I LOVE attending writers conferences. I always come away feeling inspired having met new people, excited to implement a new technique I've learned and feeling as though I've "refilled my well" spending time with other creative people.
Over the years, I've made many friends in the industry and travelling to a conference is often the only time I get to see them in person.
There’s only one problem with conferences: I, like many writers, am an introvert.
When I use the #hermitlife hashtag, I do it without irony. I built a corporate career on my ability to appear out-going and extroverted, but I can promise you it’s all a lie. Meeting new people scares the crap out of me. Big crowds…no thanks. Walking up to a group of people I don't know to join the conversation? Not going to happen.
So, if you’re coming to conference for the first time or if you’re a seasoned conference-goer but you struggle with the social aspects, here are a few tips that have helped me not be a total wallflower over the years:
- Find someone to meet up with (my version of a life raft). It might be someone you chat to on Facebook or Twitter, or someone from your writers group. Having a designated person to meet can help make ease the stress of day 1 jitters. This person can be your ‘conference buddy’ but don’t let them be the only person you speak to.
- Set a goal of making at least one new acquaintance per day. An easy way to do this is by introducing yourself to the person sitting next to you at a workshop, riding the elevator with you or standing in line at the Starbucks counter.
- Find someone who is standing by themselves and say hello. Chances are they’ll be grateful that you took the pressure off them having to make the first move.
- Approach an author you love and tell them which of their books if your favourite. Trust me, this never goes down badly.
- Talk about books. That’s why you’re all there, so it’s the easiest topic of conversation. Authors are often voracious readers and even the most introverted writer will get fired up about their favourite book.
- Take an "introvert break" break in your hotel room if you feel overwhelmed. Know that you can always sneak away to call your husband/boyfriend/bestie/Mum if you need to. Then get back out there and tackle something else on this list.
- If you're attending a big conference for the first time, often there's some kind of "newbie induction" session at the beginning of the conference where you can meet other people attending for the first time.
- Remember, you're there to learn and have a good time. If you try talking to someone and they brush you off, no big deal. It's their loss! And it won't have any lasting impact, just dust yourself off and say hi to someone else.
If you ever get the chance to attend a writers conference, do it! I've made some amazing friendships over the years and had invaluable experiences speaking with other writers and industry people that make any little bit of discomfort totally worth it. Good luck!