How to be a Successful Writing Festival or Conference Delegate

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

AFCC, Singapore, June 2015

Here are my tips for a really strong, productive and successful time as a festival or conference delegate.

1. TALK TO PEOPLE. Don’t stick with who you know—stretch yourself and meet new people. You never know where it will lead professionally—and you might just make a new friend or begin an exciting collaboration.

2. BE INCLUSIVE. Most festival delegates are either on their own or know few people. Look out for that ‘lost soul’ who knows no one and invite them to join you for breakfast. Step back and give them a place in your circle. Introduce them to others. Ask them about themselves. Be kind, not excluding.

3. SUPPORT OTHERS. If you can, drop into the sessions of friends or colleagues. Not only is it supportive, it’s important to remember that your greatest industry ally is your colleague.

4. CARRY COLLATERAL. Festivals are a priceless opportunity to make contacts. Take everyone’s business card and offer your own (I keep mine in the back of the festival pass which hangs around your neck).

5. STALKING + ENGAGING. Don’t stalk or pester people, and be really wary of monopolising their time or making demands, especially when it comes to publishers or other people you feel might provide opportunity for you. Everyone likes to be asked about their role or work, so do that instead. If you form an easy conversation, you may then have the opportunity to talk of your work, or even submit it.

Whatever you do, don’t offer someone a copy of your book or ask them to read your manuscript or assess artwork. This comes with too great an expectation and a festival is not an appropriate platform for this. All it does is make people uncomfortable. Instead, engage people briefly about your work if the opportunity arises, then let go.

6. ASK QUESTIONS. There is no greater bore than someone who makes an entire conversation about themselves and doesn’t ask a single question of others. Be considerate. Ask people about their work and let them speak. You might just learn something interesting or make a new connection. 

7. MULTI-SESSIONS. If there is more than one session you’d love to attend at one time, ask others if they’re taking notes (that you can later snaffle a copy of). Or just chat with them about it afterwards, to glean any interesting points.

8. TAKE BREAKS. Festivals can be overwhelming and exhausting, as you're constantly listening, constantly chatting and constantly ‘on’. Take breaks away from it all when you can. Go back to your hotel or find a quiet corner or go for a walk. If someone is cornering you or taking up too much of your time (to the point where you may miss a session), be forceful. If they’re incapable of reading your cues, politely interrupt and excuse yourself. Don’t miss anything for anyone!

9. RELAX AND HAVE FUN. Try not to ‘expect’ too much at festivals. They are overwhelming and busy, and many people are operating way outside their comfort zones. Relax and take it easy, absorb as much as you can, mingle and take notes. Be sure to do a blog post afterwards or post on social media about your experience. It will bring you a lot of hits.

10. GIVE THE FESTIVAL FEEDBACK. They do appreciate it.

See my wrap-up of my last festival attendance--the Asian Festival of Children's Content in Singapore, June 2015.

See my post on fabulous festival and 
school presentations right here.

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