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How to Win at Writers’ Conferences

By Deb Haggerty

What is your goal when you go to a writers’ conference or convention? Is it to sell your latest book? Is it to learn more about your craft? Preparing yourself for the occasion is important.

When teaching networking, my mantra was “Always keep in mind those to whom you can refer others.” You never know when someone you know may be the solution to another person’s problem. It’s not as important to know how to do things as to know who can do those things. Being known as a resource is better than being known as a book pusher.

The same applies in publishing. Give your elevator pitch and then stop, make eye contact, and listen. If the editor is interested, they’ll ask questions. Your goal is to get them to say “Tell me more!”  or “How did you come up with that idea?” The editor you speak to may not be looking for your topic, but you may know other writers who can meet their needs. Refer them! The editor and the other writer will think you’re wonderful. But you won’t know unless you’ve listened to them.

Too often we go to a conference or an event with the goal of selling ourselves to the people we meet there. Our goal instead should be to build relationships. Don’t concentrate on what you are going to say when the other person stops talking—instead, make eye contact, listen intently, and ask questions. The person you’re talking to will think you’re brilliant.

By focusing on them, you learn who they are and what they think is important. You will be able to make a customized pitch, if appropriate, when you follow-up in a few days. Neither collecting business cards nor selling should be your focus at a networking event or conference—you want to establish enough of a relationship so they’ll remember you favorably. If you’re very fortunate, you’ll walk away with a request for proposal or even a contract.

Dani Pettrey, in her Monday Cuppa Moment 9/21, said about conference attendance, “Focus on being a blessing to others. Instead of worrying about what you are going to do, focus on helping others. Looking for the person sitting alone in the corner and join them. Be the smiling face people see when they walk past you. You will come away full of joy and maybe even with a new friend.”

Deb Haggerty is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Elk Lake Publishing Inc., a traditional, royalty-paying Christian company that “Publishes the Positive.” She’s a Christ follower, wife, mom, and “Nana.” Deb is the author of These Are the Days of My Life and co-author of Experiencing God in a Broken World.

 

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3 Responses to How to Win at Writers’ Conferences

  1. If I to a conference get
    I hope that I will find
    companions I have not yet met,
    my kin of heart and mind.
    I have no need for pitches;
    let others have those slots
    to shine their hopes and wishes,
    to give it all they’ve got.
    The bustle of the market-place
    will fade and pass and end,
    and can’t outshine eternal grace
    of a newly gifted friend.
    Love is every gathering’s leaven,
    and the only thing we take to Heaven.

  2. Sandy Salisbury says:

    Thank you, Deb; how true! I was the one sitting by myself at a writers’ conference, until someone approached me. Now, we’re close friends and collaborating on a writing project. I’m so grateful! Now, I’m trying to be the one extending friendship in those situations.

  3. Kay DiBianca says:

    What wonderful advice, Deb! My husband and I will attend at least one writers conference in 2020, and I commit to following this guidance.