Keys to Success: Prepare for a Conference

Image Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards Prepare for a Conference

Image Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards
Prepare for a Conference

“Keys to Success: Prepare for a Conference” by Joan Y. Edwards

Here are a few key ways to prepare for a conference that you will attend in person. I wrote this with writers and illustrators in mind. However, I believe most of the ideas would be beneficial and could be adapted to anyone attending a conference in any profession. It’s in 3 parts: before the conference, during the conference, and after the conference. I hope that by attending a conference, you’ll learn a new skill or marketing technique that inspires you to reach your goals.

Before the Conference

1. What skill do you most want to improve? Attend the workshops that will help you improve that skill.

2. Visit the webpages of at least three of the presenters that interest you. If they have a website, read the about me. Check out their books at your local library or on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

3. If you have specific questions for presenters, write them down on 3×5 cards and ask them at the conference during the workshops. If you don’t get a chance to ask them in person, most handouts or websites give contact information so you can write and ask them later.

4. Get business cards with your name, address, phone number, email address, website, and blog. Many people put an image and link to their published books on the back. Use, or local print shop. You can also create business cards on your computer.

5. Giveaways – Get bookmarks printed: You can also make bookmarks by hand or on your computer.

6. Giveaways – Get postcards printed of your best illustrations or of your book covers with a selling pitch for them: You can also make bookmarks by hand or on your computer.

7. Buy a new spiral notebook with a bright colorful design or a composition book with a black and white cover. This way all of your notes are in one place. You can put it in front of your computer when you get home, and transfer your handwritten notes to your computer. You can add information from handouts by scanning them into your computer, or by typing what you want to remember from the handouts.

8. Buy two pens that are dependable and write just the way you like a pen to write. Put them in your pocketbook to take with you.

9. Write a pitch for three of your manuscripts. Print out your pitches on 3×5 cards, 4×6 inch cards, or plain 8.5 x 11 printing paper. Carry two copies of each pitch with you to the conference. Put one copy in a folder and the other in your pocketbook. Practice giving your pitch in front of a mirror. Use eye contact. Memorize it.

10. Take comfortable clothing to wear in your favorite colors to keep your spirits high. Take a sweater or blazer, in case the air conditioning is too cool for your inner thermostat. If you’re hot, you can take off the blazer. A good work attire for writers/illustrators is a pair of jeans, a shirt, and a blazer. Linda Rohrbough says that you want the editors to think you just left your computer to meet with them. Be comfortable. If you feel better being all dressed up, dress up. It’s important for you to be comfortable and feel distinguished.

11. Check your laptop, iPad, or iPhone. Charge its battery. Purchase a portable disc drive or flash drive. Most of them are USB port compatible. Copy your full manuscripts of the Works in Progress and other pertinent information you may need for the conference onto the portable drive. If you use Dropbox, you can put your manuscripts in it on your main computer. Add the Dropbox app to your iPad or other electronic device. You can see your manuscript from all devices. Check it out before you leave home.

At the Conference

1. Take notes using your new spiral notebook or composition book or take notes on your laptop or other device.

2. Hand out business cards to everyone with whom you talk. Ask for their business cards, too. This will give you resources to check after the conference. The more you do this, the more comfortable and natural it will be for you. Make a goal of handing out at least 10-30 cards and getting an equal number in exchange.

3. Do you feel lonely and out of touch with people? Talk to the people who sit beside you in the workshops. Exchange names, email addresses, and business cards with them. Here are possible questions to start your conversation:

“What are you writing?”
“Are you in writing group? Is it online or face-to-face?”
“How do you find time to write (illustrate)?”
“Do you (draw) write best in the morning or at night?”

4.  If you happen to meet an agent or editor in the elevator or at lunch, remember he/she is human, like you. Ask one of these questions or one of your own:

“What is your favorite project right now?”
“How do you know when a book is right for you?”
“What’s your advice for writers(illustrators)?”

5.  After your question for an editor or agent, there is a great possibility he/she will ask you, “What kind of writing do you do?” This is a perfect lead in for your pitch. Hold your head high. Look the editor/agent in the eye. Pretend he’s your best friend and tell him your pitch.

6. Take a short walk for exercise in between sessions.

7. Get plenty of sleep.

8. Eat healthy fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Drink plenty of water. This will keep you alert and focused.

9. Enjoy yourself and learn as much as you can.

10. List twenty things for which you are thankful each morning before you get out of bed.

11. Thank the presenters and the organizers for what you liked about the conference. Make suggestions for improvements.

12. If you a book inspires you at the workshop, buy it or order it from your public library.

After the Conference

1. Sleep, if you’re tired. Accept yourself and others as you are. Focus on what you want. Be thankful for what you have. Be grateful for where you are. Put the fun back into your writing.

2. After you’ve rested, read and organize your notes from each workshop. Edit your notes and add information from your handouts. You can scan pertinent information from the handouts into your computer.  Write at least three major things you learned from each workshop. You can write down more details if you want.

3. Make a top ten list of things that you learned at the overall conference.

4. After this information soaks into your mind, body, and spirit, write/revise three writing goals using the skills and information you learned. (Be patient with yourself.)

5. Writing Skill/Genre Goals

a) Read ten books in your chosen genre and three books on the craft of writing and/or illustrating.

b) Revise your favorite manuscript and submit it to an editor or agent on the third Friday of the month (PubSub3rdFri).

6. Marketing Goals

a) Learn a new technology.

b) Submit manuscripts/sample illustrations to different agents and/or editors often. (See my Pub Sub 3rd Fri blog posts)

c) Join my PubSub3rdFri – Pub Subbers Yahoo Group by sending an email to: or write me at the email address from the left-hand column to let me know. Members post successes, ask other members for help. etc. The group has automated reminders for the weekly steps to get your work ready for submission.

d) Prepare a book presentation for schools/organization.

e) Prepare a proposal to present a workshop for a writing conference.

f) Prepare a pitch for a manuscript. Go from a page summary and then focus on the words to hook readers. Keep shortening your pitch: 200-100-50-25 words. The ultimate goal is a pitch that is 140 characters long (approximately 25 words) that fits in Twitter. If you have all these different lengths, you will have a pitch to use in your cover letter, proposal, and for the rave blurbs for the back cover of your book. Your pitch is the magnetic tool that will entice people to buy your book.

g) Prepare a post card, business card, bookmark, signature for email to promote you and your writing. Use your book titles and pitch blurbs.

7. Networking Goals

a) Create a website and/or blog.

b) Join a writer’s critique group.

c) Give book presentations/workshops for schools and organizations

d) Create an author/illustrator page on Facebook and post news of your publishing journey.

e) Create a Twitter Account. Twitter your blog posts and your publishing news.

f) Create a TweetDeck account to better organize Twitter, Facebook, and/or Linked-In.

g) Create a Glog (Big Poster) on Glogster:

h) Visit the website of three people who shared a business card with you.  Email them. Here are possible points to include in your email. Remind them of how you enjoyed talking with them. Thank them for sharing a resource. Congratulate them on their manuscript or book. Compliment them for being brave if they read their story at open mike. Thank them for giving you a new way to look at a problem.


  1. Kristen Lamb, “Getting the Most Out of Writing Conferences:”
  2. Margo L. Dill, “Writers Conferences: Five Reasons Why You Should Go NOW, and How to Get the Most for Your Money:”
  3. Marita Littauer, “Four Keys for Writers Conference Success:”
  4. Yvonne Russell, “Getting the Most out of a Writers’ Conference:”

Thank you for reading my blog. Each time you read one of my articles, you honor me.  I hope your success is better than you ever imagained. To receive a free Never Give Up image logo, sign up in the left hand column to receive an email each time I add an article to this blog.

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2012-2013 Joan Y. Edwards


8 Responses

  1. Joan,
    Thanks for the conference tips. It’s good to think of before, during, and after. Do you have different tips for online workshops or online conferences?


    • Dear Linda,
      Thanks for writing. I’m going to do an article for online conferences, too. There are two of them coming up – Muse Online Writers Conference and Write on Con. I’ll post it soon.

      Celebrate you,
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards


  2. Good advice. I’m saving this. Thanks.


    • Dear Beverly,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad you liked my article well-enough to save it. You are very welcome. Have fun at your conference.
      Celebrate you.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards


  3. Barbara writes:
    HI Joan,
    Thank you for the conference tips. Many new thoughts, like, checking web pages of presenters you might want to attend, being prepared with 3 X 5 cards on various subjects, question starters-talking points for those you meet. Above all, being positive and encouraging to yourself.
    A word, or two, or three of info about online workshops and conf. would be appreciated. Being new at this, I didn’t know there were any online.

    Thanks, Barbara


    • Dear Barbara,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad these conference tips were helpful to you. I hope they help you get the most from your conference. I have a blog post about online conferences almost ready. I’ll upload it tomorrow.
      Celebrate you.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards


  4. Thanks for the advice. I’m going to a conference in mid August, so very timely for me.


    • Dear Kristina,
      Thank you for writing. I’m glad you think the information will help you get more out of your conference in mid-August. Good luck and have fun!

      Celebrate you.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards


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