Monday, June 24, 2013

What's in Your Bag?

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.

Unfortunately, I’ve used it so much that I’ve ripped the bottom out of the side pocket.

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 Raleigh, MS. 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.

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 Tabasco 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.

Writers Conferences

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 Tuscaloosa, 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...
Lots of Goodies from SCWC

~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.


  1. I love the idea of a tote bag. I have one I got years ago from a retreat (I didn't get to go to) but the bag had good straps that can be worn over the shoulder. On the trip to the states when I went to Montechello I found a really nice tote that goes well over the shoulder and has an outside pocket and the words I can not live without books one of Thomas Jefferson's quote. It was handy for carrying things I bought. its good for shopping also.

  2. Like you, Pam, I have a bag for conference. Books go in it. Folders that contain materials relevant to manuscripts I plan to pitch, and all those other things you mentioned.

    When I get home, I add the business cards to the stack in my office. I have to figure out where the rest goes, one by one.

    What I haven't figured out is how to get a coffee pot in that bag.

    Anyhow, the Seekerville coffee pot is ready for morning.


  3. Hi Pam:

    If you are going to a conference or trade show as a vendor, then I have found it is good to have a special gimmicky item that is useful and new to the market you are attending. It should have your name and selling theme on it and it should be something that everyone at the show will want to get for their own.

    With this item they will get your message and many will even come looking for you.

    Finding the right item could take months at looking at catalogues but this is a way to create a buzz for yourself and your product. It is especially helpful if the item can be used at the show itself for some useful purpose.

    ♫♪♪♫ Music to your ears is hearing people at the show asking others, “Where’d you get that?” when referring to your product.

    Maybe the Seekers could come up with some specialty items for the big writing shows this year. Maybe something for sore feet?

    The idea is to have a plan to ‘own the show’.

    A little gimmick that can act as a writer's unblocker or a little square thing that is called a writer's block and can give your foot a massage. That kind of thing.


    P.S. If you can do this every year with a new promo item, you could become one of the best know writers in the business. Think about it.

  4. I haven't gone to any book related trade shows. :-( Have been to a few other kinds though and I love your idea of taking notes right away (even on the back of a business card.) I'm embarrassed to think of the number of times I've made a connection with someone, sure I'd never forget a single detail of the conversation only to be empty-headed an hour later.

  5. I've only been to one writing conference and a few pharmacy conferences. Before reading your post today I'd sort my "loot" into two piles at first. Keep and throw away.
    Then I'd check for any cool things to give my kids.
    After my first ACFW conference I kept everybody's business card in a bowl on my bookshelf. I kept the books, bookmarks etc that I thought might be important to my future writing career.
    I also tried to keep a list of people I met that I want to keep up with in the years to come.
    Not much of a system.
    I'll refer back to your post before (or after) my next conference.
    Thanks for sharing.

  6. First, I have to congratulate Helen Gray on her fabulous Heartsong news!! I can't think of a better way to start the summer than with a 3-book deal :D

    Now, I have to confess I'm not a naturally organized person. I need to keep things straight like anyone else, since I'm the admin staff for our whole family and my business, but it's not easy for me. Pam, your suggestions will definitely help me get on the right track.

    If I can just remember where I jotted them down ;)

  7. Business cards seem like they should be hopelessly outdated - but people still cling to them. I wonder who will invent the 'virtual' equivalent?!

  8. I learned after my first Mary Kay Seminar to bring a tote bag with me when I go to either Seminar or Career Conference. The company always gives free product with our packet pick up. So that's things to carry around. Plus a notebook, pens, etc, it gets kinda tiring wandering around the Convention Center until it's time to go to our hotels to check in if we don't carry a bag. And that's only hitting the vendors in the Expo! But if we go to one of the hotels where all the different "fun" vendors are, totally need a bag to carry purchases in.

    My tote bag has outside pockets for a bottle of water. And I can easily drop my keys, phone, wallet, etc into the bag and it not get lost in the depths.

  9. Pam,

    I LOVE that ACFW bag. I use it everyday for my 'day job'. It's the perfect size with just the right amount of pockets.

    I take a bag everywhere (or so it seems) but when I'm going to a book signing, I have a bag on lugging anything heavy on my shoulders.

  10. Pam, you have a lot of great ideas.

    I've only gone to one local RWA conference and I don't remember keeping anything except for a couple of sheets from workshops. Visited w/several authors and had my first agent meeting. (We won't talk about that...)Really just got my feet wet.

    If I went to one today, my goals would be totally different and I would implement almost all your suggestions.

    PLEASE throw my name in the hat.

  11. Vince, I love your idea of making an unforgettable product.

    HELEN, congratulations on the 3 book contract. Such great news.

  12. Pam,
    I love to organize anyway, so this is my kind of post. I have distinct tote bags for everything I do -- my journalism, my fiction and the craft group I attend, teaching Children's Church, going to Bible study. I am of the "grab and go" school of organizing. I love love love conference swag! I have a pocket on my fiction tote bag that holds business cards, so I have them at the ready. I take the sample magazines home and file them. These are a boon, much easier than sending away for a sample copy! I file notes from the workshops and notes on craft in my craft file, enter the data on anyone I want to keep in touch with in an address file, and of course follow up on anyone who wanted a query or a partial. I make up thank-you notes in advance with my return address on them, and a stamp,so I can wing one out to someone who has been especially kind. My favorite thing to collect at any event is pens. I am always losing them.
    Seekers in general, God answers prayer and my daughter found an apartment she can afford. She is moving out today, which in theory will give me more space and time for writing. He Never Fails.
    Kathy Bailey
    Pre-pubbed in New Hampshire

  13. I went on a cleaning fit and threw away every gimmee bag I owned this spring. Now, I kinda need a bag.
    I'm not good at this 'moderation' thing.

  14. Helen, so glad you showed up this morning! You contracted writer, you!

    Glad to see the writing retreat folks made it back.

    I have a tote with a Monet painting and a zipper. But it doesn't have an interior pocket. Ugh.

    I am a big one for sorting when I get home. Brings up good memories and ideas.

    But like Sherri, I wonder who will start a virtual "something" to replace business cards.

    Peace, Julie

  15. Such a fun post! I always have to figure out what to do with bagfuls of stuff when we come back from the state school board convention. Since it's in Dec. I usually discover stocking stuffers first. After that - well, file 13 inherits a lot.
    Some good ideas for finding good ideas for useless stuff. Thanks Pam

  16. I used to go to a lot of photography conventions and camera trade shows. I'm a real 'bag' lady!
    Nothing was more fun than getting back home with my tote jammed full of goodies.
    After a trade show was over, I used go about my business of getting caught up in things I'd neglected in the house.
    But my mind would be on my tot bag. I saved it like a coveted desert. It was fun to sort through my treasures in leisure and comfort.
    I never go anywhere without my tote bag! I even have casual and dressy bags! :-)

  17. Good morning! Thanks, Pam for the great tips.

    Good to note as I get ready for the ACFW Conference in September. I've only been to one of these events and being organized is definitely important!

    Off to work! Have a great day.


    P.S. Does anyone understand about the 'virtual' bookstore this year? Does it mean there won't be an actual bookstore to browse in? That was my favourite part!

  18. Love the picture of your cows with your church steeple in the background!

    I'm not organized yet, but your ideas will help the next time I go to a conference. My one tip: carry water in a LEAK-PROOF bottle which you have TESTED to be sure it IS leak-proof. This was learned by experience--I ruined a camera. :(

    I laughed at "be sure your items are kept separate." I can just see my nervous self handing a publisher the WRONG card! I need check out the phone app for business cards. Thanks, Pam!

  19. Great idea with the tote bag. I'm a tote bag fanatic myself.

  20. Good morning all!! Stumbling to Helen's coffee pot.

    Helen, it's it ironic that we've put you back on coffee duty so quickly. Mush, mush, girl! lol

    Jenny, I love the quote on your tote. Hmmm, you know, instead of dieting, maybe I need to go on a book fast: "Without books, I would shrivel up and die." Think that might work? lol

  21. Helen, yes, if you're pitching at conference, one of the nice padfolios is a must. It keeps your pitch sheets, business cards, and everything organized neatly so that you're not digging for stuff when you sit down for an appointment.

    Definitely add that to your tote if you're pitching your work.

  22. Vince, your comment is golden!!!

    I've been thinking of what kind of gimmicky item would fit my brand and I've come up with one that would work perfectly, that I've never seen before, but it has it's drawbacks.

    The Seekers pink pens and jar openers were huge hits at the SCWC conference.

    I never thought about coming up with a new promo item every year. I was thinking about finding ONE or TWO and sticking with those.

    Oh my aching head! :)

  23. Kav, same here. I've thumbed through many a stack of business cards only to have no idea why I took them.

  24. Morning PAM, You're my kind of gal with all this organization. I love my ACFW tote bag also. I love tote bags-period.

    But one thing I learned from DEBBY is to bring one of those brief cases on wheels. This helps tremendously, esp at writers conferences where we get lots of books.

    My favorite item is the emory board with an author's name on it. I use those always and thank that author every time I use it. So that name sticks. I love letter openers also. I use those all the time.

    I don't even pick up bookmarks any more. Cliche. I do write notes on the back of business cards. I have a box for business cards and I file them by conference. Makes it easy to find someone I met.

  25. Pam, I love this post. Did you design the ACFW bag? Last year, as a first time conferee, I LOVED getting those handy bags. It held everything I needed it to and then some.

    When I was preparing to attend ACFW last year, I checked out a blog by an acquaintance, Edie Melson. She had a great tip for organizing a notebook to be ready for conference. This is the post:

    This may not work for everyone, but I liked it. I had business card inserts that fit into a three ring binder, sleeves that held my one-sheets, synopsis and first chapter hard copy. I also had pens and post its handy.

    One thing I plan to do differently this year is have a little holder for my personal business cards that I can have with me everywhere. I didn't always take my binder to social things, but I wanted to have business cards.

    I also loved the portfolio we received at ACFW last year. I am a note taker, plus it was handy for storing hand outs (which I know we won't be receiving this year).

    Thanks for the great post Pam, and please PLEASE do put me in the drawing. :)

  26. Jackie, those pharmacy conferences. Ohhh, what a great place to connect with people especially if you were writing medical suspense or something.

    Since I write historical romances set in the 1800s, attending Ag Expos, Cattlemen's Meetings, Farm Days, etc. are perfect avenues for me to connect with readers.

    This is grass roots (pun intended!) marketing and it's subtle. No running around on the trade show floor shoving my stuff at people. Just meetin', greetin', and sharing back and forth.

    Sometimes it's just one-on-one with someone you meet on the beach.

    Maybe the perfect bag would be one that says "Ask me about my latest book" with on it. Hmmm, yes, that would definitely work....

    Or...what about a bag with a clear plastic side where you could slide in a custom made poster for your latest book? I've seen purses like that. Not even sure such a bag exists.

  27. Wonderful ideas for making the most of conferences and trade shows, Pam! I've made the mistake of exchanging businesscards then forgetting who this person is and what we talked about. Thanks for the excellent suggestion to get away and make notes.

    Love the picture of your cattle and church steeple! Would make a wonderful header for your blog or facebook page.

    Won't be long before I'm heading to RWA in Atlanta! Can't wait!


  28. Jenny, I love Jefferson's quote! What a perfect tote bag for you! For all of us!


  29. Mia, lol, in some ways I'm organized, but in others, not so much. This post was to encourage ME to do this just as much as to encourage you.

    You are NOT alone!

    Sherri, the virtual equivalent is here in the form of those iphone apps I mentioned. It's just taking a little time for people to make the transition. One App I saw on somebody's phone literally scanned the card and put everything (name, address, phone, fax) in the correct place. It was amazing. I didn't believe it until I saw it.

    The other thing with cards is that in a busy, noisy place, it's easier (and more accurate) to hand someone the card and say, email me, than it is to take the time to tell them your information.

    But you're on the right track. There are already "virtual business card swap apps" out there where two people can just touch their phones together and swap cards.

    BTW, I don't have a clue what I just said, but I HAVE seen the commercial where Santa falls down the stairs and one guy takes a picture with his phone and instantly shares it with the guy next to him. Same principle....

    PS...Just looked up CardShake (now isn't that TOTALLY self-explanatory??): CardShake is a smartphone application that creates, exchanges, and also manages exchanged electronic business card (eBC).

  30. Wow, Pam. You are so organized! Me, not so much. :) what I do is dump stuff on top of stuff for the whole time, take it home, sort through it six weeks later and mostly throw it all away.

  31. Dawn, sounds like we're of like mind. Most of the time I carry an extra tote with me to events if I'm not sure what kind of tote (if any) will be provided.

    Once, I just packed all my heavy purchases (books, etc.) in my extra zippered tote and carried it on the plane with me. I didn't have a connecting flight so it wasn't a biggee to have to lug it around. I wouldn't want to do that with a layover. :(

  32. Rose, of the "this is our favorite ACFW bag ever" club! lol

    But, I do have to say that a rolling bag is so much nicer and efficient in some cases. Looks more sleek and your bag doesn't crumple into a heap on the floor every time you sit down.

    The only drawback with the rolling kind is that it's hard to maneuver on a crowded floor. If I was going to be sitting/standing in one spot for a length of time, definitely the rolling bag. Walking the floor, I'd carry the tote, then empty it into the rolling bag as often as I could.

  33. Connie, our goals do change as we figure out exactly what the give and take of attending events is all about.

    I used to think it would make someone uncomfortable to ask for their card, or it would make them uncomfortable to give them my card. But if we've exchanged ideas, thoughts, or we've made a real emotional connection, I am very comfortable saying, "Do you have a card? I'd like to stay in touch." If they don't, I jot their email address, facebook page, or website down, or more than likely, these days, I make a note in my iphone.

    That CardShake app is looking more appealing every minute! :)

  34. Hey, Pam! Sounds like you are a pro at making connections and being friendly! I wish I were better at this, but I do love talking to people too. And it was so fun to see you at SCWC! Maybe I will see you again in September at ACFW! :-) And I love that picture too! Very pretty and peaceful.

  35. Kathy said: I make up thank-you notes in advance with my return address on them, and a stamp...

    Wow, Kathy, you ARE uber-organized!! I love this! Granted, I think it's so cool, and I'm thinking, I should do that. But thinking and doing aren't always the same. So...

    Conference SWAG. Yes, that was the word I was looking for. So everybody replace my generic word STUFF with SWAG! :)

  36. Kathy, what an exciting time for your daughter! Glad everything worked out for you both.

  37. Fun post, Pam! I'm picturing the big hook in my office closet where I store my nearly-30-year collection of writer's conference totes! Some bags are definite keepers that get reused regularly. Others . . . not so much.

    At conferences, I enjoy those quiet minutes in my hotel room shortly after registration, when I sort through all the papers and giveaways that came in my tote. The ones I don't need during the conference go in a drawer or a different bag until I get home and decide whether they're keepers or tossers.

    I could really go for a lightweight rolling bag, though!

  38. Oops, Mary, I got nothing....

    You want me to send you a bag? lol

  39. Mary Hicks is another bag lady. Goodness, we're overrun!

    Maybe we should open the soup kitchen today... lol

    Mary, you should have no trouble connecting with people since you were so comfortable collecting swag (see, I learn quick).

  40. I'm like Myra - I try to sort through registration goodies before the conference even starts, so I'm not carrying around stuff I don't need.

    My current conference tote (for work things or writing things) is open on top with a toggle close, has an outside zipper pocket where I stash all my receipts. Small, open pockets inside get used for pens, business cards, my wallet, phone, etc. Plenty of space in the main bag for my netbook and notepad.

    I've made conference organizing binders before ala the fabulous Edie Melson, but then my bag starts getting too heavy. Now I usually go with several colorful pocket folders instead. One has general conference info and the others each have one sheets and such for different projects.

    Thanks for the tips, Pam!


  41. I Love Tote Bags! I use them for everything. I used to do some bead work for fun, bracelets, necklaces and the like, I used an old Sheriff's association bag to keep all my beading supplies consolidated. My current crochet project is stored in a tote I got from the hospital when I had my daughter. I even have one that is a perfect addition to my collection of reusable grocery bags.

    I have the ACFW bag in the picture, because my dear friend Carol Moncado thought of me at last year's conference (I was unable to attend). That bag is home to the notebook that attends every local chapter meeting with me, and it serves as a purse on meeting days. I carry only the absolute essentials in it (wallet, keys, phone, lipstick), since my regular purse is about as big as a suitcase.

    When I'm involved with any event, I have two mottoes, "I'm in it for the t-shirt!" or "I'm in it for the tote bag!" Most events offer on or the other :)

    I'd love to be in on the drawing!

  42. My ACFW has turned into a crochet bag, but I'm thinking it might be reinstated for the conference this year even though it's wearing thin in spots. :)
    I normally keep all the business cards I get in my name tag pouch while I'm there and then sort through them when I get home.

  43. Susan, that is correct. Since space is so limited at the hotel in Indianapolis, ACFW has partnered with CBD for a virtual bookstore this year.

  44. Sherida, great tip on the water. Once I was using my rolling bag at a conference, and I had stuck a bottle of water in the top where the long handle is. My water disappeared, and I thought I must have misplaced it.

    I use this rolling bag while travelling in and out of airports. A couple of days later while going through security, they pulled me to the side, looking really concerned. They wanted to know if I had any liquid in my bag. I said no, but he said it looked like it was in the back of the bag. It dawned on me that the bottle of water had fallen inside the back side of the bag. I was able to fish it out and discard it.

    Thank goodness they didn't haul me off to detention!

  45. Great tips, Sandra! And one year Mary gave away chap stick. That was a least with me.

    Jeanne: Nope, I didn't design the bags. There have been some I liked, some not so much. Like I said, that one with the side pocket for quick stuff and the water bottle was my favorite. Loved it!

  46. That's it, Myra. I do the same thing. I keep my bag that I'm carrying around as clutter free each day as possible.

    I also use a padfolio to keep up with important contact info, receipts, etc.

  47. BTW, the 2013 ACFW CAROL AWARDS finalists are supposed to be announced at a press conference at ICRS soon!!!

    If anybody hears anything, keep us posted!

  48. Any idea what time the announcement will be made, Pam?

  49. Mary C, six weeks is about normal for me too. I didn't say it was SMART, but normal.

    Ideally, and professionally, I know i need to reach out to those people within 2-4 weeks, and I will. I want to. I intend to. Sigh.

    Yeah right.

    MELANIE: I may be good at connecting one-on-one with people, but I SO envy your easy-going style when speaking. Guys, Melanie did an AWESOME job speaking at the SCWC conference in AL a couple of weeks ago.

  50. Great tips, Leigh. I think I need to go on the search for the perfect conference tote....

    Like I need another one! ha

    Jeanne, thanks for sharing Edie's binder blog post. What a great idea!

    I remember going to RWA in New Orleans with Moni Thompson. Moni picked me up when she came through Meridian, MS, and we headed toward NO and were going to pick up Beth White on the way. It was my first major conference and I had this really cute pink plastic accordian binder with tabs for all my appointments, schedules, workshops. I mean it was STUFFED full.

    Well, Moni had discovered that one of the roads was under construction so we got out the map and took these BACK ROADS. It was hilarious, and we had no idea where we were, but we were still going SOUTH, so we were bound to end up somewhere on the coast.

    About an hour into our trip, I started looking for my PINK FOLDER in all our STUFF. I panicked thinking I'd left it at home. I had Moni pull over in the middle of nowhere while I dug through suitcases, evening gowns, boxes and bags until I unearthed my conference "bible". I didn't let it out of my sight after that.

    I've mellowed a bit over the years... Just sayin'

  51. lol, Andrea, I love this: "I'm in it for the t-shirt!" or "I'm in it for the tote bag!" Most events offer on or the other :)

  52. Oh, yes, Crystal, that is an excellent idea! I love the zippered nametag pouches.

    Keep your own business cards right behind your name and stick those you receive in the zippered portion. Those little things are handy-dandy.

  53. Carol Awards...Myra, I saw on the loop that the press conference was this morning. If something doesn't get changed at ICRS, it should be any time now! I can't wait to see if we have SEEKERS on the list!!!

  54. I have only one tote bag. It has a pic of a dog that looks like our Yorkie, but it has no pockets. :(
    I keep my wip notes and there is usually a book with writing tips that I am currently reading stuffed in it. Somehow it manages to weigh about 10 lbs.

    Thanks for sharing your tips!

  55. I had to stop by today when I knew Pam Hillman would be here, love to read your books...
    Haven't been to many trade shows but what wonderful idea of the tote, you could use it anywhere..even to beach for young folks. I have a huge purse and hubby says doesn't know why I would want a large one, all items get lost in it.
    I like the idea of a tote for vacations like Jenny got, that wording too is right up her alley.
    I would like it too.
    would love to win your bag of books today, thanks for sharing.
    Paula O

  56. I see I'm not the only one who has certain standards for a tote bag. LOL! I have the RWA conference coming up in just a few weeks so I need to start getting my stuff ready. I carry business cards and exchange them, use them for notes and whatever else might arise. I also have a print-out of a Word table I created with the workshops I'm planning to attend. I also have a mini-pharmacy in my tote. You can make a friend for life by offering them two Tylenol when you hear a stranger complain of a headache.

    I have a duffel I keep back in my hotel room and each night I sort through what I've collected that day and put it into the duffel. This year it'll go in the back of the car since I'm within driving distance. But that duffel has flown twice from conferences in California.

    Great post!


  57. Donna, your tote sounds so cute!

    Paula, you are so sweet! Thank you!

    Marilyn, I'm with you on the mini-pharmacy. I have a very small toiletries bag that fits in my purse. Safety pins, bandaids, lotion, Tylenol, hand sanitizer, cough drops, etc. When I travel, I grab that and my wallet and put them in my carryon and I'm ready to go.

    At church, I'm the go-to gal for stuff like that for my kids and niece and nephew. 99% of the time I have whatever they need in my purse.

    Last night, my step-sister's baby was teething. I haven't had a baby in 20 years, but I had orajel in my purse. No, it has not been in there 20 years. lol

  58. Anybody need a tote bag? Anyone? Anyone? I have them with retail store logos on them, from events I've attended, totes that have sayings on them I couldn't resist (why try), totes that I have no idea where they came from, and then the classier totes than I've received as gifts from people who know I like tote bags. They all show signs of aging ... the tote bags, not the friends ... although now that I think about it ...

    PAM, those are great tips, especially the one about writing the 'when and where' on the business card. Thank you!

    Nancy C

  59. Great tips, Pam!

    I have been to other conferences where there have been tote bags of marginal quality. The ACFW bags seem to be nice, by acclaim. However, I'm not going to Indy. Will there be a tote bag at RWA?


  60. Thanks for the compliment, Pam! I was really nervous! :-) But it was fun, which is strange. I actually enjoyed it.

  61. .
    I can’t believe that I could be the first to break the news but Myra is a Carol Finalist!

    Myra is the new Pantser Princess!


  62. PAM, I confess I chuckled a bit at your pink accordian file story. :) That sounds like me, especially the panicked reaction when I couldn't see it. :) I'm learning to mellow with the unexpected when it interrupts my perfect plans. :)

  63. Hi Pam:

    All my trade show experience is with the many furniture markets. The big hit in this year’s market will often be used by a great many people next year. So it is good to come up with a new ‘hit’ each year. Of course, in this game the goal is to get people to visit your vignette.

    How about a little ‘writer’s block’ key chain that speaks a bible verse when you shake it?


  64. Aw, Vince, thanks!!!

    I shall wear the Pantser Princess crown with great pride.

  65. Myra! Congratulations!!

    So very deserved!

    Break out the exclamation points and the good cyber champagne.

  66. Whoo-hoo, CONGRATULATIONS Myra!!! This is so exciting! :)

  67. Thanks, Donna & Pam!!!!!!

    Any excuse to use extra exclamation points!!!!!!!!


  68. Nancy & Piper, thanks for stopping by. Piper, RWA used to have bags for attendees. I assume they still do.

  69. YAY, MYRA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    Piper, last year RWA had a huge red and white tote--18" x 13" x 6". I didn't attend, but someone gave me one when I bought books at the literacy signing. I love it! (And I think you should get a "golden" one. :) Have fun!)

  71. Thank you, Helen, Piper, & Sherida!

    Helen, I LOVE that photo of you tooting your horn!

    Can I borrow it for an hour or so???

  72. Congrats, Myra! That's wonderful!

  73. I love conference and trade show swag. It just makes me feel like it's Christmas.

  74. Wahoo, Myra!!!!! Congratulatios on the Carol final! You do us proud!!

    Hugs, Janet

  75. I usually carry my briefcase at conferences, probably nerdy, but I've had it for years and years and know where everything goes.


  76. Thanks, Janet!

    BTW, I've admired your briefcase since I first saw it. Would love to find one like it. It's the perfect size with all the necessary compartments.

  77. pam when you say your the go to gal at Church Im not. I take a small bag which I have my kindle in a comb, keys, pen if im lucky and offering and thats about it oh and sunglasses and mp3 player.
    Even shopping I have little in the bag but take the tote to bring the shopping home. We are plastic bag free here so when shopping its take your own bags or buy them.

    Just checked the temp before getting ready to walk its down to around 27f degrees out there will certainly be rugged up for the walk!

  78. I'm laughing about the notes on all the business cards! I just found some more lately. I need to have a system for recording or storing things like this.

    Thanks, Pam!


  80. Thanks, Missy! Looking forward to being at RWA with you, Miss RITA Finalist!

  81. Congrats, Myra!!! Woohoo!!! Will be cheering for you in Sept.!!! :-)

  82. Just right click on the little puppy, Myra, and borrow away. Of course, someone might figure out where you got it.

    My daughter got me a briefcase on wheels for Christmas one year. I took it to school every day the last two years I taught. Loved it. Still do, but it's parked in the closet.

  83. Maybe Helen can bring her horn and we can have a parade at RWA (FOR MISSY) and one at ACFW for Myra! :)

  84. Janet, I have a leather briefcase, but I've never used it much. It felt pretentious 20 years ago, but now... :)

    Maybe I should get it out and try it again.

  85. 27 degrees FAHRENHEIT, Jenny??? Brrr!!!!

    Missy, you never know what you might find in your stash of business cards. Maybe you could email those people and just say, "I found your card and thought maybe you owed me a cool million." Of course that could backfire...

  86. I love tote bags...the more I have the more I want. The only conferences I have ever gone to were Collectors and not much was given out, except knowledge. When I worked in the television industry (accounting, not real exciting) we went to Television Conventions where we would get tote bags, coffee cups, chip clips, pens, pencils, t-shirts, and a lot more. I would stow everything away in the tote, go back to the station and the cups became pen & pencil holders and the duplicates are still used for coffee in my home. All the other goodies were put to use as well.

    Have a blessed week.

    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  87. Yes Pam fahrenheight and yes it was cold a heavy frost on the ground. But also invigorating.

    Congrats Myra.

  88. MYRA!!!!!!


    Congratulations on the Carol final. What fun!

    Nancy C

  89. I plan to write everything down in this little note book (that Debby G. gives out at conferences). I'm debating whether I need to get new cards.

  90. I love totebags.
    I love conferences.
    I love trade shows.
    I love collecting stuff.

    One can never have enough stuff from conferences and trade shows.


    I love this post. I NEVER know what to do with all the cool stuff I pick up. Why is it you make organizing all this so simple? Great idea to dump all the stuff out of your tote as soon as you get home and review it. I've been known to stash my tote away as soon as I get home and not look at the contents for months!!!

    Very bad move.

    I probably should root out my tote bag from last year's conference...

  91. Pam, I love ag trade shows. Can one be considered an agriculture nerd?? Ag groupie? Starry-eyed ag hound???

    I drool over the shine John Deere equipment and get sucked in to any presenter discussing irrigation.

    I get to help staff a booth at one of the local trade shows each February. I talk about hatching chicks. Next year, I'll be sure to take a break and hobnob with the local farmers and ranchers and leave some romantic bookmarks around.

    I'll let you know how it works for me : )

  92. Great food for thought in this blog, Pam! I need to do a better job of keeping track of who I meet and possible ideas for future events.

    Thanks for all the great tips!

    Love the pic of your cattle and church. Lovely!

  93. Audra, ag shows are great, and aren't there always a ton of wives along?

  94. It's almost 2 a.m. on Tuesday and shouldn't be reading comments this late (early?) so have to ask this:

    Am I the only one here who has never been to a writing conference???


    That might not be entirely true... I think it was a writers' conference that 2 of my sisters and I went to in a suburb of Buffalo, NY, about 25 years ago. Yeah. Long time ago. My kids were 4 and 1 1/2 (they now have kids of their own, most of them older than those ages).

    Loved reading your tips, Pam, and hearing about what you brought back! Sounds like fun. :)

    BTW, I love to organize and be organized, but if you saw my house (especially this room, full of genealogy and writing stuff, although most of my writing stuff--AKA craft books and file cabinet--is upstairs in a closet), you would never believe it!

    Congratulations, Helen and Myra!!!! :D

    Despite not having any insights or anything, am I still in for the drawing (which sounds fabulous)?

    Everyone, please pray for our own Julie Hilton Steele who is in the hospital, at least overnight. She was sent there from urgent care this afternoon/evening because of possible stroke-like symptoms (although her posts on Facebook have been very clear).


  95. I tried to get in here yesterday and was thwarted! Pam, I am always in awe of your organizational skills in particular because mine are sadly lacking!



  96. The tote bag itself is a great promotional tool. I always think you can never have too many pockets in things.

  97. Pam,

    Outstanding photograph. So many uses for your work. Kudos!!

    Ah - WHAT a topic! Spectacular!

    I've been in sales for 20+ years and this is a huge challenge few address. Your idea of noting the details about your contacts is one I continue to use.

    So many remark that they can't believe I can remember what we discussed but I don't! It's right on the card! Definitely put event and date. (Turns out I met my DH at an event several years before we actually met, LOL!)

    As to the rest of it - it's the followup that is key. Can't tell you how many opportunities I've missed because I didn't follow up, but... There are plenty more that led to something because I did.

    What I'm trying to say is, there will be wayyyy more opportunities than a person can manage, along with an already full schedule. I guess prayer is key! Which ones do I act on?

    Must prioritize!

    As far as the goodies, those go to neighborhood kids or in a drawer for myself. :)

    Thanks again. May is all about opportunity and your first example shows just how to make the most of one that, on the surface, would seem pretty far-fetched!

    Quick comment about Vince's idea. ABSOLUTELY!!! Unpubbed island too... I tell people frequently that Seekerville archives is a master's course.

    Like you've done, Pam, with the mooooving conference... Think outside the box (there's a thought) when it comes to something to give away.

    The most successful campaign I created was when Beanie Babies were in vogue. We dressed some up in little tee shirts with the energy company's name and logo. I also had to procure some huge clear bins to put them in at the show. Anyway, just as Vince said, people came from all over the show (thousands in attendance) to find the booth. I got the people to the booth, by way of adorable bean bag bears dressed in company colors... The energy company's sales people took it from there.
    And that is exactly what we were after!

    So appreciate the individual and collective wisdom in Seekerville. Thanks for letting me peek in and enjoy and learn!!! :)

    May and I would adore to have a Pam bag! may at maythek9spy dot com

  98. Hi KC:

    I just read your comment. It looks like you just 'owned' the show. It can be done and usually there is one vendor or booth that has the hit of the show. So nice to see that you have done it.

    I just love working with you. You will always take any of my ideas and make them better.


  99. Hi, Pam,
    I went to ACFW for my first time last year and I instinctively followed some of your ideas - but I read this carefully to pick up new organizing tips. Though I'm naturally not organized, I know it makes life easier in the long run. Love your thoughts on talking to everyone just to be friendly and make connections and following up where it makes sense.

  100. I enjoyed your post!! I am a tote bag woman and everything has it's place. You gave me some great tips today and I will try them. Thank you for sharing your advice. Please enter me in your giveaway.
    Barbara Thompson

  101. Melanie, I've been so busy working on busines stuff and welcoming Lena Goldfinch to Seekerville TODAY that I didn't get back to address last night's comments. I hope you stop back by.

    Yes, you'll be in the drawing! :)

    And...don't fret if you haven't been to any writers conferences. I eased into that area myself, and didn't go to any conferences the first few years I dabbled in writing. Then I went to a couple of one day events held by my RWA chapter about an hour away.

    Then I branched out and went to a TWO-DAY conference in Birmingham, which is about five hours away. It was the first time I'd ever gone anywhere away from home overnight without family.

    Even if you can't get away to a conference that requires a lot of travel and expense, you can probably find a one day workshop somewhere close by. I always feel better if I can meet and talk with like-minded people who enjoy writing.

  102. KC, so glad you stopped by! Your comment about the Beanie Babies reminded me of something...

    I am looking at SPIKE right now. Spike is the Beanie Baby rhinoceros. My kids had some Beanie Babies and when children come, they can play with them, but not Spike. No one plays with MY SPIKE.

    I had a friend named Freddie who owned a florist, and of course they sold tons of Beanie Babies, but when the fad declined, she had tons of them left over. Her husband wanted to put them on deep discount and get rid of them, but she said no. Freddie had battled cancer, and even though she was in remission, she told her husband that when she died, she wanted him to give out the Beanie Babies as keepsakes for those who came to visitation.

    Sadly, those Beanie Babies found new homes a few years later at her funeral, but I have my Spike, and when I look at him, I think of Freddie.

  103. PAMMY!!!

    SO sorry I didn't get by yesterday -- it's been crazy here!!

    Just got home from ICRS and, much to my shame, I did NOT take a tote bag, if you can imagine that!! Fortunately for me, Zondervan was giving them away so I am now the proud owner of a new tote and about twenty books!!! ;)

    Totes are THE BOMB!!!


  104. Dana and Barbara, so glad you guys stopped by and that you picked up a couple of new ideas.

    In years past, I might have come across at some events with my dogged determination to talk to that agent, or that editor, or that famous author, as if that one conference, that one day was going to be my only chance to EVER connect with someone important.


    I'm not saying I do it right every time, but a few years ago, I got a grip on myself, and started trying to make friends for the sake of friendship.

    I'm much happier...and I have a LOT more friends! :)

  105. Jules! Didn't know you went to ICRS! But it makes sense since it's in your backyard, so to speak.

    Hope you had a GRAND time!