SCWW conference manners 101

First, please, let me remind you the early bird registration discount rates end Sept. 1. Also, all critique materials must be sent by Sept. 1. That’s also the last date you can purchase a critique.

Now that we’ve got business out of the way, let’s talk about something that might seem simple, but can be a tricky, but vital, ingredient to a great conference experience – industry manners.
The majority of the attendees will have the same goal of getting published. With hundreds of people struggling for time with only 20 faculty members, it’ tempting to do whatever it takes. Here are some suggestions of the good, the bad and the “it depends.”

The Good

1. Be friendly. Think of it like the Sam Walton rule at Walmart: if a faculty member is within 10 feet, smile and say hello.

2. Be professional. Presentation is a subtle part of manners. Make sure to keep your comments, conversation and clothes in the same condition – clean and in good taste.

3. Be helpful. If a faculty member, or even another attendee, looks lost or in need of a little help, offer.

4. Be prepared. Nothing distracts a session or appointment time like someone wrestling a purse, conference tote or briefcase for pen, paper and business cards.

5. Be rested. It’s amazing the difference in your attitude when you’ve had a restful night.

6. Be kind. Sure, you’ll see errors in others work that look obvious. But remember, we’re all human and have room to learn. If asked for feedback, try to provide it in a manner you would want returned.

7. Be respectful. Though only 20 people, it will seem like there’s so many faculty, especially should they congregate after the dinner session in the hotel bar. While it’s tempting to join their crowd, only do so when there’s some type of invite. No matter how long our days are – theirs have been a little longer. Not only are they in sessions and appointments, they’re had loads of prep work, too.

The Bad

1. Don’t lurk. True, it’s a fine line. You want to catch your dream agent’s eye. But you don’t want a restraining order. How do you know if you’ve gone too far – when you’re trying to pass a business card under the bathroom stalls. Seriously folks, faculty members need down time – after dinner, a little time by the pool, a bathroom break – so they can provide great sessions, and find great clients.

2. Don’t be a wallflower. This is your time to shine in the sun, not be bashful and your own worst critique. If an agent or editor says he/she LOVES your use of dialogue or your creative choices of adjectives, don’t argue that you could do better.

3. Don’t carry a lot of baggage. I’m being literal and figurative. Maybe you were led on by an agent in the past. That doesn’t mean you’ll need interrogation lights for your critique or pitch appointments with new agents. And from a literal side, Don’t carry printed copies of your manuscript. In this digital age, make sure you have a copy in your email, laptop or on a flash drive.

4. Don’t be too eager, or play too hard-to-get. If an agent or editor says “send me a query,” “send me the first 10 pages,” or “send me your manuscript,” don’t light up his/her email from your Blackberry the second you walk away from the table. With appointments and sessions for most of the day, they won’t have time to read it. Also, you’re adding to pile of email that’s growing every minute they’re out of the office. But, don’t wait too long. A week or two of using conference suggestions to improve your work is great. Waiting any longer than a month, unless you’re in communications with the requester, is risky.

5. Don’t expect superhero powers or strength. You’ll never be able to go to every single session, hear every single panel or remember every great tip. And you can’t attend the early-bird breakfast groups and the night owl mingles without a little downtime somewhere.

It Depends

1. Avoid being “a fan.” It has happened to all of us. With so much social media at our fingertips, you may be a fan on Facebook of your dream agent, but at the conference you want to be a student and potential client. However, during the reception and dinners, feel free to let the faculty know how much you enjoy their work and how creative their Tweets are.

2. Elevator pitching, dinner pitching, bar pitch, bathroom pitching, poolside pitching. If you follow the Be Friendly rule and an agent asks, “What are you working on?” feel free to answer. However, if Agent X has on a pair of shades and a Harlequin at the pool, please, don’t pop up and pitch. Never, ever pitch in a bathroom, dark alley or airport.

Do you have a great conference etiquette item I missed? A specific question about conference manners? Comment below.

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