Friday, January 15, 2010

Conference Tips (Especially for the Less Experienced Conference-Goer):
A Guest Post by Jane Makuch...

As a follow-up to my recent post on upcoming events, today I offer some tips for attending conferences.
What follows are some lessons learned by a relatively new conference-goer Jane Makuch who I met at our Writer's Digest Editor's Intensive in September. Jane will also be attending the SCBWI Annual Winter Conference and the pre-conference Writers Intensive. She's currently revising a YA manuscript.

So many of us spend lots of money and want to do the "right" thing at conferences, but we're so often on the outside looking in. I've spent countless hours looking for do's and don't and know I still have so much to learn. Some things I have learned that I think will be helpful are:

  • Develop a 30-second pitch. Not just for agents and editors, but also the dozens of times other attendees ask, "What's your book about?"
  • Develop a 2-minute pitch for one-on-ones. So many new conference goers seem to think they need to spend the 10 or 15 precious minutes talking instead of interacting, answering questions and listening.
  • This might be elementary, but be presentable. Fit the part--show up showered and well dressed. I've been rather surprised by the lack of hygiene, sweatpants, and dirty toenails sticking out of the end of sandals...eewww! Clean and pressed doesn't have to mean expensive, but it does show professionalism.
  • No answering cell phones during classes. (Turn them off, or at least mute them.)
  • No talking to neighbors during a sessions because you're bored or scared or overwhelmed. They paid to be there also.
  • Have calling/business cards. has very inexpensive cards with quick delivery. Put blog and twitter addresses on them and use a nice size, readable font.
  • Ask people you meet at conference for their business cards. (Jot notes on the back so you can remember where/when you met them.)
  • Research the speakers ahead of time. Do you know of an agent who would be great to meet? If you have a polished manuscript, be ready to ask if you could query them. Then mention in your query that you met them at the conference.
  • Don't be bossy or rude. Never ambush an agent or editor. No knocking on bathroom stalls or hotel rooms!
  • You can't go wrong with a more formal etiquette. Kindness and respect will most likely get you noticed when presenting yourself with confidence and professionalism.

What's your best advice for getting the most out of a conference? Leave a comment!


SCBWI said...

I've got one: don't be shy. Talk to people in the hallways and a lunches and attend all the networking/mingling events and networt/mingle. (And if you see me, come over and say hello.)

Jean Reidy said...

Great tips! I would also suggest not always talking about your book or manuscripts - especially at lunch. Strike up a conversation about the city you're in, hobbies, great bookstores, etc. which will allow you to connect with people on a more comfortable and personal level.

Greg Pincus said...

I'd follow up on your tip, Alice, by saying "talk to anyone and everyone" - you never know what might come from it, but you know from the start that you're talking with someone who shares your love of children's literature. You've got something in common - a great place to start.

I'd also say that if you're at a multiday event with breakout sessions, try to find a mix of topics... and include one that just sounds interesting even if it's not exactly on "your" specialty area. I've found inspiration and knowledge that way many times.

Cuppa Jolie said...

I give a third nod to Alice and Greg's tip, don't be shy.

I would also suggest making a realistic goal (or setting an intention) for the weekend, not the thought that this one conference will make it all happen. But if you go in weekend wanting to make one new writing/illustrating friend, to take home one new craft technique, or learn something about your process/work etc. it will be a successful and wonderful conference. AND, sometimes those more realistic successes lead to big ones!

Anonymous said...

Developing the pitch in 30 second and 2 minutes versions is definitely a must (not just for conferences, but for a lot of reasons I've found!)

And for printing, BTW, I use GotPrint and they're even cheaper but still really good.

Vodka Mom said...

those were excellent comments!! I love the pitch comments. :-)

wish I were going..........

Jan Markley said...

Good advice. My advice is to be prepared and network your asterisk off!

I'll be at the SCBWI winter conference in New York and hope to meet Alice, Jane and lots of other SCBWIers!

Cheers, Jan

Lisa said...

Very good advice! Especially printing a business card. Even if you have nothing published (including a blog), just having your contact details and e-mail address will be valuable for keeping in touch afterwards.

Also, don't try to force yourself to go to every single session. You will hit a wall of exhaustion if it is a multi-day event. Make sure you schedule a little down time in there.

Shedrick said...

Any tips for going to such a conference if you don't have a specific book to pitch?

Gail said...

Great tips! I'll keep them all in mind as I get ready for our regional SCBWI conference in Feb. (Southern Breeze SpringMingle- we have Jane Yolen as our keynote speaker!!!)_

This comment has been removed by the author.

It's quite simple tips for the unprofessional being like me to be professional during conferences, of course i will be using these tips for my future conferences. Thanks for the wonderful tip Alice.

And for printing, i ususally go with Bannerbuzz for high quality and reasonable priced products