Dos and Don'ts for Conference Attendees

Katherine Longshore 5 Tuesday, May 17, 2011
So, you’ve prepared your pages, written your synopsis, got your elevator pitch pitch perfect.  You know who is speaking and who would be your dream elevator companion.  What do you do when you get there?  I’ve prepared a (mostly) tongue-in-cheek list of dos and don’ts for the conference-goer.  The list is based on my own experiences and not intended to be taken (completely) seriously.

DO Be professional.   Your clothes don't need to make a statement.  Wear clothes in which you’re comfortable, though not necessarily your writing clothes (mine consist of fleece sweats and a 10-year-old Humboldt State hoodie which I won’t even wear to the grocery store). Introduce yourself politely.  Applaud the keynote speakers.  Ask pertinent questions.

DON’T Wear miniskirts that show your knickers when you bend over.  Take over the conversation.  Walk out noisily while someone is speaking.  Ask “What is your e-mail address again?” after the agent has given it three times.  DO ask your neighbor instead.

DO Be inclusive.  You may go alone, you may go with a group of good friends.  Remember, everyone you meet may be a potential reviewer/agent/friend.  Treat everyone accordingly.  It is OK to tell someone that you already have plans. It is not OK to pretend they’re not there.

DON’T Find a group at the bar, insert yourself between two people, not introduce yourself or even acknowledge the person sitting to your left and start up a loud and exclusive conversation with the person on your right, even if that person is more interesting/better looking/famous.  That’s just rude.  (Yes, this happened to me).  (No, I won’t name names, not even the more interesting/better looking/famous person.  That’s just snarky.)

DO Bring business cards and a clean copy of at least the first fifteen pages of your manuscript.  You never know who might ask for them.

DON’T follow an agent/editor/famous author to the restroom and slip said items under the stall door.  (You’ve all heard the stories of writers doing this, but did you hear the one about the agent who did at a Romance Writers of America conference?  It may be apocryphal…)

DO Eat well and regularly.

DON’T Wait four hours for your group to get ready together for dinner without at least a snack (and if you’re a vegetarian, don’t go out for tapas in New York unless you prefer a dinner of nothing but olives and miniature fried cheese balls). 

DO Meet new people.

DON’T  Avoid the social parts of the conference because you don’t know anyone (we’re all friendly, we love meeting new people, we don’t bite.  Usually.) 

DO Take care of yourself (even if it means missing a keynote speaker so you can make a deadline/have a bite to eat/sleep).  Find time to relax.  

DON'T Try to do everything.  (some things just need to be let go). 

DO Learn.

DON'T Forget your camera.

DO Have a good time.  

And DO say hello!  I hope to see some of you at a conference soon.  I’ll be the one not wearing the tatty green-and-gold hoodie.


These are some GREAT tips for conference attendees. I love that you point out to be courteous to fellow attendees as well. I, too, once had someone butt into my conversation with a well-known author. We are all in the same boat, working on our craft and trying to reach our goals, so let's respect each other! Thanks for sharing these tips.

I love this list!!! And you know, the whole don't be rude and ignore people comment - so very important!

Thank you! I will leave my miniskirt at home.

I laughed at the ratty sweatshirt & fleece sweatpants. That's my writing uniform, too.

You know, 98% of the people I meet at conferences are just like you all -- lovely and supportive and interested -- just the kind of people I want to get to know. Thanks for your comments!

(and Beth, you'd look cute in a miniskirt! Just don't show your knickers.)

Yay! Thank you for the tips! I remember the first conference I went to... *embarrassed*

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