Why attending conferences is awesome for writers

I’m about as introverted as they come, so freelance writing — done mostly in my own home, with no other people around — is the perfect fit for me.

But sometimes, I do make myself get out of the house and connect with other human beings. I like to attend occasional conferences to keep myself up to date on the niches I freelance in and to bolster my writing craft.

This week, I’m at the annual conference of the Northwest Council for Computer Education. That lets me overhear teacher conversations, attend sessions that cover the issues teachers care about, and visit the exhibit hall to learn more about and connect with potential clients.

In my bag is my business card holder and a batch of branded pens to help me share my message with the people I meet.

And in my hand is a cup of coffee to keep me alert with all of the people and sensory information around me.

Here are my tips for successfully networking when you’re shy or introverted.

  1. Sit at a table with a computer or your planner and the conference guide. When other people sit down with you, you can engage in conversation with them, but you won’t look like you’re sitting there all by your lonesome — you’re planning out your conference schedule.
  2. Keep those business cards handy, especially when you’re in the exhibit hall. You never know when you’ll find the right person to give one to, and you don’t want to be digging in the bottom of your messenger bag, conference goodie pack, or purse trying to dig out a card.
  3. Wear your name badge proudly — and get used to people looking at it during the first few words you say to each other. It has the info they need to know to help guide the conversation. And it takes the pressure off you to introduce yourself. You can go right into your targeted elevator pitch.
  4. Eat lunch at the venue. And make sure you sit at a table where you don’t know anyone. Lunch is the best ice breaker out there, and if nothing else, you can discuss the quality of the food relative to other conference catering.
  5. Don’t be afraid of the easy small talk questions. If you’re at a writing conference, ask “What are you writing?” An industry conference, “Where do you work?” (For ed tech conferences, “Where do you teach?” is a great one.) I know small talk isn’t your favorite, but it’s the only way to get to the good conversations you know you want to have.

Later this month, I am attending the Rose City Romance Writers Spring Fling to learn more about the craft of writing romance and to meet more people doing the same thing. I’ll be there for the panel meeting Friday night, then attending the sessions on marketing and world building (unless I change my mind and decide that the juicy stuff — sex — is the way to go.) If you’re there, I’d love to meet you. I’ll ask what you’re writing.

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