Okay, so now you’ve picked your conference, and you’ve made the arrangements for travel, hotel, vacation time, and otherwise covered your home life…are you ready to go to the conference yet?
1) Is there a deadline for submissions for critiques or workshops?
If there is, make sure you hit it. Don’t make a habit of being late on deadlines. You will make the conference organizer’s head explode. Conference organizers are generally unpaid volunteers in charge of making sure that everything gets to everyone in time to have everything ready for the conference to start. Be courteous to them, and don’t make their job harder.
If you’re late enough times, you will get a bad reputation. It’s not one you want. Part of going to conferences is building professional contacts and a professional reputation. Remember as well that it has been the conference organizer who is coordinating with the publishing professionals coming to the conference. Be very protective of your reputation. Hit your deadlines.
2) Pack your conference bag.
When I’m headed to a conference, I have a shoulder bag that I carry. If the conference actually gives me a bag, I have a tendency to go dump it in the hotel room with whatever conference materials I’m not wild about carting around all day and I end up with the bag I’m used to carrying.
I use the same bag for work conferences as well.
In that bag, I will carry the following:
- Manila file folders containing snippets of projects I’m working on/submitting
- A legal pad or notebook for taking notes
- My netbook (I love that it fits in the bag so easily!)
- A couple of pens
- Business cards
- The conference schedule
- Breath mints/gum/cough drops
- A bottle of water
That’s about it. I don’t carry a ton of stuff. I do NOT carry an entire novel manuscript, but I might have the first chapter or so to show people if they ask. If I have a short story I’m subbing around, I might have a copy of the entire story; depending on how long it is (most of my shorts are around 5K words, which are only 17 pages).
In my pockets, I’ll have my cell phone, my flash drive, my keys and a small wallet. There’s really no reason to have more, and I have no desire to carry around a purse and a shoulder bag. I’m not a Sherpa. There’s no reason to carry around more than necessary.
3) Read up on the conference before you pack.
That’s a typo, right? It should be read up on the conference before you GO? Nope. You read it correctly.
I went to a conference where I had not realized the extent of the costumes that would be happening. I’m not big into cosplay, but I did feel a little like a sore thumb because I hadn’t even thought to do something minor to fit in. Even some minor glitter makeup would have been enough.
I’ve been to a conference that I didn’t realize how cold the conference rooms get, and didn’t have a thick enough sweatshirt to stay warm.
I’ve been to a workshop where I really wished I’d made pitch appointments that I hadn’t realized were available. And then didn’t feel prepared to just step in and pitch.
You see what I mean?
Search around on the web, even if it’s not clear on the conference website. Some writer’s resource sites have links on past conferences/conventions/workshops. Check out Absolute Write. Also sometimes you can find blog posts from previous attendees just by Googling the name of the conference.
4) Packing your suitcase.
You know, we’re all adults. I assume that people will know how to pack their own suitcase. Here are some things I have found that you probably do NOT want to forget.
- Preferred headache/pain reliever (i.e., Advil, Tylenol, aspirin)
- A travel packet of Pepto-Bismol chewable tablets or small roll of Tums or similar
- Any allergy medication or required prescription medication.
- Sweatshirt/jacket, even in the summer
I’ve found that people will knock back a few more drinks than normal at a conference. They don’t eat as healthy as they would at home. They’re not sleeping as much, and are putting in eighteen to twenty hours a day awake and running at full tilt. Some are in an area that they are not used to, and allergies can erupt. (That would be me.)
If you’ve found that travel will throw off your internal machine, be prepared. And please, do not forget your prescription meds. You need to be at the top of your game to go to a conference. If you’re anything like me, you’ll wear yourself out while you’re there.
5) Eat really healthy for a couple of days before you leave and be prepared to do so when you get back.
If you’re at a conference, you’ll eat most of your meals at the con or in food courts and restaurants. (See suggestion for Pepto-Bismol in #4).
Some conferences will provide meals, and sometimes they’re even healthy. That’s the exception, not the rule. I heard someone at the last conference I attended remark that going to a conference is like being back in college for a long weekend. It’s true, but I think even college students eat better over the long haul than writers do over a conference weekend.
Next time…AT THE CONFERENCE…