#WRITINGTIP: Getting the most out of conferences

 Finally meeting NORA!

Finally meeting NORA!

This week is all about getting everything wrapped up before I head to the Romance Writers of America National Conference which is being held this year in Denver, Colorado. The to-do list as it stands right now is a little overwhelming, but I thought I’d make today’s #Tuesdaytip #writingtip about getting the most from conference. In truth, this applies to just about any conference you go to, a writing one or one to do your day job because they both start in the same place... PLANNING! So, here are some tips to make attending a conference less stressful, with pictures from RWA 2016 in San Diego!

 

 

 Celebrating RITAs with Robin Covington

Celebrating RITAs with Robin Covington

1. SET KEY OBJECTIVES: Identify what your key objectives for attending the conference are. This is important. It will help you ensure you spend your time in line with what you hope to get out of it. If your goal is to learn more about your profession, then attending seminars, sessions, and presentations will be crucial. If your goal is to catch up with friends in the industry, one-on-one meetings and  group events will be the order of the day. If you want to land a deal, networking with the right people (at the right times!) should be your focus.

 Squeezing in dinner with Jennifer Robson

Squeezing in dinner with Jennifer Robson

2. BALANCE YOUR PRIORITES: The next step is about priorities and time. I’m sure many of you answered that you want to do all of the above. That’s great, but you will hit conflicts. That speed-dating session you want to go to with a certain publishing house may be on at the same time as the session you want to attend on tips to grow your newsletter audience by that author you really admire. That’s when you have to come back to your prioritized objectives. In my planner, I color code my appointments into:

Must Do: These are my obligations, the things I am committed to doing. My publisher book signing, my keynote speech at the PRO retreat, the panel I’m on. These are none negotiable.

Love to do: These are the sessions I really want to attend, the lunch I want to have with my favorite romance author friends, dinner with my publisher, meeting my agent.

Like to do: These are times where I’ve picked the session that fits best in the time slot, but I’m not hard-core committed to going to it. If other opportunities come up, like someone in the hallway says, “We should grab a coffee”, these are the times I’ll offer up.

3. BE FLEXIBLE: Be prepared to juggle those priorities on the fly. At my first conference, I was on my way to a “Want to Do” session, when I bumped into Vivian Arend in the hallway. She’d been super helpful when I was looking for an agent, and I wanted to thank her personally. She told me she was on her way to grab coffee and would I like to join her. Of course coffee with one of my favorite all-time paranormal romance authors was going to trump the session I was headed to.

 RITA Awards evening with Selena Laurence

RITA Awards evening with Selena Laurence

4. BOOK AHEAD: Conference is a hectic time for everyone, so if there are people you really want to meet and hang out with, book time in your calendars before you go. Of course you bump into people in hallways and at breakfast, but if you want to sit and catch up, book it now, because things can get a little crazy when you are there as everyone is trying to cram a thousand things into a handful of days. Knowing you have time-slots booked with the people you want to see most takes away some of the stress.

5. CONSERVE ENERGY: Packing the most into every day at conference can be exhausting, yet I also refer to it as my soul food. Don’t feel guilty for blowing off a ‘Like to Do’ session for an hour of R&R in your room if it means you can fully engage in ‘Want to Do’ sessions later on in the day or feel refreshed at an evening social event.

Hope these tips help, and I can’t wait to see those of you traveling to Denver.