Hey there lovely folks of the internet!
I wanted to talk today about something fun and (as the title suggests) a little different.
So last week I had an amazing time at the 2017 Smarter Artist Summit. This is an author conference put on by the awesome guys at Sterling and Stone. The same guys who gave us Write.Publish.Repeat. and StoryShop.
I could go on and on about the amazing speakers and how much I learned, but there are plenty of other posts out there on those topics and honestly, if you weren't there do you really want to read a blog post about an awesome event you missed?
Instead of doing that, I want to talk about what happens at a conference that isn't the actual conference and could possibly be the most important part of the whole thing. And this is where David Gaughran comes in.
Well, David (AKA The Muffin Man) and really all the other people who are there with you at any conference.
Because the speakers are always awesome, right? And I've learned that even if the speaker is covering something I already know, there's a good chance I'll pick up at least a few little tidbits that sit inside my head and help me do better, smarter work.
But the speakers are only half of any conference. It's when the speakers aren't holding a microphone when the real magic happens.
The short conversations in the hallway during breaks, the random people who all end up at lunch together, the after dinner hotel bar chit chats. This is the real sweet spot of any conference.
Because publishing is a hard row to hoe and no one should be out there trying to do it all by themself.
I mean, you could. Sure. But you can't possibly know everything you need to know to be successful. There's too much. There will always be too much. Which means you'll always be leaving something on the table.
You make some friends.
And this is where people can drop the ball at conferences. They don't make the friends when the opportunity is right there.
You probably paid a lot of money to attend a conference. You shelled out big bucks for transportation, hotel rooms and food. Maybe you even had to take vacation days from work. Attending a professional conference is an investment in you, so you need to make the most of it.
Here are my two tips for making that happen:
1. Ditch the idle chit-chat
You can have conversations about the weather or sports teams for free at your local grocery store. Don't waste time at a conference talking about the dumb stuff. Instead, have meaningful conversations.
How, you may ask?
Well, if you're not an extrovert, first you'll have to step out of your comfort zone. The good news there is that most authors are introverts (except for us few extroverted weirdos), so you're in good company knowing most of the people there are probably just as uncomfortable as you are.
Next, strike up a conversation about something that matters. An easy opening is "Hi, nice to meet you. What do you write?"
That's not hard. If you find there's a lull or awkward moment then hit it again with a conversation that matters. "What do you think is the hardest part of the writing process?" "How are you promoting your work off of social media?" "Have you tried Facebook Ads yet?"
If you want to have meaningful conversations, ask meaningful questions.
And after your meaningful conversations...
2. Don't go back to your hotel room
There is nothing for you in that hotel room. Nothing. Sure you could write. But, again, you can do that at home for free.
Instead, go to dinner. Don't skip the after party. Hang out in the lobby. If people are going out, go with them. If no one is going out, make the suggestion.
Because meaningful conversations during the conference is only step one. After that you need to get to know people a little more. Make friends. Make friends with the kind of people who have the same goals that you do.
Because friends help each other.
Now, I'm not saying you should go make fake friends with people so they will help you. That's lame and makes you sound like a used car salesman.
But I am saying that making friends will help you. Because now you are someone that person can come to for honest advice, and you can do the same. And friends are people who genuinely want to help each other. Because even though we're all authors, we aren't competing against each other. Because you can't know it all and friends can know things you don't.
So don't go home. Sleep when the conference is over. Instead, stick David Gaughran with a 5lb bag of muffins and brainstorm pen names with Lori Ryan. Watch bats with Chance Carter and laugh until you're sore with Tammi LaBrecque.
Build those relationships, because publishing can be a long, lonely road...but only if you let it be.