Wednesday, July 15, 2015

ROCK the CON: Pro Tips for Writers Conferences

(by Charlotte Levine Gruber, with Anna Davis)

Next week is the annual DFW Writers Conference. As Dallas area writers, Anna Davis and I thought we'd tackle pros and cons at the "Con."

Wrong kind of con, but still a great film.

My first professional writer’s conference was the DFW Con last year. I'd just completed the first draft of my first manuscript and made one (yes, one) weak polishing attempt. I had a writer friend to help break the ice. While my friend really helped my comfort level, it's often good to go without knowing anyone, forcing you to make new friends.

I've been to three conferences since, and have made several good friends. But the workshops—listening to other writers talk about what worked and what didn't—can help exponentially.

Generally, there are two tracks at conferences: 1) Classes on craft, publishing, and critiquing; and 2) Networking. Professional conferences are most effective when the writer can "work" both tracks. But for many writers, this is a step—or leap—outside of their comfort zone.

Anna and I have divided up tips for those who master track (1) and those who master track (2).

No, these are not the two tracks we want to master...

PRO TIP #1: Research classes ahead of time and plan accordingly.
While many writers are introverts, you'd be hard-pressed to find any of my friends or acquaintances who would call me shy. But at a conference? I'm all about the classes, the workshops, and the critiques. I'm planning my schedule now for the con that takes place in ten days.

Time spent researching the instructors is beneficial. Specific things I look for: publishing credentials, book sales, and genres. This research will help you decide which classes to attend, and will also help you prepare for each class so that you can get the most out of it.

Don't miss a class! Keep track of the schedule during the con.

PRO TIP #2: Use Twitter for Networking.
Here’s the deal: most of us writers just flat-out don’t like networking. We live in our heads because we like it there. But when you sign up for a conference, you’re paying a lot of money and taking time out of your normal schedule, and you don’t want to miss a huge benefit: MEETING OTHER WRITERS.

So in the interest of all that is good and holy about networking, take advantage of Anna's little-known conference secret: Use Twitter.

If you don’t have a Twitter app on your mobile device, GET ONE. Twitter is the business card of the digital age. It beats Facebook hands-down for speed networking situations like conferences and conventions.

If you have Twitter but don’t know how to use it, LEARN. You don’t have to be a Twitter expert. You just need to know how to follow people and how to look up a hashtag (like #DFWCon, for example). 

Knowing how to make lists would help, too. If you create a list for the conference ahead of time, you can easily add new contacts to that list throughout the con. When you go home, completely brain-dead and exhausted, you will have a record of who you met. You will also have a way to get in contact with them again. And you might even have their picture. Twitter is a mysterious and powerful type of networking magic.

Dazzling. Shocking. Twitter can be your best con strategy.

Twitter is a useful tool for all writers, but especially for introverts and others who might struggle with a slew of socially-challenging conditions (anxiety, ADHD, a hatred for small talk, etc.).

Plus, there’s nothing more fun than live-tweeting during a class, seeing someone else’s tweet about the same class (because you both hashtagged the conference and class name), and looking over to see that person with phone in hand, hunkered down, sharing the same experience online but not especially comfortable in social situations. Like you.

Writers: Twitter can be your best #networking tool ever. #GetTwitterNow #IntrovertsUnite #ConTips 


  1. I had so much fun live-tweeting from the Emerald City Writer's Conference last fall. Great tips, guys!

  2. I've never attended a conference. A shortcoming I plan to address next year! Will definitely keep these tips in mind!
    In gratitude,
    Marissa xo

  3. So excited! DWFCon this year is going to be my first writers conference too. Thanks for the tips! I'll definitely be rocking the Twitter hashtags!