Writers' Conferences: 5 Strategies to Make the Most of Your Experience

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Attending a writers' conference can be a big choice for a new writer to make. There's an investment in time, money, and resources—but the benefits often far outweigh the costs. Everyone can make the most of each conference they attend by utilizing these 5 strategies.

“I’ve been wanting to talk to you. So glad to run into you.” He hadn’t actually run into me. I was in line for the barbecue supper at the conference I was attending.

“Really? Why?” I wasn’t sure why anyone would want to meet me, so I was curious. He looked like a respectable man. I’d seen him a couple times since the conference began.

“First of all Paula, I’m David.” He knew my name? Just before I freaked out, I realized I was wearing my name-tag. Deep breath. “When everyone introduced themselves at the beginning of the conference, I decided I needed to meet you. I’d like to know more about what you do. Maybe there’s some way I can help. Would you mind talking during dinner?”

I was impressed. After decades of hosting conferences, exhibiting at them, and attending them, I thought I was the queen of all things conference related. Okay, I was a bit jaded. But here was someone who made me want to learn more. We talked. And talked. A year later, we’re still talking. In fact, we now collaborate on projects, have signed agreements, and are hosting a conference together.

David’s approach helped me define my top five strategies for successfully attending conferences. C.L.A.S.S. I now attend all my conferences with CLASS: Connect, Learn, Ask, Serve, Share.

Strategy 1: Connect

The most valuable result I’ve ever gotten from any conference is a meaningful relationship. Business is done through relationships. To find those priceless relationships that help me grow personally or help me grow my business, I need to connect. In fact, I usually need to meet a lot of people to find those game changing relationships.

David found me and introduced himself because I’d presented who I was and what I was doing with clarity and purpose. I’d made it easy for him to see what we might have in common. I met my television cohost and coauthor, Ginny, at an event where she’d spoken about her purpose with clarity. I found her and introduced myself.

Connect. Communicate. Collaborate. Create. Continue.

Yes, there are a lot of C’s that are good to keep in mind, but if you don’t connect, the others don’t have the same value. Relationships have been my most valuable takeaway from any conference I’ve ever attended.

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Strategy 2: Learn

“Maybe there’s some way I can help.” David taught me something valuable when he said that. Learn. I learned a valuable lesson about meeting new people at events. Don’t you get tired of feeling like people want something from you? Me too. David wasn’t asking for anything. That was so different. And so valuable.

Learn. I don’t just learn in the classes taught. I learn from good examples and bad examples. I learn from teachers and students. I learn from those who are successful and those who haven’t even tried yet. I learn new material or concepts and relearn the basics.

Strategy 3: Ask

“Would you mind talking during dinner?” Ask. If David hadn’t asked, I would have found someone else to sit next to. What do you want or need? The worst that can happen it that someone says “No.” The best is getting what you want or need.

Ask. No question is stupid if your desire is to connect or learn. Step out of your comfort zone. If you’re feeling afraid, the stakes are definitely worth the effort. Ask for help, knowledge, time, resources, or information. Keep asking until you get what you need. Of course, don’t stalk or pester anyone. Just find a new person or opportunity, and ask.

Strategy 4: Serve

“Would you like a dessert? Or another drink?” Of course I would. David was showing a servant’s heart by offering. 

In other conferences, I’ve volunteered and served others.

A humble heart of Service will open doors you couldn’t open any other way. You can call it “Karma,” “sowing and reaping,” or the “Golden Rule,” but the concept is the same. Do for others. Serve.

Strategy 5: Share

“What would you like to know?” I was ready to share. Knowledge is easy to share. David wanted to know how I’d written my book, built my nonprofit, produced my television show, and grown my team. I shared information during that meal. Since then, I’ve shared my story, my contacts, and my skills. David has shared knowledge, resources, and opportunities.

Invest in conferences to take your writing and career to the next level. Then, be sure to attend class with C.L.A.S.S! Connect. Learn. Ask. Serve. Share.


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Paula Mosher Wallace

Paula is the author of Bloom in the Dark and founder of Bloom In The Dark, Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit for those healing from brokenness, abuse, and addiction. In 2016, Paula produced and co-hosted a Telly Award winning television talk show, Bloom Today, licensed with 17 broadcast networks, translated into 3 languages, and broadcast into over 530 million homes in 204 countries. She has produced and co-hosted a new television show and video curriculum, Recovery Strategies 4 Life, which will be broadcast fall of 2019. As the managing partner of Fertilizer Films LLC, Paula has co-written and is producing a feature film scheduled to launch in 2020. Her new venture to help writers tell their personal stories is Writing from a Bleeding Heart Conference, debuting June 26, 2019.