Insider Tips To Get the Most Out of Your Next Conference

woman with suitcaseYou’ve signed up for the conference. You’ve chosen your workshops. You may even have signed up for a critique.

Now what?

You tweak and revise your MS yet again. What else? I asked the Pennies to share their insider tips on how to get the most out of your conference. So without further ado, here are their wise, funny, practical and inspirational tips!

Julie Artz: I make a list of professionals who will be there (authors, agents, editors) who are of interest and jot notes about them. Very important tip–don’t let them see this list on accident, especially if you’ve written SQUEE, or fangirl, or dream agent by their name! Also, business cards!!!

Jennifer Brister Park: Agree on the business cards! Everyone at my table had them but me at SCBWI, and it never occurred to me to bring them! Also extra paper for notes. Some of the presenters didn’t pass out copies of power points and I was writing on the back of others. If you are meeting with an agent/editor, I would have a list of questions to ask if you have extra time to kill once critique is over.

Kate Manning: To bring: A copy of the sub you’re getting critiqued, granola bar, Advil, water, gum, tissues, cough drops, your phone! (I forgot mine once), a good notebook, and pens. For prep: have a one-line description of your work at the ready, as well as a slightly longer version; I agree re info on the professionals you want to meet – even a picture so you realize if you’re standing next to them in line for coffee; map out the route ahead of time and give yourself time to get lost; I give myself a few goals for the day (e.g., introduce myself to three people) to keep myself focused on the things that really matter – building connections, honing my craft, having fun!

Kristi Wientge: A cardigan and breath mints… Oh yeah, and all that other stuff everyone else mentioned.

Rebecca Smith-Allen: What was I planning to bring to my first New England SCBWI conference? A friend (and it was Karin)! I’d recently moved back to Connecticut and was quaking at the thought of walking into my first writers’ conference, so went to my first meeting with the local critique group hoping desperately that someone planned to attend. Going to the conference with a friend is great because you have support, reports from the workshops you couldn’t fit into your schedule, and someone to sit with when you need a break from all the new faces. Just don’t use this friend as an excuse to avoid meeting new people!

Jessica Vitalis: I like to bring water and paper and dress warmly (because the conference facilities are usually freezing). As to preparation, I try to read the most prolific and/or most recent book(s) by the speakers I’m the most interested in. I also do a little research on those speakers (read a couple of their online interviews, check out their websites, etc.) so that if I have the occasion to speak with them, I can engage in topics of mutual interest. I also agree whole heartedly with Kate‘s advice––I always make sure I have prepared a short description of my work. Most of all, I remind myself that while I’m an introvert at heart, I’m bound to have a great time because I’ll be surrounded by my people––readers and writers of children’s literature.

Laurel Decher: I agree with all of the above things. Like Kate Manning I have a “goal” for every conference: to find some way to “take a risk” and stretch my writer self. Sometimes it’s pitching or signing up for a critique or something that takes me by surprise once I get there. I always tell myself that I’ll be proud to tell my family how brave I was when I get home. I like to bring something to show and tell about my work. Some conferences like “one sheets” and some like business cards or pitches.

Michelle Leonard: I usually prepare like crazy, rehearsing a pitch in the mirror and everything. Then if I see an agent, I avoid getting on an elevator with them or go find someone to talk with that I know. This year, I’ve told myself I’m going to plop down beside an agent at lunch. I’ll probably be too nervous to eat/or speak so I’m taking extra granola bars!

Karin Lefranc:  1. Volunteer if you can, as it’s an excellent way, especially if you’re shy, to connect with other writers and presenters, including agents and editors. 2. Find out what the conference hashtag is and start making connections before the conference even starts! 3. Instead of asking agents and editors the same old questions about books and publishing, ask them something completely different. If you know an editor loves knitting, ask them what they like to knit. If you read they like to travel, ask them where the strangest/most exciting/oddest place they’ve been. This way you’re really connecting as it’s not about you asking them for something. Speaking from experience, this has a much higher success rate of them asking you what you’re working on. And, if they don’t, you’ve made a real connection that you can build on whether it’s on social media or the next conference!

Good luck! Hope that these tips will make your next conference a big success!

pic of me2KARIN LEFRANC is from nowhere and everywhere. Born in Sweden, she moved at the ripe old age of three to Lebanon. After then it was onto South Africa and then England before coming to the US to attend college. She now lives in Connecticut with her French husband and four kids. She self published her first picture book A QUEST FOR GOOD MANNERS. Her first traditionally published picture book I WANT TO EAT YOUR BOOKS came out in 2015 by Sky Pony Press. She’s currently stopping through the dark ages in a middle-grade novel about trolls and giants. You can find her on Twitter



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