3 Simple Steps To Help You Own The Agents Conference
By Matthew Schulz
Nervous about the Writer’s League of Texas’ Agents Conference? Don’t be.
Own it instead.
Don’t laugh. You can do it. I know. I’ve been where you are. You’re shy. You’re intimidated by a hotel ballroom filled with strangers who are all probably smoother and better at working a room than you are. You’re nervous about saying the wrong thing. You’re unsure about how to break the ice with someone. It’s understandable. After all, conferences are tough, especially for folks who are more comfortable with a pen and paper or a keyboard than with a conversation.
But again, you can do this. And you must do this. If you go to a conference and don’t meet people, you’ve missed out on 80 or 90 percent of the experience. So, whether you’re pitching a finished product or just looking to meet more kindred writing souls, these tips can help.
Tip No. 1: Get business cards
Order them online through PrintPlace.com or Moo.com. They’ve got tons of design options. Or if you’re able, design the cards yourself in Photoshop and get them printed, either through a website or at your local print shop. Don’t forget to include, at a minimum, your name and email address.
To go to the next level, consider adding your Twitter name, and addresses for your personal blog and your Facebook or LinkedIn page. But even if you don’t have any of that stuff, it’s OK. A super-basic card should be enough.
Tip No. 2: Get social (media, that is)
Social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest et al mean that you should never have to walk into a conference mixer without having something talk about with someone. Do your homework on the agents and authors attending the event by visiting their Facebook pages or following them on Twitter. Search in Twitter for the hashtag #WLTCon to see if others are tweeting about being excited for the event. (If all of the above is Greek to you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I can help you better understand.) Then, put in your two cents about the event or something else that an attendee comments on and see if you can strike up a conversation.
Trust me, it works. Here’s how I know:
Jane Friedman from Writer’s Digest was the keynote speaker at WLTCon 2011. I love that magazine and have enjoyed reading her insights online. Problem was that I’ve never been good at approaching people whom I do not know. I’m fine once the conversation starts, but that opening line – that icebreaker – has often stumped me.
So the morning of the keynote, one of Ms. Friedman’s new tweets caught my eye. Honestly, a year later, I don’t remember the topic, but it really doesn’t matter. It was something that interested me and that she had taken the time to comment on. So, I replied to that particular tweet with my thoughts, and to my delight, she commented back.
I knew I had my in.
Later that day, I saw her and introduced myself. I’m not going to lie and say that we had some deep, meaningful conversation, but it was nice. We talked a bit about our tweets. I thanked her for her time, and we went on our way. Mission accomplished.
Perhaps you’ll target an agent or an editor instead of the keynote speaker. Idea remains the same: Find some connection, something in common, and the ice gets far easier to break.
Tip No. 3: Remember that everyone’s there for the same reason
Repeat it to yourself over and over like a mantra: “Everyone’s here to meet people. Everyone’s here to meet people. Everyone’s here to meet people.”
You won’t be weird if you walk up to someone you don’t know and introduce yourself. Frankly, you’ll probably be doing that person a service, because they’re probably just as shy as you are.
You won’t be a jerk if you stumble over your words when you greet someone. Writers aren’t orators or actors. Chances are that the person you flubbed up with has probably done the same thing with someone else in the room.
You won’t be a loser if your pitch isn’t perfect. The agent isn’t going to shame you. The writer isn’t going to mock you. Just take their comments, keep tweaking your pitch and try again.
You won’t be boring if you give your pitch to someone for the 23rd time. The person you’re giving it to has probably pitched 26 times, and the two of you can probably learn from one another.
You will regret it if you just stand by the wall nervously and never meet anyone. Guaranteed.
Matthew Schulz will be attending his first Writer’s League of Texas as a participant, having been to two others as a nervous, often awkward attendee. He is currently working on his second novel and continuing toward his dream of being a published fiction author. In his day job, he’s Vice President of Content for InvestingAnswers.com. He had previously worked, among other places, at Austin360.com, KXAN.com and Bankrate.com, where he helped lead an online town hall with the White House. You can follow him at @matthewschulz or learn more about him at MattSchulz.com.