My regrets began before the conference even ended.
- I didn’t take enough pictures!
- I was so tired today, I’m sure I looked unfriendly.
- I meant to have lunch with Jane, but never did.
By the morning after the conference, my mental list of Things I Didn’t Do But Wish I Had — along with Things I Did Do But I Wish I Hadn’t — had grown at an exponential rate.
Determined to learn as much as possible not just from my own regrets but the collective reflective wisdom of others, I asked my speaker and writer friends, “If you’ve ever attended a speaker/writer conference, what’s one thing you decided to do differently “next time”?”
Here, in no particular order, are a baker’s dozen of their top takeaways that you can apply to your next conference — such as Leverage in November!
1. Relax during appointments.
“Remember agents and publishers are just people.”
2. Look forward to simply chatting with people.
“Don’t be so on edge about making some ‘connection’ happen.”
3. Give yourself permission to be yourself.
“I tried to be what I thought everybody wanted me to be instead of being myself. I was a half-rate version of someone I was pretending to be.”
4. Seriously consider rooming alone.
“I went to a large conference some years back and couldn’t sleep because my roomie snored loudly and I’m a light sleeper. So, I decided, no matter how much the cost, I would always spring for a room to myself.”
5. Spend as much time preparing ahead of time as you’ll spend at the conference.
“It’s amazing how much time it takes to compile everything for the editor appointments.”
6. Maximize the opportunities available.
“I attended a writer’s conference when I was a total baby writer. It was good to go knowing nothing because I learned a lot. But I apparently missed some amazing opportunities that I wasn’t aware were amazing and assumed I wasn’t good enough for.”
7. Intentionally use the non-structured time to build relationships.
“It is too easy to be exhausted and just collapse at the end of the day. Those informal times where you sit down at a dinner table with someone about whom you know nothing at all, and you begin building a relationship of trust–you can’t put a dollar figure on that!”
8. Dive in as you are.
“I had a great time at my second writer’s conference, proposing a book to editors and agents. It wasn’t ready, I wasn’t ready, but I didn’t let that stop me. I went in with a learning experience attitude and got great feedback from the people I spoke with. I knew I wasn’t going to get a book deal (no platform, no experience), but I was so glad I showed up anyhow.”
9. Travel light.
“I will not bring a big bag next time. I am going to burn the Mary Poppins bag when I get home. Next time, I will bring a book bag. I will bring less of everything to free me up and de-clutter my heart.”
10. Arrive early and/or stay late.
“I will book my flight to allow some decompression time between arriving at the hotel and meeting up with others.” (This is especially important for HSPs!)
11. Bring a portable phone charger.
“So I wouldn’t feel the need to run to the room to charge it or sit in the floor in the conference center tethered to the wall.”
12. Put yourself out there.
“It probably sounds a little strange to all you extroverts out there, but I would initiate conversations with more of you. #thestruggleisreal”
13. Pull yourself back.
“I had such a bad case of FOMO, I attended everything. That was not a wise choice for me. In the future, when I start feeling fatigued, I’ll skip a session (or two!), head back to my room and give myself a much-needed break.”
As for me, my three improvements for “next time” include
- Make a list of people I want photos with and check them off as I go.
- Smile. At everyone. Bigger than feels necessary, especially when I’m tired.
- Pre-schedule face-to-face time with people I want to connect with rather than leaving it up to chance.
(And seriously — I’d love to see you at Leverage in San Jose this November!)
Cheri Gregory is co-author with Kathi Lipp of Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity and founder of Write Beside You author coaching and manuscript development services. Connect with Cheri via Voxer (cherigregory), Facebook, or Email (cheri@WriteBesideYou.com).