Today we're going to bring you our version of how to turn pre-conference jitters into a memorable (in a good way) experience. We're hoping our shared experiences can help quell those nerves and make your next conference painless and productive. And maybe even fun.
But first, we want you to know where we're coming from:
Julie: I am more of an extroverted introvert. I need to be around people, know how to work a room and, if I don’t know someone, I will get to know them.
But extroverted introverts (EIs) also have their challenges at conferences. Mainly because everyone else thinks EIs know everyone or aren’t insecure. Or worse, they don’t get the alone time they desperately need to be extroverted the rest of the time.
Mary and I were great roomies at RWA #13 Atlanta because we were always in our room at different times. We had the quiet time we needed without hiding in a dark corner in the lobby.
Mary: I'm your classic introvert. I sign up for conference in a burst of enthusiasm, and then as the time draws near, I wonder what I was thinking, why I ever made the plans in the first place. In 2011, I even cancelled my reservations and stayed home from ACFW. That was a mistake because I missed the chance to accept my Genesis Award. I hope you can learn from my mistake. I did.
This year, when I headed to RWA, I was determined to overcome my introvert tendencies. I found two ways to do it. First, rooming with Julie. In the past, I always stayed by myself, but that just reinforced my introvert tendencies. Having a roomie forced me to be with other people, but it made it easy too because it's always easier to meet new people when you have a friend to fall back on.
The other trick I played on myself was using my iPad camera as a way to meet people. It was fun to introduce myself under the guise of "taking photos for Tina and Seekerville." Not only do I have great videos and photos of conference memories, but I had the chance to speak with so many people I otherwise would have missed.
It’s Conference Time
Whether the conference be RWA, ACFW, or a smaller regional event, in the weeks leading up to CONFERENCE, social media is abuzz with people making plans, tweeting about appointments, Facebook friends posting about meeting face-to-face, roomies who are excited to catch up again after a year, friends planning who will bring/share the chocolate, news about publisher events, luncheon or dinner plans, etc. You get the drift. You've likely seen the posts. Maybe you're even one of the enthusiastic ones posting and sharing your plans.
It's easy to get caught up in the excitement, but it's also possible that you're feeling overwhelmed, left out, the proverbial wallflower watching as the others plan fun times. If the nerves get too bad, you might even decide to stay home rather than venture into a world outside your comfort zone (writer's cave).
That’s before you even get there.
But what happens if you overcome those nerves and actually go to a conference?
Our nerves were calmed almost instantly when we arrived. Not only did we have each other but we were blessed to have a ready-made welcoming committee, our friends from Seekerville. Even though they had their own workshop to prep, agents and editors to see, parties to attend, these wonderful folks embraced us, offered encouragement and kept us informed of opportunities. Just like the Seeker blog but in 3D! And all the friends of Seekerville who attended were just as marvelous.
We weren’t alone. We knew people. Still there was the niggling question that plagues every conference attendee at one time or another:
Why am I here?
Finding the answer is part of what makes a good conference experience.
We've come up with what we consider prime conference attendance rules to help you find those answers, have fun and come home energized. The good thing is, we think these "rules" apply whether you're an introvert, an extrovert or a happy mix.
Our conference rules:
What a great thing to have Debby Giusti grab each of us and pray over us! If someone needed prayer, she was there! And we felt those prayers.
Debby wasn't the only one praying, of course. Our FH&L chapter members and all of our Seeker friends were a great source of prayer support and inspiration.
Remember to pray in the first place. Don’t be shy about asking folks to pray for you. Whether you are a seasoned published author or a newbie just diving into the conference pool, you need prayers. And there’s no shame in saying you’re nervous or struggling.
Keep your heart open. Allow room for the Holy Spirit to work. You may start to hear something relevant to your book over and over again. Or run into an agent in unexpected places. Sometimes it may be hearing things about your manuscript or career path you’d rather not hear but need to know.
Sure conference is a great place to chat and catch up with friends, but take time to listen. You need to be quiet and grounded to start catching those Godincidences.
Julie: I attended my first conference not planning on pitching. I just wanted to savor the workshops and networking without the stress. But two of my friends who shall remain nameless, okay, Piper and Mary, convinced me to sign up for pitch appointments freed by cancellations. To be honest, Piper walked me downstairs so I’d actually do it! Mary helped me review what a pitch contains. I ran into Winnie Griggs and Renee Ryan in a hallway, and they gave me tips.
I stood in line to go into my pitch session and all I remembered thinking was, “I’m not nervous. WHY am I not nervous? This is weird.” Bottom line, I trusted God was working, sat down and just talked with two editors. I got through it AND brought home a request for a full and another for a synopsis.
Mary: So, the introvert may go about it differently. I went down by myself and snagged an extra editor appointment, but I didn't mention it to anyone until it was over. That's just my way. But the point is that trust was precious for me as well. I trusted that the appointment had become available to me at that moment for a reason, so I went into it confident that I was supposed to be there. Not only did I come away with a request, but I had a chance to brainstorm my story with an editor for ten minutes. That was fun! Even for an introvert.
It’s hard not to go to a conference expecting the sky to open if you just meet the right agent, or if your one-sheet bowls everyone over, or you win an award. Call this syndrome The "If" Plague. Those expectations creep in.
We each had different expectations for the conference, with one of us being an old hand and the other a newbie. But both of us set the bar pretty low. The newbie didn't expect to pitch, knew she wouldn't get to attend every workshop, and wasn't up for an award. But she came home with requests. The old hand at conference cancelling went, turned into the Seekerville reporter on the spot, and met people she wouldn't have otherwise.
Why we are there, the untold story
We also realized pretty quickly, we are not at conferences for ourselves alone. We are there to be the encouragement for someone who is practicing their pitch as we walk by or to provide a sympathetic ear when things don’t go well. We are there to tell another writer how much their book meant to us. Even multi-published authors love to hear that their efforts are appreciated. We may be standing in line next to someone and have to explain why we write inspirational romance. Yep, personal witness time and it happened more often than not! We may be there for the person sitting alone at a luncheon or in a workshop.
So, if you are nervous about going to conference, remember, you may be going for someone else.
Most of all, remember, that God doesn't care if you're an introvert or an extrovert. He's got you covered. All you have to do is follow His plan and know that it will fall into place at His command when His time is right.
Because when it comes right down to it, if we're writing for His glory, then our fears have no place. When you think of it that way, being an introvert isn't such a hard thing to overcome.
Out of gratitude for all the Seekers and Villagers have generously shared with us, we are offering two chances for a prize. One person has the chance to win a $10 gift card to your choice of either Amazon or B&N.
A second winner will get a download of the Seeker's RWA13 workshop plus one of the leis that were given away to attendees. Please just let us know if you'd like to be included in the drawing.
Julie Hilton Steele
A former microbiologist, church educator and pastor, Julie discovered romance eight years ago when an unexpected loss led her to look for books with guaranteed HEAs. She glommed every type of romance and discovered the inspirational genre. As a former writer of devotional non-fiction for Upper Room magazines, Julie is navigating the transition to fictional works set in WWII Washington DC, the city of her birth. The medical side of history and the inspirational side of romance are her passions.
Julie can be found on the following : Facebook Julie Hilton Steele – Writer
Group Blog Yankee-Belle Café – food, fun and inspirational fiction writers
Mary is a teacher, mother, wife and writer. And a lifelong reader. That passion for reading transformed over time into a compulsion to create stories of her own. She’s been writing and contesting for many years and along the way has garnered a few writing credits including being a three time Golden Heart finalist and the 2011 Genesis winner for Contemporary Romance. She has recently won Duel on the Delta, Touched by Love, and the Laurie.
Mary can be found on Facebook: M.M.Curry
Her own blog is under construction and will be relaunching soon. Stay tuned.