How to Work a Conference

If you want to get ahead in life, you need to be able to communicate. In publishing, whether you are independently published or working with a traditional publisher, you’ll be working with others, including editors, booksellers, and the reading public. In our increasingly digital world, communication applies to face-to-face conversations, phone calls, and text-based communications online.

Being able to express yourself, interact with others, and listen can boost your success. Authors are often shy, but if you’re looking for an agent, communicating effectively is imperative. Developing your verbal and non-verbal communication skills can set you apart from others in your field.

I like and recommend “How to Work A Room” by Susan RoAne, the introvert’s guide to how to walk into a room of strangers and know how to talk to them. By following the advice in this book, you’ll be able to walk into any conference, pitch your project to the right agent, and sell your fiction.

How to choose from so many conferences?

A good way to prioritize which conferences you should go to is to look at the agents who are attending. Evan has signed clients who have attended a conference because he was going to be there.

Consider your genre, make a shortlist of your ideal agents, and visit the conferences at which you might have an opportunity to speak with them in person. Do your homework on the agents who are right for your book and prepare your pitch. Then make an appointment to meet the agent.

Be consistent and persistent

How to work a room could also be described as the art of being seen. Keep popping up on the radar by attending relevant social functions, cocktail parties, and meals.

Bear in mind that many other writers will also be at the conference. If you’re feeling nervous or overwhelmed, remind yourself that writers tend to be introverts. You won’t be the only person who doesn’t feel in their comfort zone. Attending a conference is a first step towards making valuable face-to-face connections.

Stand, sit or circulate wherever the action is

At a recent NINC (Novelists, Inc.) conference, the main action took place in the lobby of the hotel, so that’s where we parked ourselves. Many people approached us because we were in the right place at the right time. To paraphrase Queen Elizabeth II, you have to be seen to be believed.

Share your business card

Your business card should make it clear that you are an author, what kind of fiction you write, and, of course, your contact details. Having good quality business cards is an inexpensive way to demonstrate your professional attitude and they will help you to forge lasting connections.

For people you meet without cards, have them write their contact info on one of your cards.

Always follow up. Say how much you enjoyed meeting each contact. Making a connection with someone who lives near you gives you the opportunity to meet with them again when you return home.

Finally, although there will be many useful contacts and knowledgeable speakers at conferences, conferences are not all about what you can get out of them. Think about what you can do for others. Don’t be afraid to offer your help.

When you give to others, you’ll be rewarded many times over. Being helpful is a fantastic way to make a lasting impression and to be thought of favorably by people in the industry.