Tuesday, April 4, 2017

3 Tips to Get the Most From Your Next Writing Conference

by Cynthia Owens 

Three tips? Surely there are more. There are, but I want us to focus on the ones that will make a real impact on your writing life. If you attend a conference and do just these three things, you’ll not only gain value from that event, you’ll be taking positive steps in advancing your writing career.

If you’ve decided to attend a writer’s conference, you probably already have a specific priority in mind. There’s a set of classes you want to take, a key editor or agent you need to meet, or an author you want to question for career advice. Each of these priorities highlights a different benefit of conferences. To gain the most value from your experience, it’s important to take advantage of all the benefit areas.

Benefit Areas and Tips
1. Writing Craft – For some of us, conferences are primarily about learning craft. We focus on attending classes to learn writing techniques, grow in our skills, or get insider information for a particular genre. The material shared is amazing, but it’s only going to impact our writing if we put it into practice. Let’s make sure that happens.
  • Tip # 1 - Getting Value from Workshops and Speakers: When attending a class or keynote speech, write down the top tips the presenter shares. Then, before you move to your next class, pick one you are going to apply. Commit to implementing this tip as soon as you return home.

You may be thinking, “Why would I select just one? I’ll be getting scads of great information, and it’s all valuable.” True, but so many times we collect notes, get home, and become overwhelmed with everything we need to do.

The flood of information that had us teeming with ideas at the conference creates a kind of vapor lock after the event.  Questions like “How will I ever learn all these skills?” or “Where do I begin?” keep us from moving forward in our work. But, implementing one tip per class provides us a simple place to start. It’s clear, achievable, and will insure we gain value from each session we attend.

2. Editor & Agent Appointments – Editors and agents attend conferences because they have a job to do. Without writers, they don’t have a product, but not every writer they meet will be a good match. We have to show them we’re the professionals they want to engage.

While we’re at the conference we can do this by listening and asking informed questions. But after the conference, there is one action that will set us apart from the majority of other attendees they meet.
  • Tip # 2 - Getting Value from Editor and Agent Appointments: Submit your work.

Yes, it’s that simple. Talk with any editor or agent. Beyond not getting strong submissions or ones that don’t match their needs, a big frustration they have is when authors don’t submit material that’s been requested.

You may think that’s bizarre. An editor asked for my work at a conference? Of course, I’m going to submit! Keep that mindset. If an editor or agent asks for your work, send it in. That simple step will elevate your professionalism. Submit your work on time and in the correct format and you’ll have surpassed about 90% of other writers.

By showing editors and agents you meet your commitments, follow their guidelines, and don’t waste their time, you’ll be developing a positive relationship. Even if your writing doesn’t meet their current needs, you’ll have established yourself as someone reliable. When an opportunity arises in the future that does match your talents, they’ll be more than happy to look at your work again.

3. Networking – We’re writers, solitary creatures generally more comfortable at a keyboard than a cocktail party. However, networking with other industry professionals is one of the most valuable and overlooked reasons for attending a conference.
  • Tip #3 – Getting Value from Other Attendees: For each day of the conference, talk and exchange business cards with three people.

When counting your three people, you can include the editor you met during your appointment or that special author you admire, but don’t restrict your focus to high-level insiders. The person sitting next to you in the workshop or at the lunch table has value, too. Talk with them. Connect with them. Learn what their goals and writing challenges are. You may know something that can help them, and at some point they may be able to help you, too. Remember, every famous writer you’ve ever read started as just another face in the crowd. 

These are my top conference tips. What are yours? How do you squeeze every ounce of value from the conferences you attend? 


Cynthia Owens is The Efficiency Addict, a technical trainer helping writers, speakers and small business owners work more effectively. She runs www.TheEfficiencyAddict.com, which specializes in computer training, business organization, career development and event coordination. 

Connect with Cynthia on Twitter and Pinterest.

Organizing Your Computer for Writers and Speakers
Organizing Your Computer for Writers and Speakers is a 32-page mini book packed with tips, practical advice and step-by-step methods to help writers and speakers take control of their computing spaces. What’s inside:
  • The 5 Core Folders critical to organizing a writer or speaker’s computer.
  • Tips on why your writing or speaking files are actually the third most important files you keep.
  • What information you should be tracking for your speaking engagements and why its so important.
  • How to easily organize and later find research documents you’ve collected.
  • Free bonus materials you can download to simplify your organizing process.
Organizing Your Computer Buy Link:


  1. Thank you, Cynthia. This is great advice. And timely since I will be attending my very first writer's workshop this weekend. Talk about serendipity!
    I am nervous but excited at the same time. I am looking forward to learn more and meet other writers.

  2. That's wonderful, Ingmar! Attending your first conference is such a great opportunity. Would love to hear how it goes.

    1. I loved every minute of it despite being nervous. I received a mostly positive critique of my first ten pages. The sessions were amazing. I can't wait to attend another one.

  3. What strikes me most is your comments about submitting your work when an editor asks you to. Your statistic of 90% is mind-blowing.

    Just a few days ago, a woman I met at my last writer's conference asked me to guest post. I read some posts on her blog, then suggested one of my existing pieces that fit. I just emailed her a revised version tonight and I'm thrilled that my words will reach a new audience. Yea, God!