Later this week, I will be attending the Chicago-North Spring Fling conference. I already know some of the people who will be attending. But I'll meet many more. In order to make the most of the conference, I will go prepared.
First, as with all conferences, I will confirm the dates and times of the conference, arrange any necessary travel (taxi, airplane, etc.) and confirm my hotel reservations if staying overnight. If driving, I'll print out driving directions, even though I have a GPS, because it's not always accurate. I write the phone number of the conference site or hotel on the directions in case I get lost or traffic has me delayed.
Before I pack, I check the dress code, and select outfits accordingly. I always bring an extra set of clothes just in case there is a wardrobe malfunction or other emergency. I pack outfits that coordinate with each other to keep shoes and accessories to a minimum. And I always pack a sweater or shawl, even in the middle of summer because conference rooms are usually cold. Bottled water is a must to keep me hydrated.
Once I'm taken care of, I collect all the business-type items I will need, like notebooks and pens, and a bag or tote to carry everything. Even though the hotel or conference sometimes supplies these items, I don't want to take the chance, so I come prepared. If I'm presenting, I'll need my laptop, or at least my presentation on a flash drive, my notes, a newsletter sign-up sheet, and any giveaways or handouts I'll have for the audience. I always check with the coordinator to see what guidelines they have for promotion/advertising. I also like to bring my name tag, just in case there is an error with the conference tag. My camera is optional, as I can use my phone for that also.
Most important, I'll bring plenty of business cards. This is vital when meeting someone. It gives both of us a way to connect after conference. When first meeting someone, I ask for the other person's card first before offering my own. After accepting their card, I take the time to make a notation on the back, identifying where I met the person, what they write, and any other interesting facts about them. For example, if I meet another historical writer who has been to London recently and talked about the wonderful book stores there, I'll write that on the card. When I'm planning my own trip, I can look through my cards for the "London book stores" note, then drop the person an e-mail and ask them for the names of the stores.
I'll probably meet agents and editors at conference. If he/she hands me their card, and mentions they like Victorian romances, I'll write "Victorian" on the card. Then, when I'm ready to submit, I'll try them first, since I know they like the time period about which I write.
I maintain a professional image at all times while at conference. I never talk about anyone in the industry (unless it's good) in the elevator or at gatherings. I don't know who knows whom, and might take it back to that person. The writing industry is small and I don't want to give bad impressions to anyone.
Finally, conference doesn't end when I walk out the door. If an agent or editor asks for a submission, I send it out as soon as possible. I also drop a note to those persons whose cards I collected and thank them for their time. This is a good time to invite them to visit my web page, "LIKE" me on Facebook, sign up for my newsletter, or follow my blog. I don't ask for this all at once, though! I'll usually invite them to visit my web site, then add links to the rest in my email signature.
Writing is fun, and competitive! Being prepared can make the difference between failure and success.