Monday, June 6, 2011

It's Conference Season! Are you ready?

I just returned from my first conference of 2011, the Lori Foster Event in Ohio. Gotta say I had a fantastic time, met lots of new people and got some valuable networking done. So on the drive home I began to wonder what kinds of things people hope to achieve when they attend a conference.

I'm guessing the number one reason an aspiring author attends is to pitch to an agent or editor. So if you fall into that category, do you have your pitches ready? Pitches? Plural? Yes, you should have one very brief pitch ready --sometimes called the Elevator Pitch -- in case the opportunity presents itself. **NOTE- Following an agent or editor into the bathroom is not opportunity. It's stalking! **  And then you should have a full pitch ready for your scheduled pitch appointments. And practice these until you can mix and match and just talk with ease about your story.

Maybe you are attending because although you are already published, you have some serious networking to do. Well, my dears, you can't do that by staying in your room. Get out there! Stay out there! Talk. Go to the bar. Hang out. Smile. Show interest in others. Ask: "What do you write?" or "Is this your first conference?". Just remember to be courteous. Some people with turn their name badges backwards as a signal they don't want to mingle at that moment. Respect that. Watch body language. If two people are huddled in a whisper, that is not the time to approach.

Finally, is your wardrobe ready? You need to dress for success. Shorts and T-shirt do not scream I take myself seriously as an author. Hey, I know conferences get expensive. But business-casual is fine. Think basic; think simple elegance. Black dress pants. These could be worn twice with different blouses. Throw in a black or gray skirt and you've already got 3 days covered. Interchangeable items like that will not only save you money when buying but now that airlines charge per bag, you won't have to pack as much. Jewelry, jewelry, jewelry! Take a few different pieces -- no it doesn't have to be real. There is some beautiful and trendy necklaces/bracelets out there now for cheap. Use that to your advantage.  Shoes. Know this: By the time I left the RWA conference last year, I had 8 band-aids on various toes. So if you don't walk in heels everyday, find some pretty flats and save yourself the pain. You can save the heels for the awards dinner! At least then if you have a blister(s) you're going home the next day:)

Jacqui Nelson & me at Award Dinner
So what to you hope to get out of conference season this year? Whatever it is, I wish you luck. And remember, you really do get out of it what you put into it!



  1. Great post Jen. Glad you enjoyed your trip to LF. I attend conferences because I'm a masochist. LOL. Seriously, I love to meet new people, get new tips on writing from the sessions,and of course pitch to editors/agents. But it's a trial for me because I'm so self-conscious (I'd say shy, but at my age I should have gotten past that.)

    The one thing I've learned from the conferences I've attended--and this from failing to do so--is follow up on the contacts you make before it's too late.

    Now if I can just work on assertiveness before that ORA conference in July....

    P.S. Love that photo of you and Jacqui!

  2. Wonderful post, Jen, with lots of great tips. I love to go to conferences for the informative workshops, meet new people, and of course network.

    I've attended a pitch workshop before but haven't actually done the 'deed' yet. I plan to loose my "pitch innocence" at the M&M conference this fall. I know I'm a little slow with would think that being an extrovert would help me overcome my nerves but no such luck for me.

    Glad you had a fantastic time at LFE. Thanks for the invaluable info and loved the pics too!


  3. Great, great post Jen. And your picture is ADORABLE! I've made the decision to attend RT in Chicago next year and I'm already getting my self geared up. I figure by that time I should be polished, prepped and professional! And now with your awesome tips, I know just what to pack! ((Hugs))

  4. Wonderful post, Jen, added with great advice. I'll be pitching this year so I'm extremely nervous!

    I'm also going to meet more great writers and of course learn all that I can to be a better writer.

    Love the pics. You look beautiful.

  5. Great post, Jen. I am not planning on attending any conferences this year, but I hope to in 2012 (keeping fingers crossed). :)

  6. The best part is meeting new people -- that means you Barbara! Or finally meeting people you've become best friends with via internet, but never met face to face -- that means you Jennifer!

    The pitching has to be done -- seize the day, and all that (I was watching Dead Poets Society last night). And the workshops, panels and guest speakers are great too. But it's really the friends that you meet (and the memories that you make with them) that lasts the longest after all is said and done.

    Sniff! Wish I was going to nationals again this year and could see all of you again! But I plan to be there in 2012. So, I'll just say...see you soon :)

  7. Hi, Jen.

    Glad you had a good time at LF this year. I told you it was a good one! I went last year and pitched for the first time (well, that's a lie) I pitched locally at a conference one month prior. Both times I was a wreck and even broke out in hives. I practiced (but didn't memorize) my pitch, and once I got inside the door and was one-on-one with the agent/editor, I was fine. It's the night/hours before that are scary.

    Good suggestions on the dress. I hate to go to a conference and see people in jeans, although I did wear some dressy white denim pants last year because Lori kept stressing that it was a casual conference and she did wear jeans.

    Can't wait to hear all about it. Good luck to all the writers on here when you do decide to pitch.

  8. P.S. You're right about being available to meet new writers. I met some great writers (and readers) in the bar and we swapped business cards, writing experience, and even recipes. I met another younger writer in the lobby who was also at the conference alone (like me) and we're now friends on FB.

  9. I love conferences! I only wish I had the time and money to attend more of them. It's all about the new experiences for me. New people, new friends, new helpful information and contacts. A conference brought the Angels together and I will always be greatful for that. Hate the pitching....hate the thought of it. I'm not comfortable in my own skin enough as a writer yet, I guess. Maybe it'll change for me one day. I sure hope so. I was asked to speak in a friend of mines small book club. Maybe if I start small.....sheesh.

    Great Post, Jen.
    Love the picture of you two beautiful ladies!


  10. I like smaller conferences where you can meet people without fighting a crowd. I attended the Dallas Area Romance Authors' conference, Dreamin' in Dallas, in April. I had an editor appt., saw lots of friends, and generally chilled out. No mad dashed to get from one seminar to the other--they were all on the same floor. If I had tons of money, I'd attend more conferences, including RWA National, but until that happens (yeah, right), I'll stick with local smaller conferences.

  11. Crud. I wrote a lengthy comment and lost it. Crud. I enjoy conferences because I learn so much at them. The meeting of people is fabulous - as long as I don't have to make the first move. Yes, I'm shy when it comes to conversations with strangers. That's why it was fabulous to meet my ACA's at last years conference.

    I love you all.


  12. I attended my first conference last year and met all of you! So grateful for that HUGS ladies :) I'm not shy so I just open myself to the new experience and go with the flow. I knew I wasn't ready to pitch last year at nationals, so I just went to learn. It was an amazing experience. I can't wait for M&M in September!! I think being outgoing and yet professional is the key. You have to put yourself out there sometimes but if you can it's totally worth it! Good luck to all those pitching this year! Glad you had a great time at LF Jenn!

  13. Good advice, Jen. The first conferences I attended I was a stay-at-home mom and my wardrobe was mostly jeans or shorts. (Okay, still is, lol) I packed things I wore to church and weddings and it was fine. Black pants are a staple!
    For those attending alone, just relax, even if you're shy. Remember: if all those people are strangers to you, so are you to them. They are nervous too, but they're hiding it under a smile.