Going to a major conference to boost your business seems like a no-brainer. MagNet 2012, Canada’s Magazine Conference in Toronto, is an excellent example. Opportunities abound for savvy freelance writers who want to increase their knowledge, make business contacts, and network with colleagues from across the country.
I’m planning my third trip to MagNet, and my sixth AGM-and-conference with the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC). Each year it’s been useful and rewarding for me.
This year I thought I’d start by reviewing five ideas for getting the most out of the conference experience:
1. Prepare before you go. Read over the workshop schedule, and check your professional list-serves for issues that are percolating through the discussions. With PWAC, for example, business practice discussions coalesced into workshops on global markets in 2008, and on travel writing in 2009. These sessions weren’t on the main schedule, but they were among the most useful ones I attended.
2. Clear the decks of last-minute assignments and niggling details before you leave home. While it’s tempting to think you’re going to have time to get some writing done while you’re away, a conference schedule can be full of workshops and social events. The buzz should leave you thinking forward, not looking back.
3. Get those business cards made before you go. It’s worth it once you get there, especially at a conference like MagNet where some editors, publishers, digital producers and others mix with writers in each session.
4. Get to the workshops early. That gives you the chance to find a seat and strike up a conversation with those around you. More than one PWACer has reported sitting next to someone who later became an important contact. (Note: If the elevators break down or you can’t find the room or some other worst-case scenario makes you late: just get there. The best value for upgrading business practices can come out of the sessions themselves.)
5. Use breaks and social events to catch up with your professional colleagues and swap business tips and tricks. Standing in line for coffee or slipping out for a meal with friends and colleagues from across Canada is always enjoyable. It can also become prime time to compare workshop notes and share ideas.
One of the best things about PWAC is the camaraderie, and the generosity of other writers. PWAC conferences are always useful for tips about best-practices and valuable insights to take home — and for making new friends. (For more ideas, see my article “The Professional Writer in the Digital Age: PWAC meets MagNet 2009, Freelance 38:5, 29-33)
What are your tips for getting the most out of conferences this year? Leave a comment and let’s share thoughts about how to maximize these opportunities.