Friday, May 20, 2011

When You Can't Attend the Conference

The SC Book Festival was in Columbia, SC last weekend, and I couldn't go. Instead I had to see my son graduate from eight-weeks of US Coast Guard bootcamp, a moment I wouldn't have missed if my next book depended on it. I'm sure you've seen conferences and wished you could attend, but for some reason like cost, location or other obligation, you could not. Are there any options when you miss opportunities like this?

Yes, there are a few. While nothing beats the actual experience of a conference, you might be able to grab a little bit of it without attending.

1. Hang out in the lobby and pick somebody up.
Okay, this sounds better if you have a friend or two at the event so you don't appear to be a stalker. But there's nothing wrong with going to dinner or having lunch with a friend who attends the conference, and have him or her grab other authors, editors, agents or presenters to come along as well. A lot of writers only see their online friends at conferences. Meals and drinks are the best time to catch up. Nothing wrong with the conference spilling over into those moments via other acquaintances snagged along the way.

2. Follow Twitter.
These days, a lot of attendees Twitter as a presenter speaks. They paint the highlights in little snippets, and utilizing hashtags, they provide almost a live feed of what's going down. In many instances, especially with large conferences, a hashtag is established before the event so people can connect beforehand. "Tag" along. I've "listened" to speakers at the huge conferences via Twitter. Also, note who is in the Twitter conversation about the conference and "follow" them . . . get them to follow you.

3. Ask for handouts.
I've emailed handouts to writers who missed my presentation. They heard it was something of interest, and they simply asked. I was happy to oblige. I imagine other presenters would as well. Many writers grab multiple copies of handouts to bring back to their writing friends and writing groups. If you know someone, ask them to do so for you.

4. Keep up online.
Have your friends or peers email you with what they learned during and after. So that you don't always leech off others, offer to do the same for conferences you attend. The more someone knows you, the better. They know what you're seeking and can glean information pertinent to your needs.

5. Name/conference drop in a query.
Even if you didn't meet an agent or editor at a conference, nothing says you can't mention in your query that you heard they were great. It shows you follow them and are trying to keep up with the business.

Make contacts however you can, learn in whatever manner avails itself to you. If you can't attend a conference, then do the next best thing - rely on those who did.


Sioux Roslawski said...

I am never shy about asking if I can snag a hand-out when I go to teacher conferences...I never thought about contacting an editor or writer and asking for a copy of their hand-out.

As usual, Hope, your suggestions are gutsy yet practical. And what's the worst they can do--say "No"?

Karen Lange said...

Thanks for the tips, Hope. I get the privilege of attending a local conference tomorrow. Am really looking forward to it.

Seeing the increasing number of events online, too, such as WriteOnCon coming later this summer is nice. While not as good as "in person", it's still a helpful option.