(6) DO something with what you’ve learned. Following up on the fifth point: don’t just have a plan. Do something with it.



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