I am passionate about a good writers' conference. While I don't think writers should sink their life savings into conferences, attending at least one a year is important for connecting with your tribe. Here are a few tips from my very first writers' conference (Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers) back in 2014:
10: Socialize with new people! As much as it may break your little introverted writer’s heart, networking is probably the most important part of attending. the opening line "so what do you write?" works wonders.
9. Attend lots of panels. Craft, business, and all those in between! If you're attending with a friend, pick your panels in advance so you can divide and conquer!
8. Skip a panel here and there if you are overwhelmed. Often you can buy recordings. It's better to be fresh and absorb the information you can.
7. Sleep. It's the best way to avoid the dreaded Con Crud.
6. If you're just attending panels, dress comfortably but be neat. Layers and comfy shoes are important. Hotel AC can be unbearable, so be prepared. If you’re pitching to an agent or editor, kick it up a notch. No one expects a suit, but professional attire makes a good impression.
5. BarCon (the unofficial gathering at the bar after the evening festivities is the best way to make contacts. Many people who don't attend the conference will come to socialize, so it's a golden opportunity to make new writer friends.
4. If you're new to the biz, go ahead and pay for the extras that make sense for you. The content you can find in these extra critiques, master classes, and bonus workshops are all invaluable.
3. Bring business cards and pass then out a lot. Ask for those from people you jibe with. You don't have to go for expensive premium cards, but they should reflect you and your genre. Include your email and social media contacts. Often a picture is a nice touch!
2. Don’t bother bringing paper copies of your work. They will collect dust. Even if an agent falls in love with your work, they don't want to lug it home on the plane. Many won't even take business cards for that reason. An exception: read the panel descriptions to see if you need pages for various workshopping opportunities.
1. Remember, the people at this conference aren't your competition. They're your tribe. There is room for all of us at the top if we lift one another up. Make friends, and enjoy the experience!