My guest C. Hope Clark is sharing tips about how a normally shy writer can have the best experience while attending a writing conference! Enjoy …
Sooner or later, a writer has the opportunity to attend a conference. Many will pass up the chance. Most of us refuse to attend because conferences intimidate us. We don’t know what to do once we get there, and since we’re usually a shy lot, we’re afraid to learn. Stepping into a sea of people to openly admit we write can send quivers through our bones. But what if you did go? What do you have to gain? At a minimum, you:
- Feel more natural as a writer because everyone there can relate to your experiences.
- Learn new tricks and resources to better the writer in you.
- Meet more advanced writers who are willing to share their knowledge.
- Learn that the walls you hit (and curse at night!) are indeed normal.
- Develop the beginnings of a network, as well as the seeds of a platform.
I attend several a year, and jitters still fill my belly when I walk into a new group of people. As friendly as the attendees might be, I feel like a fraud, as if they can see through me. Thousands of writers at events and through my newsletter Funds for Writers have related the same feeling. We’re trying to be something we’re not sure we can be.
In my book The Shy Writer Reborn, I address some of these butterfly concerns. But the advice I preach most is this . . . come armed with your one-liners: your “elevator” pitch, your practiced answers.
One-liners prepare us and they impress others. When you ask a person a question, and they answer assured and succinctly, don’t you admire them? On the other hand, when someone asks you a question that you know the answer to, don’t you feel proud?
One-liners salvage a lot of situations. Rote responses relieve the pressure of having to ad-lib on the spot. One-liners show you have your act totally together since you aren’t pausing or stammering, hunting for words. You’re sharp and crisp, on top of your game. Less nervous. Before you attend an event, spend the days before fine-tuning your one-liners to questions such as:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are you writing?
- What do you do?
- Why do you write?
- What have you published?
- Who’s your favorite author?
Record them on index cards if you have to. Write large. Make your answer simple, tight, and one sentence. Don’t write anything complicated or lengthy because you might not remember it all, plus the other person isn’t wanting your biography. This is also how you learn to brand yourself. This exercise makes for a great writing prompt while preparing you for your big weekend conference. You define yourself, your career, your writing, or your book in easy-to-digest doses for both you and others.
Turn the situation around. You’re seated at a table, at dinner, in a classroom or in the auditorium. People are talking all around you, and you don’t know how to participate because you have no clue where to find common ground. Just like you prepared one-liner responses, come up with a list of light questions to break the ice with your neighbor:
- “What are you writing about?”
- “Why did you come to the conference?”
- “Which classes are you attending?”
- “Do you know any of these instructors?”
- “Are you enjoying yourself?”
- “Have you met anyone interesting?”
Keep them on one index card, if you like. If you succeed in opening a dialogue, ultimately exchange business cards or information, because this is how you develop a network and a following. Finally, remember these nine important no-fail tricks:
- Listen intently
- Let others approach you
- Make solid eye contact
- Stand if others are standing (sitting is withdrawal)
- Ask someone’s name
- Carry a drink (settles you down and keeps your mouth from drying)
- Offer a compliment
- Wear a nametag (even if you have to bring your own)
You don’t have to attend a conference with huge, grandiose plans. Maybe you just want to test drive one, or learn as you go. At least go prepared to wade into the crowd. By priming yourself, you enjoy the day so much more, and, surprise! your mind relaxes, becomes receptive, and laps up much more knowledge for you to take home.
About the author: C. Hope Clark is editor of FundsforWriters.com, a website selected by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 12 years. Her newsletters reach 35,000 readers. She is also author of Lowcountry Bribe (Feb 2012) and Tidewater Murder (April 2013), books one and two of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series. She recently released a non-fiction guide book for writers entitled The Shy Writer Reborn: An Introverted Writer’s Wake-up Call. Visit her online at CHopeClark.com
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