Welcome back! Today we’re talking about preparing for a writing conference. If you missed last week’s post, you can find it here: How to pick a conference
After you have picked the conference you wish to attend and registered, there are a few things you should do before you arrive.
Print off the conference schedule, which should be easily found on their website and/or social media.
Then, take a highlighter and pick what sessions you want to attend. If you can’t make up your mind yet, don’t worry! Sometimes sessions are moved or canceled, making the choice easier for you.
Looking over the schedule beforehand helps you to be better prepared when you actually arrive. It prevents you from rushing your choices while standing in the lobby, five minutes before the first speaker starts.
Be sure to take your highlighted schedule to the conference. They’ll give you the most recent one when you come in, but this way you can quickly mark your new one with all the sessions you wanted to attend. Always follow the schedule they give you at the door. You don’t want to get caught off guard with canceled or moved sessions.
This is also a good time to schedule your author/agent/editor appointment. Not all conferences have these, but most bigger ones will. You’ll want to grab your spot as soon as possible. Be sure to read the short bios about who you could meet. You certainly don’t want to show up to talk about your YA fantasy to a guy who said he only wanted to talk about devotionals for children. (Tip: a week or two before the conference, check out the sign-up sheet again. You might be able to get a bonus appointment.)
Research the Speakers
This is pretty fun to do. On the website, there should be a list of all the professionals attending. They are sometimes called the “faculty.”
You’ll probably want to print this off too.
Study the brief bios and link the headshots with names, so you can recognize the faculty. This will help you feel a bit less nervous. If you know what an agent looks like, you won’t sit down at your appointment and wonder who the strange man sitting across from you is.
Take extra time researching the person you have a one-on-one appointment with. Go to their website. If they’ve written books, read one, or at least study their summaries. Follow them on social media if you can.
Learn as much about them as you can and always remember, they aren’t superheroes. They are human too. If you get a chance to casually talk to them (over a meal, standing in line, before a session) try asking them about their dog or something unrelated to writing. Show a genuine interest in them.
Prepare Your Questions
If you have a one-on-one appointment, write out the questions you want to ask before you go. Make a crazy list of every question you can think of, serious or ridiculous. Then, organize them by importance, deleting the really dumb ones (like “Do you like Star Wars?” I wrote that one down once while brainstorming questions.).
Take your list to your appointment. Don’t be upset if you don’t get through all of them or if you get off track. That’s why you put the most important questions at the beginning. If you have follow-up questions, ask them! If you don’t understand something, ask them to clarify. And don’t forget to take notes—write down writing tools they recommend, websites, publications, books, etc.
Know What You Are Writing About
When someone asks you what you’re writing about, it’s super easy to freeze, then mumble, “uh, it’s about an elf and a bunch of humans in the woods.” Be prepared, don’t worry about memorizing anything, just be sure to have a good grasp on the gist of your story. For example, with my WIP, I could say, “It’s a YA fantasy about a group of humans and elves trying to put the true king back on the throne after he was ousted from the throne by his younger brother.”
I hope these four tips help you to be better prepared when you attend your writing conference! The most important thing to remember is to be confident, no matter how much you prepared. Just because you know a bunch of facts about the faculty doesn’t mean that the conference will go smoothly for you. But being prepared lowers the chances of a bad experience.