Conferences and workshops are invaluable to our development as writers and illustrators, but their disruption to our normal work schedules can be anxiety provoking. We launch into a frenzy of polishing manuscripts, digging through closets in search of clothing-beyond-yoga-pants, sharpening pencils, and buying really cool journals for note taking.
Knowing that some of the spring conferences are already upon us, I wanted to share the preparation checklist I’ve used for many years for the workshops and conferences I attend. I hope this guideline will take some of the angst out of planning for your next event!
Three Months Before the Conference:
- If possible, before you register for a workshop or conference, take time to set specific learning goals for the conference and decide which of your manuscripts or illustration projects you have in mind for each breakout session you’ll attend. Having a grasp of the knowledge you seek will help you wade through the many offerings and make the best selections.
- It goes without saying, but make up your mind early regarding which conferences you plan to attend and register early to avoid being closed out of small and/or popular breakout sessions.
Two Months Before the Conference:
- Order new business cards. Be sure your email address, website, and other social media details are up-to-date.
- Figure out your networking goals for the conference. Check out Robbie Samuels’ invaluable bestselling book Croissants vs. Bagels: Strategic, Effective & Inclusive Networking at Conferences (www.robbiesamuels.com/2010/07/croissants-vs-bagels/). It’s a quick read packed with everything you need to think about before, during and after a networking event. A must-read before you set off!
- Prepare for conference keynoters and workshop presenters by reading a selection of their published books, blogs and interviews.
One Month Before the Conference:
- Email friends, colleagues, and anyone else you know who might be attending the event. Make plans to catch up over coffee or a glass of wine.
- Assess your wardrobe. Be sure all of your outfits have pockets (men need not worry) and if not, make sure you have a cross-body bag to hold your cell phone and business cards. You’ll want one hand free for your beverage and the other available for handshakes when you’re mingling and visiting at the mixers and socials at the conference.
Two Weeks Before the Conference:
- Practice your pitches for when colleagues and acquaintances ask about your current projects. Haven’t completed a pitch? Check out Nathan Bransford’s How to Write a One Sentence Pitch (blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/05/how-to-write-one-sentence-pitch) and then put them all together with Kelly’s Create a Pitch Ring blog (www.24carrotwriting.com/-blog/create-a-pitch-ring).
- Get that toothache and any other nagging problems taken care of before you set off for the conference so you’re free to stay focused.
One to Two Days Before the Conference:
- If you work full time and must pack at night, pack two nights before your scheduled departure. Trust me on this one. This will help ensure you’ll get plenty of rest the night before.
- If you’re flying to your conference, your carry-on bag should include the essentials to get you through 24 hours in the event your luggage is lost. This includes toiletries and cosmetics, important business papers, laptop, and a spare shirt (or complete outfit if you can manage it).
- If you’re driving, why not pack light and leave room for your favorite pillow for a good night’s sleep?
- If you think you’ll have free time to work, pack up the essential materials you’ll need. Check out The Portable Office (www.24carrotwriting.com/-blog/the-portable-office) for a reference list.
And Don’t Forget to Pack:
- A conference survival bag. Mine includes: mints/gum, headache relief, makeup/lip balm for dry hotel air, music device and earbuds, snacks and refillable water bottle, teabags, and charging cords.
- Layered outfits for each day of the conference so that you can ride the wave between overheated or overcooled rooms. (Don’t ever underestimate a hotel’s air conditioning system! Always have a sweater, blazer or wrap.)
- A book or magazine that will bring peace of mind in the evening as you wind down from a busy day.
- An extra collapsible bag for speaker books and swag you’re bound to collect.