|Networking is a part of benefiting from a conference|
Writing is a profession, and attending writing conferences and festivals are a necessary part of staying professional. Conferences allow a writer to gain new ideas to improve his work, to reinforce good writing practices, and to learn other aspects needed for his writing business. Networking allows writers to know they are not alone in the wilderness. So, how can writers benefit from writing conferences?
Best selling author William Bernhardt gives a few ways an author can benefit from a writing conference:
1. Come prepared. Research speakers to know what they offer that will help you. Research editors and agents to know which will provide insight into what you write or who want what you write.
2. Listen more than you talk. "...a person gets a few minutes alone with someone who might have some good advice for them, but they use the entire time to talk about themselves or their project." Bill continues, "My advice has always been to go for the 20/80 talk rule...talk being the twenty percent."
3. Relax and learn. "The best favor you can do for yourself is come with the expectation of learning not selling. If you're able to absorb the information, you're going to be a better and better writer. The time will come when you'll find yourself in front of the right people at the right time. And because you've been educating yourself, you'll be ready.
Attending conferences to learn should be the first objective for attending a conference. I don't always learn something every session I attend, but, even though I taught writing for nearly 30 years, I always learn something that helps my writing improve every conference I attend.
If you have completed a manuscript, attend a conference prepared to pitch to an editor or agent. That means you learn how to make a pitch, prepare your pitch, and practice your pitch before the conference.
Listen to those who have been in this business for years. Gain from their experiences. Will everything you hear work for you? No, but at least you can learn what to try. If something works, you gain. If it doesn't work, you also gain the knowledge that idea won't work for you. We are made with two ears and one mouth for a reason. We need to listen more than talk.
Absorb what you hear and see. I retain more if I write it down than if I just hear it. Therefore, I take notes so that what I hear is absorbed into my mind.
One of the biggest reasons I attend conferences any more is to meet and greet other authors, to network with writers and publishing gurus. I become more energized and recharged after attending a conference and networking with others in the same business.
As Bill Bernhardt says, "Go to learn. Prepare to pitch. Listen. Absorb. Meet and greet." Conferences are needed to build a writer's professionalism.