I have to start with a confession: I’m an introvert–and in my experience, lots of writers are. (Who else would voluntarily spend so many hours with only the voices in their heads?) That means that sometimes attending things like writing conferences with people you’ve never met before can be daunting.
As Elaine mentioned on Tuesday, three of us are heading up to LDStorymakers this weekend. In that spirit, I wanted to offer a few tips on having a good conference experience–and even branching out of your shell a little. (I should add that these tips are as much reminders for me as advice for anyone else!)
1. Don’t be afraid to talk to people. While I’ve only been to a few writing conferences, I’ve been to plenty of academic conferences on writing (I teach composition, after all!). One thing seems to be pretty much constant: most people are nice. Most people, even famous ones, appreciate genuine compliments about their work.
At the same time, don’t only talk to people whose names you recognize. There will be plenty of other people there who, like you, may not yet have a public name for themselves, or who may not have extensive contacts among other writers. These people appreciate genuine interest just as much as the next. And the fact that you’re all at the conference suggests you already have a lot in common.
2. Be respectful. Mostly, this includes one important rule: don’t just talk about yourself or your own work. When you talk to other people, ask questions about their work! And when you ask questions at a panel, aim for questions that can be useful to others. Nothing’s more annoying than an attendee who uses a Q & A session as a chance for free advertising of their own work. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask the question in the context of a problem you’re working on, but keep the question short.
3. Don’t be afraid to shamelessly tag along with friends who have wider writer’s networks than you do. (This is fair warning to Tasha and to my sister). The friend of my friend is also my friend–right?
4. Finally–have fun! Be inspired! One of the very best parts of attending conferences is feeling like you’re part of a community. I almost always come away invigorated and full of new ideas for my work.
What are your suggestions for a good conference experience?