So anyways, I attended the RWA (Romance Writers Australia) conference in Brisbane last weekend. It was a fabulous weekend full of amazing presenters, panels, and opportunities to connect with other writers. Writers of all level were represented – from those still thinking about their happy ending, to those who are selling hundreds of thousands (and more) books…and all stops in between.
It was a chance to learn from those who were there to pass on their knowledge. Of course, it was also going to be the first time that I was standing up in front of my fellow writers to talk about something that I knew a little something about.
Thanks to everyone who messaged or emailed me wishing me well with my presentation. It went, I think…I hope, well. It certainly felt like it did, and I thank everyone who came up to me afterwards with comments, compliments and questions. I was so nervous to start, but relaxed once I got through my introduction. I’m certainly neither a seasoned speaker or a well-known author, so I’m grateful to the conference committee for giving me a chance – and especially grateful to those who came to hear me!
The thing is, most writers are, by nature, introverted. It’s why we can do what we do and spend as much time in our own heads with our imaginary friends as we do. Conference time can be, although exciting, also completely overwhelming. While it’s fabulous to meet new people, reconnect with others, and learn heaps, the noise and sensory bombardment really jangles at my nerves. I’ll post later about what I learnt, but for now, here are my tips to make the most of – and survive – conference…and be ready to do it all again next year.
- Book a room at – or close to – the venue if at all possible. This gives you somewhere to escape to if it all gets too much – and is a much nicer environment than hiding out in a toilet stall with your hands clapped over your ears.
- If you can afford it, have a room to yourself. When you come back from a day where the noise has permeated every cell in your body, and you don’t want to talk to anyone else for at least 30 minutes, you’ll be grateful of the space.
- You don’t need to attend every session. If there’s something that doesn’t interest you, simply don’t go. Yes, you’ve spent good money, but that time might better be spent re-energising or jotting down your impressions. Besides, if you’re really into the material, you’ll have more to talk about afterwards.
- Get out. Yep, try and carve some time to get out into the fresh air. Even if you’re just walking around the block for 10 or 15 minutes in the lunch break, your body – and your brain – will thank you for it.
- Watch the carbs. Most catering at these things is heavily carb based – with sugary treats the order at morning and afternoon tea. I’m not gluten intolerant, but after 3 days of eating a lot of wheat products I feel bloated and my ankles are swelling. Of course, I could also blame it on the champagne, but surely it couldn’t be that…right? Oh, and stay hydrated.
- Network better than I do. I remain convinced that no one would want to meet me, so tend to be uncomfortable about wandering into established groups. It’s a ridiculous thought to have because everyone is so friendly, and we all have one big thing in common – we write (or read) romance. Plus, I’m sure the majority of people in the room are convinced that no one would want to talk to them either.
- You don’t have to meet everyone. Smaller groups will allow you to make deeper connections that you can continue to grow after conference – and aren’t nearly so overwhelming than the whirl to mingle with as many people as possible.
- You don’t have to stay at the party until the end. If you’re out on your feet, no one minds you making a graceful exit – and knowing that it’s ok to do that will let you be more present and enjoy yourself while you are there.
- You don’t have to go to the party at all if you don’t want to. After a day of being “on” sometimes the last thing you want to do is continue it into the evening. If you’re the type who is energetically better in the mornings, go to the breakfast functions or invest your energy into the daytime sessions. That way people will see you at your best. Besides, if you really don’t want to be there, it will come through.
- If you can, connect with people before the conference. Most conferences will have a Facebook page/group or a Twitter or Instagram hashtag. Follow these and reach out to a few people. I was fortunate enough to be attending with a friend of mine – thanks, Debbish – but interaction on both the Facebook page and instagram meant that there were others who either knew me or knew of me before conference. That hashtag – and my sunrise photos – was the perfect ice-breaker.
What about you? Are you a conference go-er? What are your tips for making the most of it?