|A Mere Handful of Pam's Tote Bags!|
You’re a writer, and you’ve been to a trade show, a conference, on vacation, a craft fair, or even to a family reunion, and your tote bag is overflowing with goodies.
Today we’re going to discuss how to collect, organize, identify, and utilize your goodies while at the event and what to do with them when you arrive (exhausted) back home.
First, let’s look at the tote itself. Maybe some of you just can’t bring yourself to lug a big bag around at a conference or trade show. Me? I cannot juggle all the stuff I pick up without a bag. I must have a bag. I'll forego a purse, but not a tote!
|Pam's Favorite Tote|
The best totes have outside pockets and zippers. This one from ACFW is my favorite bag. It has a large zippered section, side pockets large enough for a bottle of water, phone, business cards, pens, etc.
Keep your bag stocked with your personal bookmarks, business cards, some pens and a notepad. Now that you’ve picked out a bag, time to fill it up. Depending on the type of event you are attending, the contents of your bag will differ.
Trade Shows, Expos, and Non-writing Conferences
Let’s explore trade shows and expositions first.
My husband and I recently attended the Magnolia Beef & Poultry Expo in
. It was a small one-day event, and I had
no idea who I might meet, or if I’d “connect” with anyone who enjoys reading
and/or writing, but I like to be prepared just in case, so I grabbed my stocked
tote bag and headed out. Returning from the event, I emptied my bag and here is
a list of the contents and my thoughts as I look at each item. Raleigh, MS
|Pam's Haul from the Ag Expo|
~Magnolia Beef & Poultry Expo brochure: Hmmm, is it possible that I might be able to have a booth next year, or maybe be a sponsor and give away some books as door prizes? Worth a thought, so I’ll keep the brochure…
~MS R.V. Camping, Cabins & Lakes brochure: No thoughts come to mind, other than an intense longing for a vacation. Mooooving on…
~ Country Girl’s Creamery flyer
~A 1/8 fl. oz of
sauce: I have no clue why or what this was about!
~Mississippi Women for Agriculture: I enjoyed the speaker at this workshop and chatted with her afterward, and she invited me to send in an article for their newsletter. I already have several pieces that would fit perfectly. If the group hosts any workshops in my area, I could attend and make connections with other MS. women in agriculture.
~ A compact mirror, cup holder, chip clip, and mini-measuring tape from First National Bank
~A pink finger nail file, pink pencil eraser shaped like a cow, and a mouse pad from Community Bank
|Pam's notes on the backs of business cards|
I write historical romance, and women are my target audience more so than men. Banks were well represented at this expo, the booths attended by (mostly) women employees. They were there to talk to the attendees about loans for the cattle and poultry industry. So, I meandered around the floor, picking up stuff, chatting with the vendors. If we connected, I handed them a bookmark and asked if they'd like me to mail some to all the ladies at their bank. Many agreed. I asked for their card (which has their name, the bank's address, etc. on it) and wrote on the back what I'm supposed to send, and stuck it in my bag. No, I didn’t go to the event to “troll” for connections, but I like to talk, and I like to stay in touch with people.
You’ll make professional contacts with editors and agents and other writers at book-length fiction writing conference like RWA and ACFW. ACFW is not a trade show, so you won’t find booths to talk to non-writers. However, other authors have blogs, editing services, edit magazine articles, etc. Network with each other. Exchange business cards. Make a note of what you talked about. If you connected because you both were missionaries in
Siberia or if you both love baking, make a note of this on the back of their card.
I just returned from the Southern Christian Writers Conference (SCWC) in
AL. This conference is much smaller than ACFW with about 200 in attendance, but it’s
also much broader in that attendees write fiction, non-fiction,
devotionals, articles, poetry, and everything in between.
So, what did I find in my bag from the SCWC Conference...
~The Alabama Baptist, one of the Nation’s Top Regional Christian newspapers.
~Brochures, bookmarks, and postcards from several fiction and non-fiction authors
~2011 Amy Writing Awards Collection
~The Gathering Magazine
~A host of business cards
~Notes from workshops I attended
Organizing It All
So, now what? How do you organize all this stuff? First, remember my description of the perfect bag? Organize your bag so that your promotional items (bookmarks and business cards) are kept separate to the ones you gather at the event. Trust me, when you reach inside for a card, you want it to be your card that you fish out!
Be diligent about organizing the contents of your bag at least once a day, more often if possible. If the event lasts several days, you will forget who you talked to and what you talked about. As soon as possible after your meeting, find a quiet spot and make notes on the back of their business card. It’s even a good idea to put the year and the event in the corner.
If your contact doesn't hand you a business card, make notes on your notepad or in your smart phone. I'm starting to use my phone more often (and can now see a definite need for an iPad), even typing quick notes during speeches or while listening to workshops. There are also several cool business card apps for smart phones that will scan business cards into your phone, and you can make notes on there if you like. But if you’re deep into conference mode, you might not have time for that right then. So, jot a note on the back of their card, and scan it in later if you like. Whatever your preference, make notes early and often.
Once you’re home from the conference, sort through your bag. Decide what to keep and what to throw away. And then follow up! Did you promise to send someone an article or a proposal? Did someone ask you to blog for them? Are you supposed to mail out bookmarks or a copy of your book, possibly for review? Did you dialogue with someone about a speaking engagement?
I hope you did some, or all, of the things above, and now I expect you to follow through. You got the card, and the invitation to submit. The opportunity is now in your hands and it’s your responsibility to lob it back to the other person.
And I will leave you with this because it makes me smile. I shot this pastoral scene from my driveway of some of My Cowboy's cattle and the steeple of our church about three years ago. I've always liked the picture, but am in love with it now that I've used editing software to soften it.
For a chance to win a grab bag of books and a tote bag, please leave a comment with tips on how you stay organized at conferences and trade shows.