Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Conference Tips

First - a reminder that I'm giving away an ARC of WHERE DANGER HIDES. There's almost nothing to do to qualify, so please take a minute to check the contest tab and follow the directions to enter.

Due to unforeseeable circumstances, my scheduled guest is unable to join us today. So, here's the added information on conferences I mentioned yesterday. This is based on a post I did a year ago, but I think it's worth repeating.

Conferences are great ways to refuel. Writing is a solitary occupation, and sometimes we need to get out and among people who understand what it's like to have voices in your head. It's also a great opportunity to see how other people handle all the aspects of the craft. No two people do things the same way, and what works for one doesn't work for all. However, there's always a tidbit to be gleaned, and usually a way to adapt it for one's own writing process. Kind of like 3 days of blog-crawling, but with live people.

On that note, I'll share a few things I've learned from attending conferences, in no particular order of importance.

1. Have copies of your receipts. Nothing like finding out they've lost your registration or meal choices or room reservation to start things off on a stressful note. And, the way my life works, if you have them, you won't need them.

2. Bring your own tote if you have one. Although most conferences hand out tote bags, they all look alike. If you bring one from a different conference, you're less likely to have it picked up by mistake. (I also bring my own badge holder—the kind with compartments from another conference, just in case they give you a simple plastic one. This way, I've got a secure place for my badge, meal tickets, a little cash and other vitals—like bookmarks.)

3. Don't be afraid to meet people. It's not required that you travel with a glued-to-the-hip companion. Take an empty seat, smile, hand over your bookmark and introduce yourself. This is one place where there's an immediate conversation starter: "What do you write?" (Or, in the case of a readers' conference 'read'?)

4. Bring comfortable clothes, especially shoes. For whatever reason, romance conferences are the dressiest of any I attend, but I tend to be a middle-of-the-road dresser. You'll be doing a lot of sitting, and a lot of walking, depending on how far apart the meeting rooms are. Also, bring layers. Regardless of the outside temperatures, meeting rooms can be meat-locker cold or steamy hot.

5. Pace yourself. You're not obligated to participate in every single event. Take breaks. Hide in your room for an hour if you need to. I long ago stopped feeling guilty about crawling into bed with a book at a decent hour. I've also never (so far) come home sick from a conference.

6. Speaking of books…bring either a bigger suitcase than you need, or some other method of transporting books. Most conferences are heavy on giveaways—and then there's the inevitable bookstore and/or book signing. Another good reason to bring your own tote. Use the one they give you for books.

7. Budget. Long ago, when I traveled on my husband's per-diem, I learned how to save a few bucks. Think college dorm room. Almost all hotel rooms have coffee makers. They make hot water as well as coffee. There are all sorts of "just add boiling water" meal options out there. I'll have instant oatmeal in my room for breakfast. This saves getting dressed early and going downstairs to a crowded hotel restaurant and blowing way too much money on a simple meal. I'll carry snacks as well. I'm not one for huge lunches at home, so for conferences that serve a banquet meal at lunch—well, that's usually my dinner as well. A drink at the bar, maybe an appetizer or salad. No need for another huge and expensive meal. I can buy books with what I've saved.

8. Scope out the facilities. Find out-of-the-way restrooms. Most romance conference attendees are female. Some hotels will convert a men's room to a ladies' room, but don't count on it. Given short breaks between sessions and everyone on the same schedule, lines can get long.

9. Have fun.


Maryannwrites said...

Great tips, Terry. Wish I'd had some of them when I was going to conferences frequently. I especially like the suggestion to bring your own tote. I don't know how many times I picked up the wrong one at a con. Also like the idea of skipping meals and buying more books. LOL

Terry Odell said...

Maryann, my 2006 bright red Sleuthfest tote is all ready to go.

Margaret Fieland said...

Terry, great tips, especially about the comfortable shoes. Many years ago I made the mistake of NOT taking comfortable shoes on a business trip to Japan. My feet were so sore that I had to go buy a pair of Japanese sneakers .. they were men's because my feet were too big for any of the women's styles. The fit wasn't great, but it was a big improvement on the stylish shoes I'd brought along.

Maeve Greyson said...

Thanks for the timely post, Terry. I'm attending RT for the first time this year and your pointers are MOST welcomed!

Terry Odell said...

Maeve - that's a fun one. Enjoy the cover models!

Terry Odell said...

Margaret - shoes are killer. I've got my lightweight hikers which I think will be my everyday footwear. We're staying a few blocks away from the conference hotel, so extra walking will be involved daily.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great tips, Terry! Thanks. :)

Wynter said...

Great tips! I'll add one I learned at RWA this past summer. Sign up to volunteer! I worked the conference registration desk and got to meet lots of folks and from their questions, I learned my way around the conference venue.

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth - thanks.

Wynter - Great tip. Don't know how I forgot that one. I'm working a shift at the reg desk at Left Coast Crime, and also being a room monitor for one of he talks. (Another great volunteer opportunity, if possible is to volunteer to help work the agent/editor appointment room. You get to meet them, and sometimes, if there's a no-show, you can slip in and do your pitching.)

Sheila Deeth said...

I only ever made it to one conference. Loved it, but I probably had too many dreams about the opportunities. Would love to go to another now I know more but that's life. Some once-in-a-lifetime experiences are just that.

I think I remembered most of your tips though, especially 9. Some conferencees were just so serious!