I recently returned from the awesome Realm Makers conference, and I’m bringing back tips for anyone attending a conference. And also pictures, because those are fun.
Let’s start with what you should bring to a conference.
Writerly things to bring if you’re pitching:
Onesheets (I have heard this is more of a Christian conference thing, but I have no experience with secular conferences.) Generally, I figure if you’re pitching, bring one more onesheet than the amount of people you’re pitching to, and you should be fine. Many of the larger agencies/publishers don’t take paper home with them, so taking this many is probably overkill, but the smaller presses do sometimes take this stuff home. Better to have too many than two few. It’s good to have an extra in case you get to pitch to someone you hadn’t planned on pitching to.
The first ten pages of your story Take the same amount as you would for onesheets, perhaps one less.
Proposal and synopsis Originally, I didn’t take these, but I had publishers/agents ask for them so I started bringing them. At the very least, have them written so you can send them when you get home from the conference.
Other things to bring:
Business cards These are good even if you’re not pitching since it helps you keep in contact with people you met. 25 is probably plenty, unless you really like handing them out.
Laptop and notebook for taking notes. Make sure to have the notebook. Some conferences don’t have enough plugins and your laptop’s batteries might die like mine did.
A sweater even if it’s hot. Many indoor places have the air conditioning turned up to the point it feels like a freezer.
Medicine/vitamins/cough drops in preparation for getting a cold.
Whatever other stuff you need, such as a toothbrush and deodorant (If you’re pitching, you want the strong stuff.)
Snacks. These are useful if you’re arriving early, before the meals that come with the conference. Bringing candy for your roommate is always a big hit too.
If possible, try to fly with most of your stuff as carry on. I hear too many stories about people losing baggage. At the very least, carry on anything you have to hand to the agents/editors/publishers, your notebook/laptop, and your pjs.
Arrive the day before the conference starts. This allows you to get one night of decent sleep, in theory.
Friend people on facebook or other social media so you know a few names when you go to the conference. (Realm Makers has a facebook group.)
Make sure your bags aren’t stuffed when you go to the conference. You’ll want to buy books and maybe other stuff, so you’ll need space for them. Realm Makers generally has quite the haul of swag, sometimes posters, sometimes free books, so you need the room.
If you’re flying carry an empty water bottle through security then fill it when you find a fountain. This means you won’t have to buy water. If you are carrying water in your laptop bag, make sure the lid is tight. I’ve seen people spill water in their bags.
Random tips you won’t hear from anyone sane
For those who dislike coffee but need something to stay awake, it can be stomached easier if one mixes it with hot chocolate. (Cream and sugar work in a pinch.)
Those ziplock bags? Those are for leftovers. It seems many conference meals have so much food that some is left over. I hate throwing it out, so it goes in the bag and I can save it for later, such as days I’d normally have to go out for a meal. (I’m a very light eater and often eat a snack instead of a full meal.)
Some foods, such as donuts and cheesecake, do not fair well in laptop bags. A banana can be safe if packed properly. Some harder buns and muffins do well. Another trick is to reinforce the bag by putting the laptop cord or other strong things on either side of the food.
Foods in the same ziplock bags will likely get mixed, so avoid incompatible foods in the same space.
If you need to toast a bun you stuffed in your bag and you don’t have access to a microwave, the blowdryer works.