Conference Checklist

Midwest Writers Workshop. I’m headed to Midwest Writers Workshop for my third year in a row this weekend. I think I’ve mentioned a few times how this conference jump-started my writing career, and how much I recommend attending a writing conference — even a local one — if you can afford to do so. As I get ready for the weekend, I thought it might help first-time conference-goers to get a glimpse of my preparations. Here are all the things I recommend bringing to a conference:

  • Copies of your query, pitch, synopsis, and sample pages. How many copies you bring of each of these, and how many pages you include in the sample, will vary depending on the conference. Since I have a query critique, manuscript evaluation, and agent pitch session scheduled, I’m bringing multiple copies of the materials I sent in advance so I can make notes as I receive feedback.
  • Bottled water. It’s easy to forget about things like staying hydrated in the rush of a conference, but you don’t want to wind up bedridden at the end of the day (especially because the informal post-workshop hangouts are often the best part!). Water may be expensive or hard to find at different venues, so plan ahead and bring your own.
  • Snacks. If you’re like me, you go Hulk-angry when you’re hungry. To avoid the strain of long stretches between meals and the dilemma of do I leave this awesome panel to go find a vending machine and risk missing something, have a granola bar or other easily-transportable munchies on hand.
  • Copies of books by other authors you know are attending. Every conference is different, but if there’s a chance you may meet a favorite author, have your copy of her book with you ready to sign.
  • Cash to purchase books by conference faculty and attendees. Again, every conference is different, but at MWW there’s a table set up where all published attendees can register to have copies of their books sold. If you meet someone whose book sounds awesome, and you have cash on hand, you can buy the book and have the author sign it right there. Now you have a new friend and a personalized souvenir!
  • Business cards. It’s hard to keep track of everyone you meet at a conference, but exchanging business cards can help. When you trade cards, make a quick note on the back of the other person’s — “talked about More Happy Than Not” — and it’ll be easier for you remember that person when you connect with them later.
  • Your note-taking method of choice. I go with a notebook and pen, but a laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc. will work just as well.
  • Smartphone or mobile device. I think this is a lower priority, but if you want an extra level of engagement, you can live tweet events and follow people you meet right away if you have your smartphone with you. I don’t live tweet much, because I feel like I’m missing new information as I scramble to type out a great quote or bit of advice, but I have friends whose tweets become their notes sometimes. Social media is also a great way to get notes on a workshop you couldn’t attend — just search the conference hashtag and find tweets from that workshop or panel. This is a great alternative for those who aren’t able to attend conferences, too.

So that’s my conference checklist. Anything you would add to the list?

And if you’re coming to MWW, please say hi!

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