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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Top Tips for Writer's Conference Attendees

Top Tip #3: Dress comfortably. Even if you're a presenter.

So I’ve just returned from my writer’s conference and I thought I’d share a few tips before I forget everything. And I’m starting with the biggest tip of all: volunteer.

You know what? I don’t think that sounded emphatic enough so I’m going to say it again: VOLUNTEER!! (I added the extra exclamation point because it’s that important.)

Volunteer because you will meet lots of people, and for a newbie at a conference, that’s the best and easiest way to make new connections.

If you’re working with food service, you can bond with the crew as you figure out where the cups and/or napkins are hidden. Maybe you’ll end up timing critiques; you can comfort the people waiting to get their critiques and commiserate with the ones who’ve just received their critiques. If you volunteer to drive a faculty member to the airport, you’ll make a great impression with your helpfulness. Plus, you can get all kinds of insider information from agents or editors as long as you don’t drive off the road while chatting. (You will be remembered if you drive off the road, but maybe not in the way you’d imagined.) And if you’re helping with registration, you’ll get to meet every person that attends the conference, and I’ll bet you’ll meet someone who coincidentally lives right down the road from you and become life-long writing partners!

Or maybe not. The point is, volunteering gets you inside the conference instead of sitting on the sidelines of the conference. So if there’s a box to check off with “Volunteer” on it, sign up! I promise you’ll be glad you accepted the opportunity.

The next tip is how savvy writers beat the system. Attend the conference with your critique group members or a couple of writing friends. Get together ahead of time and discuss the presentations or workshops and what will best serve your groups’ and/or personal needs. And then spread out and cover that conference like kudzu!

While one of you attends the plotting workshop, the other takes notes in the character workshop. Someone goes to hear the editor talk about publishing trends and someone else goes to the agent who’s talking about the perfect pitch. I know it sounds not quite above board, but as long as you keep the information among the members who attended the conference, it’s fair and square. If you blast all the information from the conference out on the web, however, you have crossed a line. That’s not fair to the presenter who will be giving that same presentation in a few months at another conference, and it’s not fair to all the attendees who paid to get that information.

All of these tips will guarantee that you’ll get the most out of your conference experience. They worked for me and these tips will work for you, too! Now, if I could just remember where I put my notes…

~ (A very tired) Cathy C. Hall 


  1. Cathy--I would add (to the "dress comfortably") dress in cotton--dress in clothes that breathe. There's nothing worse than stress-sweat in a polyester outfit.

    Great photo! I guess you'll give us more tidbits about the conference? (Please.)

  2. Ha! Stress sweat is never a good thing, Sioux.

    Our keynote speaker was Linda Sue Park and I wish every writer could have the opportunity to hear her speak. Plus, she's very funny and lovely to hang out that's my extra tidbit. If you EVER get a chance to hear Linda Sue Park, GO! :-)

  3. Super cute photo, Cathy! You do look comfortable. :) Did you speak at the conference?

    Going with your critique group is a great idea, so is volunteering. It sounds like you had a great time! Maybe you should interview Linda for WOW. ;)

  4. Comfy clothes, yes, and DEFINITELY comfy shoes! If it's a big conference, you'll be walking miles around the conference center. I learned the hard way at my first RWA conference. By the end of the first day my feet were killing me. The next conference I attended? Yep. Nice, comfy shoes. Ahh . . .

  5. Terrific tips and so true. I agree with Lisa. Comfy shoes are a must!

  6. Yep, I was a presenter at the conference, Ang. I did a session on "Putting Yourself Out There" tagline is always, "If I can do it, ANYBODY can!" :-)

    And yes, comfy shoes! Thank goodness it was cool enough that I didn't look silly in my boots because they're my most comfortable shoes! (And I put in MILES!)

  7. Great post. Fun to hear about all the volunteer positions. Again, I'm jealous you got to meet LSP. Someday...

  8. I am on a high for days after I attend a conference. Wish I could have attended YOUR presentation.

  9. I learned at my first con to dress comfortably, yes, but in layers. Hotels keep their conference areas overly cool to counterbalance all of the warm bodies moving about. As a presenter, you might be sweating it out but as someone watching a presentation you might be quite chilled.


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