Saturday, September 18, 2010

Conference Tips

If you have the chance, and can afford to, go to a conference in person at least once. (Online is good too, but doesn't have the same, face to face aspect.) And for once I'm going to flat out give advice. I've been to two conferences, small and not as small sized, and have some tips to share with you all.

Where to sit?
In front, if possible. I know some people prefer the back, to be away from the presenter and the chance of being called upon because the front row is fair game for any speaker, but that's why it's better to sit in front. While many writers are introverted by nature (I'm shy, I promise. Very shy.) much can be attained from sitting close to the front of the room at a conference. In college, some statistics state that those sitting in the front row and in the middle sections of rows have a tendency to get higher grades than the rest. Okay, workshops don't get grades but maybe those in conferences could get more from the presentation but that is just my own speculation. It does, however provide more opportunities.

I moved to the front after sitting through a not as useful workshop on networking and because of that, had Connie Willis (science fiction author and winner of many Hugo and Nebula awards) come up and start a conversation with me. Had a little fan girl moment there once I read her name tag but managed to keep talking about A Beautiful Mind and such. Even brought up the Sixth Sense for how the plot in the middle of the story worked and she mentioned it in her speech (which she probably planned to mention because her knowledge of books and movies is amazing but I can pretend).

In the workshop run by agent Kristin Nelson, on how to get out of the slushpile, I could have spoke with the agent during a break when we were working on the pitch paragraphs because I was in the front row. Granted, I was actually speaking to the person next to me, and I had a second of panic but if I'd really wanted to, that would have been a good moment.

I could have one more but that will be in the take opportunities section.

 Talk to people
 Yes. Even if you are really shy like me, you should try and talk to people when at a conference. Either approach people and start talking, or you can stand/sit on your own because other people will also approach you. Just don't be afraid to talk to anyone. It is actually one of the perks to going to a writing conference. Everyone is there to talk about writing and they all understand the characters doing whatever they want, talking to different characters and the other aspects found in writing. They understand it all, which is very freeing for those of us that don't have many writers around in real life. And it is different to talk in person than to talk online.  If you are with a group of people, go ahead and enjoy time with them but at least once, get out on your own to meet new people. Trust me, it's good for you.

Never know who you will have a conversation with at a conference.

and the big one...

Take chances and opportunities if they arise.
This is true for not only writing conferences/conventions but also in general. There may be times when you should turn down an opportunity, there is a difference between doing what you can and doing too much, which rarely leads to great things. But if you have the opportunity to do something, then go with it. This can be small or big.

Example: I'm not a vocal person usually. When watching a presenter in a large enough room, I know my input isn't needed. But during the last workshop of the conference, on writing endings, the questions part brought about a question the presenter didn't feel suited to answer. Since she wrote mostly stand alone novels, she didn't feel she had the answer for people trying to write endings in series. So, I raised my hand to give an answer and got the microphone handed to me. The workshops were taped for those that wanted to buy the ones they couldn't get to see. My answer is on the cd of the ending workshop because I put myself out there even though, I hate talking in microphones. I'm very self conscious about it because I don't feel I understand how the work or how to hold them in the right way.

Have you ever gone to a conference?
Would you go to one (again)?


Jules said...

Good advise. Being a hillbilly though, I love to talk to people. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Shallee said...

Great tips for going to a conference! I went to my first one last year, and it was amazing. Can't wait to go again!

Dawn Embers said...

Thanks Jules and Shallee.