The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference is this weekend, June 12-14. J. Thomas Ross and I will be attending, as we usually do. I consider this my “home conference,” as it is close to me, affordable, and I can arrange child care for my daughter.
The PWC has been re-energized in the past few years, with new, more current and varied topics, and with technology such as laptops welcomed. The atmosphere has been electric, with conferees interacting in a swirl of creativity and camaraderie.
If you’ve never been to a conference, I thought I’d give a list of tips for making the most of any conference experience.
- Have the right attitude. Come to the conference with an open mind. None of us know everything about our craft or our business, so come knowing we are all there to learn. No one will laugh at your inexperience or your questions, because we all started where you are and we all remember. Although many conferees have certain things they are trying to learn, or certain people they want to network with, do not allow specific goals give you tunnel vision. Be open to the unexpected opportunities that almost always occur at conferences.
- Be prepared. Know what you want to get out of the conference, while remaining flexible to changes and opportunities. Bring whatever you need to take notes. Bring business cards. Bring snack food if you need it. Even if it is 100 degrees out, bring a sweater or jacket, as at least one of the rooms will feel like a refrigerator. Take all of this in a bag or backpack that is comfortable for you to carry, as you will have it with you all day. Of course, if you are staying at the hotel, you don’t need to drag so much with you.
- Check your fear at the door. Many writers are introverts. Many of us find large crowds intimidating. Many of us find interacting with people for hours at a time exhausting. This can make for a lot of anxiety before a conference. Just know this: it’s okay to be yourself. If you want to stand along the wall and watch, that’s fine. If you want to duck out for a quiet lunch alone to recharge, that’s fine. If you want to throw yourself into the thick of things, that’s fine, too. No one has any expectations of you (other than for you to be a decent person who treats people politely), so do not fear “letting anyone down.” Do the things you need to do to enjoy the conference and get the most out of it for you.
Like many experiences in life, you get out of it what you put in. Bring a willingness to learn. Bring an open mind. Bring yourself. That’s all!
What other tips would you share with new conferees?
Join us here this weekend for daily PWC recaps.