Welcome to the official blog of Maumee Valley Romance Writers of America! We're a local writers' group in the Toledo, Ohio area. Most of us write romance, but we also have members who write other genres too. New members are always welcome to visit or join the group. See the meetings page for details. We post every Monday and Friday about all things book-related. Whether you're a writer, reader, or both, we hope you'll stop by often and get to know our dozen contributors.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Networking at Writing Conferences

Ahhh, networking...sounds scary to some of you doesn't it?

But with the RT Book Lovers Conference coming up in Chicago next week, I think its something we could all use a refresher on. We spend so much time making "computer" friends and writing that sometimes the idea of face to face networking can be daunting.

Trust me, everyone has something they can use to their advantage while networking at a conference... even if the very ideas of talking to strangers makes your hands sweat.

And why should you trust what I have to say? Well for those of you who know me personally, I'm outgoing and usually have a lot of success when I attend conferences.

But here's the thing: None of it was accidental.

I remember someone laughing the first time I went to RWA Nationals when I said I didn’t care what classes I was taking because I was just going to hang out in the bar. It may have sounded silly but it was part of my plan. I went there to make connections and meet people.I knew people would be at the bar and I was going to meet them.

I had a plan! Was it perfect? No, but I had one.

I have been networking professionally for my career since 94. Being a hairdresser is all about selling yourself, making good first impressions, being prepared, executing a good service and follow up. Same things one needs to network and network well.

So I would like to pass on some of the things I have learned.

Possibly the most important of all is:

PREPARATION

This is the hard part. Just like plotting your book, all good things come from good preparation. Its more than just business cards but planning what to say and where to go. I tried to break it into four easy steps.


1. WHAT IS YOUR AGENDA?

Why you are at the conference?To improve your craft?
Meet an agent?
Pitch your books?
Meet other authors?
All of the above?

My personal goal is always to make a good connection with one person each day. Just one...now come on, that isn't that hard when you think about it. Just one.

If your goal is to take a lot of classes, then your best chance of meeting people is in the classroom. So don’t sit with your friends. Find a stranger.

Personally, I would caution against only focusing on classes while attending a conference. There are great things you can learn but you can do that at home online, too. If you spent the money to attend a big conference you need to network.

Remember: Everyone else is there to network too!


2. MAKE A GAME PLAN

a. Dress for success. Sounds like a no brainer, but you would be surprised by what some people think is acceptable. You should look your best at all times, like you’re on a job interview for your dream job.

NO SWEATPANTS!!!! Get out your make-up, ladies!!! No frumpkins allowed.Writing is a business and just because we can wear sweat pants while we work, doesn't mean we can at a conference!

b. Identify where are you most comfortable meeting people?

The biggest part of networking is being where the people are so golden opportunities don’t pass you up.
There are basic places you meet people:

Café
elevator
classes
bar

So think of the places you feel comfortable and put them into your plans to be there you wont miss serendipity stopping by.

Are you an early riser? The coffee shop.

Are classes your fave place? Sit buy a stranger.

Bit of a lush like yours truly? The bar. And frankly this is where 80% is done, is a great place to make friends!

Over wine sudden friendship springs....

c. Before you get on the plane, make sure you have an active Facebook account because I guarantee 90% of the people you meet will ask. And its becoming almost unacceptable not to have one.



3. BUSINESS CARDS AND PROMO

My favorite!

This is possibly the most important thing in preparation after psyching yourself up.

Once the conference is over and everyone has gone home this is all they have of you.

Things to avoid when making your business cards:

a. Shiny paper. The person who gets it can't make notes about who you are if its shiny.

b. Busy, dark backgrounds. If you use a dark card, make sure the back is white so people can write notes about you.

c. I would avoid putting your face on your card if you are using something you think is sexy or if your face consumes more than 1/4 or the card. If you put a pic of yourself on the card...think Real Estate Agent, where their face is in a box next to their name.

Your name and contact info are THE MOST IMPORTANT THING not some sexy/fun picture or an overexposed pic of your face.

d. I would even caution against having more than one book cover on the card. It tends to get busy

A busy crowded card is a forgotten card. KISS: Keep it simple stupid

If you want your cover on the card, make sure it is a thumbnail pic and your name is the most prominent feature.

e. Clear concise font, no fancy swirly stuff no one can read. Preferably a pale background with a matte finish.

They will get a lot of cards and you don't want them to forget you!

f. ALWAYS have your promo material handy. Maybe paperclip the card to your bookmark and tie it with a ribbon so you have something nice to hand folks.

The extra touches will be what they remember when they get home and are sifting thru that giant stack of promo and cards they have in their conference bag

g. Always say your name twice!

When you introduce yourself and when you hand them your card. Say your tagline.
Repetition for emphasis!


4. CONVERSATION STARTERS

My consultation with my customers is scripted. I ask the same questions every time and I ask then in the same order. This is because I do not want to miss something important. You can be just as prepared in ‘casual’ conversation

There’s nothing wrong with making a list of 5 or 10 interesting things to start conversations if you are nervous about talking to strangers.

"Have you attended RT before?"
"This is me 1st/2nd conference. How about you?"
"Wow, this is a really nice hotel!"
"Are you a writer?"
"What classes have you taken so far? Wasn’t that a great welcome speech?"


Well now that you have a start on how to prepare yourself, you are one step closer to having a successful conference. Some of these things may seem simple but they are great reminders.

If you would like to read some more tips on how to execute all of your preparation when you get to the conference check out the two follow up posts on my blog.

Networking Part Two
Networking Part Three

Good luck all at your next conference!!

Deanna

Bestselling erotica author Deanna Wadsworth leads a pretty vanilla life in Ohio with her hubby of 15 years and three demanding little dogs. She has a fascination with the exotic and taboo but her love of love in all its stages and incarnations motivate her to write Romance with Spice and Love without Boundaries.

You can find Deanna on Facebook her Blog and her books at Decadent Publishing and all other reputable ebook distributors

6 comments:

Tracy Madison said...

This is an excellent post, Deanna, and I wish I'd read something like this before my first conference. I remember attempting to fit in every workshop I possibly could, and being exhausted at the end of the day. Since then, I choose a few that are pertinent to where I currently am in my career, interesting for whatever reason, etc. The rest of the time, I spend lounging in the lobby/bar talking, reconnecting, and meeting folks.

Again, wonderful post!

Sloan Parker said...

Great post, Deanna! You always have the best tips for this kind of thing. I'm not planning on attending any conferences this year, but I'm sure I will at some point in the future. All of this info will be very useful. Thank you for sharing!!

Tanja said...

Nice work in putting so much great stuff in such a quick read. I like that you mentioned "NOT sitting w/ your friends" if you plan to meet and make new contacts. I see what I call the "WALL" of friends at conventions/conferences and especially at dining times all the time. It's ok to have fun and enjoy the get-together w/ your friends, but beware of staying so attached to each other that you become "The Clique." That unintentional consequence can make people perceive you as unapproacheable and unfriendly rather than shy or nervous. -- Tanja

Deanna Wadsworth said...

Thank you ladies! Glad you enjoyed the tips!
@Tanja....such a good point about not looking like you're in a clique!

Constance Phillips said...

Great post, Deanna. I remember that first RWA you were at. You were on fire, girl. This year, my goal is to be more Deanna-like.

Em-Musing said...

Great tips, as always Deanna. You gave me some of these before my first RWA conference and they were invaluable. You Rock!