By Tamara D. Fickas
Conference season is winding down, but the ACFW conference will be happening next month in Dallas. This time of year, posts about what to do at a writers conference abound. We spend a lot of money to attend the big ones, so it’s natural that we want to get our money’s worth. Experienced attendees are a wealth of great information on maximizing your time and monetary investment.
I’m hardly experienced, but I’ve been to a few. My two cents today is focused on how to survive a conference when you’re shy and social situations make you sweat.
In May, I attended Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWC.) I had a plan before I went. It was all laid out, but the one thing I forgot to think about were those times when my social skills would be necessary.
Meals and informal gathering times can be especially hard on shy folks. I was blessed at BRMCWC to have a large portion of my writers group there, so I had people I knew which made it easier. I have been to conferences, though, where I didn’t know anyone there.
Does this sound like you? If so, don’t fear. I have some advice for you that comes from my own experience.
First off, don’t stress. It’s okay to be the quiet one. I found the meal times were the hardest, so I gave myself permission to take time off from being an author in search of an agent, publisher, etc. Generally, the tables each have an industry professional assigned. This gives people a chance to talk with someone they may not have been able to meet with during appointment times. I left meal times open so there wasn’t the pressure to present my book with other people around. That took the stress off and gave me the chance just to meet people.
Second, be prepared to talk about your work. Whether it’s at an appointment, in a class, or at meals, people are interested in other’s work. This is an easy conversation starter.
Third, know that it’s okay not to make 10 new best friends at the conference. You may not meet anyone that you’ll develop a lifelong connection with and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid, though, to reach out on social media to connect with someone you met. That route may be the one that helps you build a connection that lasts.
Fourth, but definitely not the last thing you should do, give it to God. Offer up your time at the conference to His working. Tell Him your fears and anxieties. Trust that He will work out the things that need to be worked out.
Writers conferences are a great resource and can be fun. As Christian writers, we have several good ones available to us. Attending one can definitely be a boost to your writing career. Don’t let your fear get the best of you. Make a plan and you can make the conference a good experience.
Tamara Fickas – Christian, storyteller, writer, speaker, encourager. She lives near the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her beloved kitty boy, Wilson. When not writing she loves adventures, time with her dad, reading, and making people laugh. Life experiences, her vivid imagination, coffee, and Hot Tamales fuel her writing.