Survival Tips for Writers’ Conferences

There are tremendous benefits to attending a writer’s conference. Last week I shared a few of those benefits. 

If you want to attend a writers’ conference, here are a few “survival tips.”

1. Choose the right conference for you. If you’re a new writer, the best choice might be one that focuses more on honing the craft than on meeting agents and publishers. If you’ve never attended a writers’ conference, you may want to start small … especially if you’re shy. Conferences are held all over the country. Consider attending one that’s close to home so you can save on the cost of travel and lodging.

survivalBut if you can afford it—and if you can talk yourself into actually approaching and talking to industry professionals—spring for one of the bigger conferences, like Mount Hermon. It will be worth every single penny and then some!

If you have a strong desire to attend a conference you can’t afford, pray about it. If God wants you there, He’ll find a way. Many conferences offer scholarships (partial if not full). For the past two years, I’ve run a contest I call Promising Beginnings, and the grand prize is a full scholarship to Mount Hermon (registration, economy lodging, and meals.) If you’re interested in that, check my blog and social media venues in the fall.

2. Study the details. Read every word on the conference’s website or promotional literature to learn about the opportunities you’ll have there. Do some research on the faculty members and staff to get a feel for which ones you most want to try to connect with. Read the descriptions of the workshops to see which ones you think would most benefit you at this stage in your journey.

3. Prepare. If the conference allows attendees to submit a few pages in advance, go for it! Send in the most polished writing you can, proofreading carefully for typos, inconsistencies, and errors in punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. (Not sure how best to do that? Get a copy of my book Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors!) If you have something to offer to a magazine or book publisher, practice your “pitch” (brief verbal description of your project). Create some “one-sheets” to hand to publishers that creatively describe your project—and you.

4. Rest up. You will be tempted to stay up till all hours of the night during the last few days before the conference, preparing for the event and getting as much done before you leave as possible. But be sure you get a good night’s sleep (or two or three) before the conference, because you probably won’t sleep much while you’re there! There will be too many fun things to do and interesting people to hang out with. And you’ll want to be alert so you can learn everything you can … and make a good presentation when you meet with influential people.

5. Pack in advance. I start packing for a writers’ conference several days before my scheduled departure date. That way, if I think of something later, there’s still time to add it. Also, that leaves my last night with my husband free for a “date night” instead of spending our final moments together before the trip running around like a frantic chicken.

6. Try to anticipate what you might need. Take a few items from your medicine cabinet: Tylenol, tissues, cough drops, Band-Aids, echinacea, cold medicine, Tums or Pepto Bismol. You don’t want some minor aches and pains to distract you from what you could be getting out of this valuable opportunity to learn and connect. And even if you don’t need any of those things, someone else at the conference might … and you could be the hero!

I almost always come home with a scratchy throat after a multiple-day conference. Since I spend most of my days sitting in front of a computer, my voice box just isn’t used to being used for talking so much! Many veteran conference speakers have learned to put a Halls cough drop into a bottle of water. As it dissolves, it permeates the water with soothing comfort … and you don’t have to worry about trying to speak clearly around a lozenge in your mouth.

7. Relax! Don’t get so worked up over making sure you connect with the “right” people that you miss out on the fun. If you get to a group event early so you can snag a seat at the table where your first-choice faculty member is going to sit, and the table still fills up before you get there, don’t panic. Wherever you end up sitting will be right where God wants you, and you’ll get the blessings He has chosen for you—which is better than anything you could have chosen for yourself.

8. Evaluate the conference. Many conference packets include forms for attendees to fill out, encouraging their helpful comments: what worked well for you as well as suggestions for improvement. Don’t think that your opinion is unimportant. Conference directors do read those forms, and they rely on attendees’ input in their planning for future events. If a faculty member was a blessing to you, write about it so the directors know who to invite back. If something negative happened, don’t hesitate to report it. Directors need to know what not to do next time too.

9. Take the conference home with you. If the conference offers recordings of workshops, get as many as you can and listen to them after you get home. You’ll get a lot of instruction that you otherwise would have missed, and those recordings will keep the “conference vibe” going long after the event is over.

10. Write about the experience. If you had a good time at the conference, post a blog about it. Get the word out on your social media venues. Let other writers know what’s out there that can benefit them. The Christian publishing industry is all about helping one another achieve whatever God has in store for all of us.


Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/