Doubling Down on Conference Tips

Am I doubling down on the conference post from earlier this week because I’m too lazy to come up with my own topic? *cough* *shifty eyes* Of course not. Seriously, RWA National is such a huge deal it deserves more than one round of tips.

Conferences are both great and frustrating…because quite often three terrific panels occur at the same time. There’s no way to soak in everything. So here’s a list of trivial tidbits to seriously worthwhile wisdom:elevator

~ Always ask for a room on a low floor. The elevator wait time disappears, and it won’t kill you to walk a flight of stairs. Especially if you skip your planned gym time twice for a friend who really needs to talk.

~ Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Despite the misleading fun of long sessions at the bar every night, this is a business conference. Every interaction, no matter how small in a bathroom or elevator or luckily ending up next to them at lunch, is a potential job interview. You are selling yourself and your professionalism along with your book.

hqn party~ Be sure to accept any and every offer from your publisher that could equal exposure. You can nap when you get home. Complain about the bags under your eyes (like I did, when I found out the interview I agreed to oh-so-happily would be videotaped), but suck it up and do it, because opportunities don’t always repeat. Do everything. Talk to everyone. Those people who tell you to pace yourself, and maybe nap instead of going to panels & events? They are WASTING their conference fee, as well as a host of opportunities.

~ Always wear color to a conference. In a sea of 2,143 attendees at RWA last year, black was the predominant color. But I wore a ruffly purple shirt one day, and an apple green dress the next. Can’t begin to tell you how many people approached me to compliment me on the color of my clothes. Why does this matter, you may ask? Because it opened a conversation. Standing in line for 15 minutes at a book signing is a perfect opportunity to chat – but sometimes it can be difficult to engage a total stranger. I had lovely chats with soooo many different people, at all different stages in their career. People opened up to me in the bathroom line, the coffee line, the book signing line…you get the picture.

~ Don’t hang out with our chapter buddies all the time.  At every breakfast and lunch, aside from a friendly ‘hello’, I steer away from people I already know.  After all, we can catch up at next month’s meeting.  I purposefully sit down at tables where I know NOBODY.  The amount of networking you will get over the span of each meal is phenomonal.  Then, the last night of the conference after the awards, you can congregate with all your chapter besties and share the tales of how many wonderful people you met.

~ Hang out at the bar. No matter how overpriced the drinks. Everyone who is anyone congregates there. Example: I had a great evening with a group of women I’d never met before. Imagine my surprise the next morning when I discovered one of them was a multi-pubbed author leading my session. You are there to network, so don’t hold back!

~ Everyone is approachable. Authors, agents and editors don’t care if you’ve only written your first chapter, or if you’re on the NYT bestseller list. They respect your passion for the genre, and are happy to chat. Romance writing doesn’t have the clear cut cliques or power divisions as other professions. We are an empowering, friendly sisterhood. So don’t be intimidated, whether in person or on a blog post – get out there and get engaged!

~ Although the food may be questionable (I was served an identically sauced chicken breast three days in a row), go to the keynote luncheons. Go to the RITA awards. You will hear profoundly movin3 amigosg speeches that will motivate you for months to come. Kristan Higgins made me laugh uproariously, weep three separate times, and made me feel so unbelievably proud to share my gifts as a romance writer with the world.

~ Take lots of pictures. Because you and your chaptermates (waves wildly at MRW peeps) will never look so fabulous as at RWA.


Doubling Down on Conference Tips — 3 Comments

  1. Thanks so much Christi for your tips. I am going to RWA for the first time and I am more than a little nervous. I grew up in Baltimore County and I live in PA near Cumberland MD now. I hope to see you at the conference.

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