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Conference Prep

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 24, 2012

How long does it take you to prepare for a writers conference? Soon I’ll be heading off to the Space Coast Writers Guild Conference in Cocoa Beach, SleuthFest in Orlando, and Malice Domestic in Bethesda. It can take me up to a week to get ready for each event.

Conferences necessitate a lot of preparation, especially if you’re going as a speaker. Aside from determining what you hope to accomplish, i.e. attending specialized craft sessions, learning about new publishing options, meeting editors, etc., there’s the physical prep. Here’s a checklist of things to consider.

  1. Prepare for your talks. If you’re a panelist, it’s easier because you don’t have to do much prep, unless each person is expected to give a presentation. Moderator-run panels mean more work for the moderator but less work for the panel guests. If you are conducting a workshop on your own, you’ll need to compose or update your material.      blog speaker
  2. Get copies made of handouts. If you’re speaking on different topics, assemble each handout in a separate manila envelope to keep them organized.
  3. Order business cards unless you have them ready. Consider updating them with QR codes or with your social network URLs.
  4. Pack brochures, bookmarks, and flyers about your books.
  5. If you are driving, toss a box of extra books into your trunk in case the bookseller in charge of the signing doesn’t get your books in time. Bring a checkbook because the bookseller might offer to sell you leftover stock at a discounted price. Also consider giving away a book or two at your talks as a door prize or at the Q&A session.
  6. If you’re donating a raffle basket, get this ready.
  7. Bring a signup sheet for your newsletter.
  8. Print out the conference workshop schedule and highlight your appearances. List these on your website and other online sites and include these papers in your suitcase. Bring a highlighter along so you can go through the conference schedule on site and mark things you want to attend.
  9. Box promotional items for goody rooms, i.e. pens, magnets, and other swag.
  10. Print out contact info for friends you hope to meet at the conference.
  11. Decide which outfits to wear to the different events. Business attire for daytime, dressier clothes for evening? Don’t forget matching shoes, handbags, and jewelry.


    Nancy Cohen, Allison Chase, Cynthia Thomason

  12. If you’re driving, print out directions to the venue. If you’re flying, make sure you have all the required documents.
  13. Determine what gadgets to bring along: iPad or Laptop? Kindle or Nook? Camera to photograph authors, panelists, and parties so you can document your post-conference blog?
  14. Notebook to take notes.
  15. Sharpie pens for signing books and ballpoint pens for note taking.
  16. All the usual things you bring when traveling: toiletries, cosmetics, medicines, etc.

And the countdown begins. What else would you add to this list?

Nanpanel      Nancsigns


22 Responses to “Conference Prep”

  1. Great get-ready post, Nancy! Love the detailed list. I just signed up for RWA 2012–love these. Add to list–Breathe. lol

  2. RWA will be a great con. It’s difficult to remember everything to bring. Being organized ahead of time will help calm the nerves, though.

  3. Thank for the tips, Nancy–and so excited to hopefully meet you at Malice! This will be my first con, and my book isn’t out for another year. So my addition to the list–relax and enjoy 🙂 The buy times you describe come soon enough…

  4. Yes, Jenny, I’ll look forward to meeting you at Malice. It’ll be fun!

  5. Excellent! I can’t think of anything you missed! Being prepared means you’ll be productive and have fun!

  6. I relax more once I get there and then can enjoy meeting people.

  7. Good advice as always, Nancy. Sorry I won’t be meeting you at Malice. Had to cancel.

  8. That’s too bad about Malice, Marilyn. Hope to see you elsewhere!

  9. Thanks for the great information. Nancy, you are obviously very organized. The only thing I can add is this: Try to stay at the hotel where the conference is held. A lot of great contacts can be made during the after-hours schmoozing. It’s hard to connect with attendees if you are staying elsewhere. I won’t be attending Malice, but will be attending Sleuthfest.

  10. marta chausee said

    Great checklist, Nancy! Thank you.

    I would include extra of everything, because whatever can go wrong usually does go wrong, and a steamer. A steamer not only takes the wrinkles out of clothes, but can double as a device that prepares boiling water for tea, though most hotels/motels now have on-site Mr. Coffees. However, if you are a tea drinker like me, often the devise reeks of coffee and that is no good!

    Also, I bring my own pillows (and, if I have room in my luggage or am driving to a conference, my own duvet and sheets) because poor rest due to poor bedding can cause neck- and headaches and ruin a conference.

    I have name badges in various colors (to match various ensembles) made up in large letters, so people can see my name and see it spelled properly (always a problem at conferences).

    Can you tell I was a girl scout back in the day and was also in the hotel industry for many years?

    Marta Chausée

  11. G. Thomas, you are right in that staying at the conference hotel allows for after hours shmoozing. I’ll be commuting at SleuthFest, however. And Marta, you are super well organized! I’d forgotten about the name tag. I always bring my own, too, the necklace type.

  12. And all you panel moderators, make certain you get in touch with the panel members ahead of time. I like to ask each of them for information I can use in my introduction that doesn’t appear in the program, something special each member wants me to include. This makes a panel feel more intimate. It’s also a good idea to solicit from members questions or topics they think should be covered in the panel. If I’m not familiar with each member’s work, I try to read one of their books also. Yep, it’s a lot easier to be a panel member than a moderator, but I’ve also gotten to know some interesting people through serving as moderator.

    On a personal note, it was nice to see you in person at the lunch meeting of MWA Florida Chapter last Saturday, Nancy. Your newest book looks like it will be as much fun as your others.


  13. Lesley, those are great suggestions. It IS more work to be a moderator at a moderator run panel.

  14. One more thing, bring a long-sleeved sweater or wrap of some sort, conference rooms are often freezing. Also bring a notebook of some kind to take notes.

  15. Don’t hide out in your room. Get out there and meet some wonderful writers and readers. And like Marilyn said, bring a sweater or something. It’s always cold in those class rooms, etc.

    Is anyone going to the Fantasy On The Bayou Conference (FF&P RWA) in New Orleans in March? If so, I’ll be there. Would love to meet you and I can’t wait to hear Karen Moning keynote speech too…


  16. I do mention a notebook in number 14 above. Bringing a sweater is a good idea. Or, like me, buy business attire that is long-sleeved.

  17. sirsteve said

    Double check any promotional items. Don’t do like I did and forget to put contact information on promotional postcards and have to scramble around the evening of the conference. Don’t forget camera for pictures!

  18. Sirsteve, Yes, a camera is on my list. Putting contact info on promo stuff should be automatic, at the very least your website URL. I’ve recently changed my brochures and added social network links too. I have QR codes on my business cards for fans along with book covers and links. My business cards for other people have my phone number.

  19. I think I’ll bring along a Nancy Cohen, to organize my life (not just my conference-going) You are amazing, as always. I go to bed and dream of being you (and then I wake up, and my clothes are still in a pile, and I’ve forgotten to order my biz cards, and I haven’t even begun to think yet of what I’m doing on my panel . . . . Help me, Nancy!!!!!

  20. Deborah, I’ll need to bring you along if I ever do a media appearance, since you’re a TV talk show star!

  21. RWA is too far away for me to ever visit as there appears to be an ocean between us. I shall simply have to live vicariously through the experience.

    I have nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award. I love you blog and I find it great fun and a source of inspiration. The rules can be found over at my blog here:

  22. If you can’t make RWA, there are plenty of smaller chapter conferences probably that are closer. Thanks for the nomination! That’s so cool.

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