Personally, I try to make it out to at least a few events each year. They are always fun, though I often panic before them and look for reasons to opt out.
Here's a quick list of reasons writing events are beneficial:
- Make connections. You can make connections with speakers and event directors, but your fellow attendees are more than likely pretty interesting themselves. After the event, try to find and friend these connections on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Get inspired. I always leave writing events with ideas for my writing and my editing. Just being around other writers is good for the soul and sparks conversation.
- Learn opportunities. At most writing events, there will be people seeking submissions to their journals, presses, and/or contests. There may be people looking for guest bloggers and/or interview subjects for blogs. I usually leave writing events with more than five solid publication leads.
- Find answers. The introvert in me knows how difficult it is to ask questions of complete strangers, but it's important to do so. Most people at writing events are there to help and encourage (whether they're speakers or not). They want to help, and writing events are a great place to finally get answers to serious and off-the-wall questions. So ask away.
Red Clay Writers Conference, Kennesaw GA, November 12, 2010. I was invited to speak at this event through a Facebook connection. I spoke on building a writer platform and attended a session on blogging and one on memoir writing. In addition to learning about some publication opportunities, I also made connections with freelancers who I used for both the 2012 Writer's Market and Poet's Market books. Plus, I interviewed one audience member for my Poetic Asides blog and received an invitation to speak at the Blue Ridge Writer's Conference from a person who attended my session. I should also mention that my blogging strategy at MNINB shifted dramatically after this conference.
Blue Ridge Writers Conference, Blue Ridge GA, April 1-2, 2011. As I mentioned, I was invited to this event by a person who attended my session on platform building during the Red Clay Writers Conference. In fact, I presented on the topic again here (with a few updates) and also presented on how writers can find markets for their work. On the night before the actual conference, I also read some poetry. Anyway, I learned more publication opportunities at this event, made some new connections that have already resulted in a webinar and may turn into more speaking and freelance opportunities.
Austin International Poetry Festival, Austin TX, April 7-10, 2011. Interestingly enough, I was invited to this event through a Facebook connection as well, which just goes to show you how important having a multi-dimensional platform building strategy can be. I was a National Featured Poet for this four-day event, which meant I was running from venue to venue reading poems, making connections and talking poetry. As with every other event, I learned new publication opportunities. I've also been invited to read poetry as part of the Houston Poetry Fest in early October and have been featured as Poet of the Week on an AIPF member's blog. Plus, there are a few other opportunities still cooking.
So that's a 6-month snapshot of events and how they've led to other events and opportunities for me. Granted, I already have an established platform that I'm continuing to build. However, writers who are building their online-only platforms need to recognize the importance of in-person networking as well. If you're only doing one or the other, you're really missing out on so many opportunities to reach new audiences, readers, and even income.
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Are you--like myself--an introvert? Don't let that fear of strangers (and small talk) hold you back:
- Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, by Laurie A. Helgoe
- Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected, by Devora Zack
- The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength, by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler