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Friday, July 20, 2012

Conference Preparation

Are you going to a writer's conference? I attend 2-3 per year, and I'm leaving for the Romance Writers of America conference on Monday. Which has me in a conference flurry making sure I have everything ready to go. When I was a conference newbie (and still sometimes today), I always worried about what I needed to do to prepare for the conference. Since I'm actively getting ready for one now, I thought I'd share my conference preparation checklist.

Things to pack:

  • Clothes... do not forget accompaniments like socks and underwear. This seems obvious, but I did forget to pack underwear once.

  • Fancy clothes. Does the conference have any fancy dress events? I'm going to two this year. Again, speaking from experience, make sure you try on said fancy clothes and accompaniments before packing. Your prom dress from 20 years ago probably no longer fits.

  • Shoes. I am not a shoe person, but I typically bring 4-5 pair. Dress shoes, casual shoes, fancy shoes, and a very comfy spare in case the cute shoes you had to have turn out to be blister makers.

  • Toiletries and makeup. I keep a toiletry bag permanently packed since I travel so much. BUT... on my last trip, I realized (too late!) that the bottles I refill were not refilled. So make sure you refill yours. I just bought a bunch of new ones for 99 cents each at Target.

  • Vitamins and medications. Especially if you are on a medication, make sure you pack extra. As for vitamins, if you occasionally take anything for extra energy, bring it! You'll need it. Trust me. :)

  • Cords for all electronic devices. Why they can't make one standard cord to fit all, I don't know. But check and double check that you've got a way to charge everything. My friend Camy also brings a power strip. I haven't gone that far, though I admit to borrowing hers.

  • Snacky stuff. Some conferences have scheduled meals as part of the conference, others have meals on your own. I've suffered through enough plates of  "what the heck is this" to know that I will not be well-fed. Plus, I tend to be too busy to actually sit down for most meals. Since a girl still needs to eat, I bring snacks. This year I have protein bars, individual serving packs of almonds, and some protein powder (hopefully I can find something to put it in). This is also handy for the plane.

  • Jewelry. I'm not a jewelry person, but I've known a number of people over the years who freak out over forgetting theirs, so I'm adding it to the list.

  • Pajamas. Partially because at this conference, our team is hosting a PJ party, but also because I've had the horrifying moment of having a roommate say, "uh, I forgot my pajamas."

  • Comfy clothes/exercise clothes. Okay, so I only end up using my exercise clothes on about 25% of my trips. But it's actually kind of weird how bonding of an experience it is to work out with your fellow conference goers. As for comfy clothes, there will be times when you want to go relax and not be in business wear.

  • Bathing suit. Maybe you're not a hot tub/swimming pool person. But I really love to go sit by the pool for a couple of hours to chill. And sometimes, it's so nice to relax in the hot tub after a long day. Other times, I'm too busy to enjoy it.

  • Copies of all your travel information. Companies lose reservations. But if you have a printout to show them, then they can figure it out much easier than trying to read your scribbled confirmation number.

  • Knitting supplies. I like to knit. If I don't get to knit on the plane, I get cranky. I also find that knitting helps me concentrate in meetings. So there is nothing worse than finishing a project on a trip with no backup. Even if it's just an extra skein of yarn to start a scarf, at least I have something to keep from going crazy.

  • Cash, cards, and ID. When you're eating out with a number of people, not all restaurants will split the check. So having cash makes it easier for you to pay your share. I also have my insurance card and AAA card. The insurance is just in case, and I've never used it. But sometimes I get extra discounts with my AAA card.


Things I do to prepare the homefront:

  • I have kids, which means I need to make arrangements for them. Since I'm the primary caregiver, I cannot assume that my husband will remember everything they need. So I put together a schedule and make a list. This trip, the kids are going to daycamp while he works, so I am printing out the schedule and information for that as well.

  • Laundry. Not only do I want clothes for the trip, but I want my family to have everything they need.

  • Grocery shopping. I stock up on anything I need for my trip, but I also buy easy to prepare meals for my family. Word of caution: I have prepared lots of freezer meals that don't get eaten. Don't feel bad if you find out that they ate nothing you bought. They are probably using this as an opportunity to gorge themselves on the junk food you don't usually let them have. This used to bug me, but now I let it be their reward for letting me go.

  • Provide everyone with copies of my travel information.


Things I do to prepare professionally:

  • Business cards. I am the idiot who forgets to bring them, or if I do bring them, they are always in my hotel room. This year, I am going to do everything in my power to remember to bring them AND carry them with me. I've missed out on so many good connections because I didn't have a card.

  • Putting together my pitch or blurb. I have it written out (and printed out) to refer to in case I forget, but I work really hard at trying to memorize it. Many (but not all) conferences frown on you handing editors or agents a piece of paper to take with them. Find out the etiquette of this ahead of time and plan accordingly. If you do bring a one-sheet or other paper, make sure it has a professional and neat appearance.

  • Getting my schedule together ahead of time. I prefer to have it printed out. I have a thin three ring binder with page protectors that I use to organize all of my information. I just slip my printouts into the page protectors and go. It's so convenient to pull out my binder and have my schedule laid out. I also keep a copy of my reservation information, confirmations, and tickets there. Basically, every piece of paper related to my trip is in this binder.

  • Make arrangements to meet up with professional contacts and friends. Conferences are so busy, and I've found that if you don't intentionally make the time, you may not get to spend time with everyone you were hoping to see.

  • Knowing what I want out of the conference. I heard the advice that you should go with a goal you want to accomplish from being at the conference. This goal should not be signing the contract with your dream editor or agent. That doesn't happen at conferences, so don't set yourself up for failure. In case you were wondering, my goal for this conference is to re-discover my joy.


Have you been to a writer's conference? What do you do to prepare? I'd especially love to hear any tips I may have left off.


Marta Perry said...

I actually make a list of what I'm wearing for each event and what shoes and jewelry goes with it. Compulsive, I know, but it does ensure I have everything, and it helps me dress in a hurry when there's only fifteen minutes between a lunch date and a panel or whatever!

Marta Perry

DanicaFavorite said...

Great tip Marta! I should do that! I put them all together as I'm packing, but I like the idea of a list.