Ever wonder how to stand out at a writers conference?
Here’s what most writers do…
- Sign up to attend a writers conference weeks in advance.
- Make travel arrangements.
- Scour the agenda looking for the lectures, workshops, and presentations that sound the most fun, interesting, or helpful.
- And that’s it.
You show up. There’s a zillion writers, editors and publishers, and you roam from one lecture to the next.
If “that’s it,” you’re missing out on a big benefit of going to a writers conference…making connections.
Fortunately, a little pre-planning can help you get more from a writers conference than a bag of goodies and a frenzy of ideas.
Want to learn how to stand out from the crowd at a writers conference? Here’s how to shine:
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Jumpstart your career at a writers conference
If you’re attending a writers conference for the first time, you might be tempted to be one of those silent observers and soak it all in. You’ll definitely get some value out of it to sharpen your skills and build confidence.
But if you really want to give your freelance career a boost, making connections can make a big difference.
When I went to the Tech Money Mama conference for freelance writers, I learned a lot. But I also showed up prepared to network, pitch ideas, and meet other writers, editors, and marketing professionals.
Planning to attend an upcoming writers conference? Here’s what I recommend to help you stand out:
1. Do your homework
Before you go to a writers conference, take a little time to learn more about the presenters and the organizations that will be represented. It’s easy:
- Check websites
- Read blogs
- Visit social media channels
- Spend a few well-planned minutes on Google
When you get to the writers conference and meet the presenters, or editors in person, it’s easier to strike up a conversation and ask about a recent blog post, article, or product launch, if you’ve looked up that info earlier.
You might even reach out ahead of time to schedule a meeting, or use Twitter to live-tweet at the conference. Both are great ways to make industry connections.
2. Prepare an elevator speech
Let’s face it. A lot of freelance writing happens in isolation. Maybe you have phone calls or video chats with clients and sources, but the rest of the time, you’re probably working alone. So you need to be prepared for face-to-face, in-person conversations at a writers conference.
- Get comfortable introducing yourself. Come up with an elevator speech like this: “Hi, my name is Lyne Carolynah, and I write about travel, fashion, and lifestyle for blogs, magazines and businesses.”
- Keep it brief. Follow up your elevator speech with a question like: What do you do?
When you introduce yourself, it’s also an easy opportunity to hand someone your businesses card, and get one in return, so you can stay in touch after the conference.
3. Ask questions, listen
When you have a chance to talk with one of the presenters, an editor, marketing director, or even others freelancers at a writers conference, spend more time asking questions and listening than talking about yourself. For example:
- Tell me about your business or publication
- What kind of content do you publish?
- What’s happening in your niche/industry?
- What do you need help with?
- What do you think about this story idea, blog post?
Get to know people. At every writers conference, there’s designated times for networking. But you can also make connections during breaks, meal times, and after hours. Use those opportunities to get to know people.
Connect others. If you meet a writer who has a specific skill set, and an editor looking for that kind of niche writer, make introductions. And you’ll make connections to grow your network.
4. Follow up
It’s probably the most overlooked networking strategy after a writers conference. But it’s probably the most powerful for building relationships, landing an assignment, or getting referrals. Here are some ways to follow up:
- Use LinkedIn to connect with the people you meet at the conference
- Send thank you cards to the presenters. Mention something specific they shared that was helpful
- Follow up with an editor about the blog post idea or query you discussed
- Use social media to share tips, and ideas from the conference and tag people you met
- Stay in touch with people by sending along helpful articles, links to resources, or referrals
Shine at your next writers conference
You can learn a lot at a writers conference about the business and craft of freelance writing, marketing, and industry trends. It’s one reason to attend. But every writers conference is also rich with opportunities to make connections with people who may want to hire you or send referral work your way.
And it’s not that hard to do. Plan ahead. Get comfortable introducing yourself. Ask questions, and listen. Then follow up. That’s how to stand out from the crowd and shine at the next writers conference you attend.
Lyne Carolynah is a freelancer writer with a passion for acting, culture, fashion, travel, and philanthropy. She is deeply dedicated to empowering young girls and women of color.