Hey, everyone! I’m super excited to be getting on a plane tonight to head to Nashville, TN, for my first UtopYACon. I love writing conferences, and while I was packing last night, I started thinking about all the things I’ve learned (mostly through trial and error) ever since I attended my first writing conference in 2006. Here are my pre-conference tips to help you get ready, whether you’re a veteran conference attendee or a first-timer.
Writing Conferences: Top Ten Tips
1. Research the conference.
Who sponsors it? How long has it been going on? You won’t be tested on this information, but it’s good to have in mind before you travel to help you shift into conference mode.
2. Book your accommodations in advance.
Many conferences will have special hotel rates, but these sell out quickly: book early and plan ahead to eliminate stress!
3. Scope out other attendees.
Social media allows us infinite stalking abilities, and it’s always great if you can connect with other conference attendees ahead of time. It’s nice to know someone before you get there, and you’d be surprised how powerful pre-conference connections can be; that’s how I met one of my CPs, and I’d be lost without her.
4. Review the conference brochure.
What sessions catch your eye? You don’t need to pre-schedule your time before the conference, but I always like to have a rough idea of the sessions I’m most interested in. Some conferences even ask for this information when you register, but feel free to change your mind once you arrive.
5. Contact the conference organizers about volunteering.
If you have time, giving back to the conference is a great way to meet more people (and sometimes, you are even able to score a conference discount).
6. Make a conference folder.
On your desktop, in your email, even a physical folder to carry all your goodies at the conference: do it! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to go digging to find my hotel reservations, conference info, and receipts. Make your life just a little bit easier. 🙂
7. Set a book budget.
You probably won’t stick to it, but if you have a set book budget before you leave home, you’re less likely to go way overboard. On that note…
8. Plan to carry-on.
Checking a bag for a weekend conference is a) a pain, and b) an opportunity to get into book buying trouble. Travel light on the way to the conference to make sure you stay light on the way home!
9. Set some goals.
Why are you going to the conference? For me, my number one conference goal is always to learn something. And have fun. And meet new authors. And…
If you’re biggest goal is networking, focus on ways you can make that happen. If you want to find CPs or a writing group, brainstorm some ideas beforehand. If you aren’t really sure what you want to get out of the conference, try to remember what first attracted you to it in the first place. Setting a goal (of five) will help you focus your energies, and this can help you mitigate the lovely burn-out I call “conference coma”.
10. Expect the unexpected.
Conferences are amazing, crazy places, but no two conferences are ever the same. Keep your expectations fluid, and you’ll have a wonderful time watching events unfold. Be flexible (easier said than done when traveling, I know) and remember to have fun.