August 23, 2017

How to Act Like a Professional Writer at Your Next Conference

By Jennifer Hallmark

Is anything more beautiful than the Blue Ridge Mountains in the springtime? Warm days and cool, crisp nights nestled among towering mountains—my idea of vacation. But wait. This trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference will provide opportunities to meet other writers, learn about the craft of writing, and pitch my novel.

A writers conference can be all that, plus you’ll meet agents, publishers, and editors. The impression you make can further your career and open new doors. Or cause it to die a slow, lingering death. As I prepare to leave, I’d like to share seven tips to help you come across as a professional writer to all the people you meet at a conference.

Be early. I know everything starts super early, and the days are long. You can rest when you get home. I’m studying the layout and intend to arrive early so I can become familiar with the buildings and classrooms. I don’t want to be the person interrupting the class.

Come prepared. Decide which classes you want to take. The website or the brochure gives information on what to bring. I always carry a notebook, several pens, and any handouts a teacher requires.

Show yourself to be a neat person. You don’t have to wear designer clothes and bring your hairstylist with you. Most conferences share ahead of time what manner of clothing is expected and what isn’t acceptable. Be prepared to leave the perfume or cologne at home. More and more large venues are fragrance-free. Mainly, don’t look like you just crawled out of bed. 😊

Be polite and kind to everyone—the people handing out name badges, the teachers, the cafeteria workers. You never know who is watching. I try to treat all people as I like to be treated. Remember the Golden Rule. (See Matthew 7:12)

Speak loud and clear. I struggle with this, being a soft-spoken Southerner. I need to make an effort to be clear and concise in my speech and loud enough so people won’t keep saying, “What?” Offer a strong handshake. You don’t want to come across as terrified and wimpy, even if you are.

Spend equal time listening and talking. Writing is a lonely occupation. You might be tempted to share all your dreams and aspirations with everyone you meet. You’ve finally found some like-minded people who understand you. Curb that impulse. Ask others about themselves, what their dreams and aspirations are. You might learn something and gain new friends.

Have a positive attitude. If you enter the conference with a feeling of thankfulness and gratefulness over the work and time it takes to plan the event, you won’t be looking for what isn’t working. No one wants to be around a person who is negative, always grumbling, whining, and complaining. Such an attitude is likely to repel agents, editors, and publishers. So decide on day one that you are glad to be there.

To the best of your ability, try to be early and prepared, presenting yourself as a neat person who is polite and kind to everyone. Speak up, share and then listen. Wrap yourself in a positive attitude and I promise, you’ll not only enjoy the conference more, but come across as a professional. You never know what doors might open for you.

I need to go now and start packing. See you there!
Jennifer Hallmark has published articles, short stories and been part of four book compilations, A Dozen ApologiesSweet Freedom A La ModeUnlikely Merger, and Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for Those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage. Jennifer’s website and the group blog she co-founded focus on her books, love of the South, and helping writers. Social media links are:

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