Last week several people on the ACFW email loop admitted to being shy and/or introverted and some were not even sure they could muster the courage to sign up for the conference. I think we all have battles in one form or another with insecurities in new situation.
People who know me know that I will strike up a conversation with strangers without trepidation. But even us gabby ones who will have a conversation with a stone if there is no one around can be uneasy. My knees knocked the first time I attended a fifteen-minute appointment with a known author and showed her a sample of my work. Itâ€™s one thing to type your story into your computer, but quite another to actually show your creation to another person. Especially one who has been published.
Since my first conference Iâ€™ve met with a number of editors and authors in those fifteen-minute appointments, and even though I find it easier to do now, I still get nervous. Iâ€™ve learned a few helpful tips to calm the nerves.
1. Prepare. That means practicing your pitch until it comes to you naturally. Summarize the story in a few sentences, making sure to emphasize what is unique about it. How is it different than other stories? Itâ€™s your baby. You can do it.
2. Bring a one-sheet that focuses on your story to the interview. Chances are the editor/agent wonâ€™t keep it, but it will give you a reference for your talking points. I always feel more at ease with a one sheet there. If I suddenly become tongue-tied all I need to do is glance at the one-sheet and I am refocused.
3. Remember that the person you are talking with wants to hear about your story as much as you want to share it with them. They are at the conference hoping to find new authors or an intriguing story they can publish or sell.
4. Keep in mind that even if you arenâ€™t asked to send your proposal or manuscript, all appointments can work for good. At one of my first conferences I learned from the editors I talked to that I had started my story way too soon. I hadnâ€™t yet grasped what it means to start a story at the inciting incident. At the same time, I was encouraged to keep at it. That the story idea was good. I took the advice home and put it to work. Those appointments werenâ€™t a waste. Where else can you have a few moments to gain expert advice from some of the industryâ€™s most talents editors and agents?
5. Most important of all. PRAY. Last year the prayer room was located in the same hallway as the appointments and I thought that was a wonderful idea. Instead of waiting in the area where the others were gathered, I grabbed a few quiet moments of prayer before going to an appointment and I was able to go to the meeting in a spirit of peace and confidence.
I look forward to seeing everyone in Minneapolis this September. You can be sure Iâ€™ll be in the appointment area waiting my turn. So be sure to come up and say hi. We can practice our pitches on each other.