Considering Left Coast Crime, BoucherCon, Thrillerfest or Killer Nashville? Conferences are a significant investment of time and money and filled with opportunity. How can we maximize a return on that investment? Here’s my conference prep checklist.
· Know your goals. Why are you going and what do you hope to take away?
· Who do you want to meet? Things get busy on site. Try to schedule time with your targets in advance.
· Pick your panels carefully. Seek topics that help fill your skill gaps. Introduce yourself to the panel before things start. There is always a line afterwards. “I’m Terry Shepherd. Thrilled to hear your presentation and wanted to thank you for doing this for us.” Sometimes that will be the extent of your interaction. Read their reaction to see if there is an opportunity for a deeper conversation later.
· Never eat alone. You are in a hive full of fellow practitioners. Schedule companions if you can. When you can’t, keep your ears open and look for opportunities to meet new people over a meal.
· Make the most of the cocktail hours. The best ideas and the newest friendships happen at the bar or in the wine-line. If your target is already famous, give them some tempered appreciation. Avoid fan-speak. Ask how the conference is going for them and how their latest book is faring. If they are strangers, the usual, “Tell me about your book,” line works like a charm. Follow Dale Carnegie’s maxim and make it about them. Your fascination is likely to generate some attention in return.
· Selfies are OK… at the end of a conversation. It can be a fun closer and can build your photo library to use when you are discussing an author on social media.
· Is social media your thing? Post liberally in praise of panelists, people you met and the conference planners. Use appropriate hashtags to get noticed.
· Take a few minutes each night to jot down your takeaways, to-do lists and write thank-you notes. Conferences fill your head with ideas and motivation. Dump them into Evernote while it’s fresh and follow up when you return home. If you harvested email addresses, send a short thank-you while the details are still fresh in your memory. The best thank-you notes mention something specific you are thankful for. Wish them well.
Practice these simple habits and you will leave with a larger network of support, actionable ideas and a game plan to leverage your investment to help increase your skill and ultimately your audience.