Maximizing Your First-Time Writers’ Conference Experience

This is the second part of a two-part mini-series by two of Inspire’s Board members, in which they tackle the issue of introversion (among others) as it relates to attending writers’ conferences. Here, the author is our Communications Director, Damon Gray.

In the 1960s Isabel Myers of Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory fame announced that 25% of the United States population could be classified as introverts. The proclaimed percentage ratio was made on the foundation of Myers’ gut-feeling, meaning there was no statistical data whatsoever to support it. Later studies showed that the ratio is 50.7% to 49.3% favoring introverts just slightly above extroverts.

Implementing the solid foundational principles of Isabel Myers, I am going to proclaim that 80% of writers are introverts. I suspect I’m much closer to reality than Myers was with her 25% estimate.

Writer Conference Season is rapidly approaching, and the angst that comes with that reality is something against which every writer must fight if there is any hope of advancing your writing career. Writers’ conferences are the Miracle Grow of the writing life—the gasoline for your go-kart.

If you will accept my advice that you should do whatever you must do to get yourself to a writers’ conference, the next task is to walk you through some practical advice, tips to maximize that conference experience.

Below are seven tips to help you maximize your 2020 writers’ conference experience.

Choose Your Conference(s)

Conferences have personalities and environmental attributes. Some are formal while others are laid back. Some are stuffy while others are friendly. Some are expensive while others are more affordable. Some are for advanced writers while others are open to all writers and all writing styles. Do your research and choose your conference(s) with great care.

(Shameless Plug) I will tell you that I allow myself a maximum of two conferences per calendar year, and one of those will always be the West Coast Christian Writers Conference.

Plan Ahead

Read the conference literature ahead of time. Pray over the schedule. Select your classes before you even fly/drive to the conference. By doing so ahead of time, you’re not doing prep work when you should be benefiting from the conference. Attend your chosen classes and suck every ounce of truth out of them that you can.

Become an Extrovert

From the time you arrive at the conference to the time you head home, deny your natural introverted inclinations and become the most social person you have ever met. Without question, the classes are wonderful. You will learn more than you can imagine learning. But the most valuable asset you will glean from any conference is relationships. Strip off any pretense and be genuine in your interactions.

Resist Being Star-Struck

During my years as a pastor, I attended numerous seminars, lectureships, and conferences. I always marveled at the way conference attendees would grace the end of a keynote address by rushing the stage to rub elbows with the speaker. Instead, invest time in the person sitting next to you, or across from you at lunch. Don’t dismiss anyone for any reason. If you will employ this advice, the amazing people will bless you in ways beyond what you can fathom.

Be Open to (and prepared for) the Unexpected

While attending the 2018 LIT Masterclass, I gave way to my introversion and sat alone on a couch in the conference lobby. A woman I’d never met intruded into my private moment, introduced herself and asked me a single question. Following my answer, this woman spoke truth into my life so forcefully that it caused me to resurrect an abandoned manuscript as a responsibility to the reading community. In a brief five-minute conversation, Debbie Alsdorf changed the course of my writing for the next eighteen months. Be teachable, and open to the unexpected.

Follow Up

Having worked hard, denying your introverting impulses, you have planted seeds for numerous new writing relationships. Cultivate those new relationships. Glean from them as much as you can (without becoming a nuisance). Harvest the gold that is there, and then, in turn, feed others as you grow and learn. You now have writing companions who can sharpen and encourage you on your writing journey if you will let them do so.

Buy the Stick

Most conferences record all the teaching sessions. You have invested in travel, hotel, registration. Take that extra step and purchase the thumb drive containing all conference presentations. You can review the classes you attended, and attend the ones you missed, and you can do this as often as you like.

Blessings on your writing journey.

Part 1 of this series: How to Take an Introvert to a Writers Conference

About Damon J. Gray 4 Articles
Damon J. Gray is a writer, speaker, former pastor, and Director of Communications for Inspire Christian Writers. Damon pursues his passion for teaching, making disciples, and advancing the kingdom of Jesus Christ, by calling on men and women to embrace Long-View Living in a Short-View World.