Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Conference Survival Guide Part 1: Dealing with Nerves

Hello lovely readers! I hope the summer is treating you well, and that you're getting a lot of writing/editing/planning done.

Summer writing

Summer might be a slower time for the publishing industry as a whole, but it also means conference season is getting into full swing. Conferences can be a lot of time and work, but they can also be amazing springboards for your writing career.

I also attend conferences and trade shows for my career as a knitting pattern designer--in fact, I just got back from one last week. My husband and I are also gearing up to attending the Midwest Writer's Workshop at the end of this month. Inspired by this, I thought I'd do a series of conference survival tips.

Midwest Writer's Workshop

This week's topic is dealing with nerves.

Nervous man

I'm going to start with the obvious. Going to conferences is scary. First of all, you have to meet dozens, sometimes hundreds, of new people. Many writers are introverts by nature, so the idea of making conversation with that many people can be terrifying. Add to this the persistent worry that your entire career might depend on what you say or do at the conference, and you've got a nice panic attack waiting to happen.

My advice?

Fake it.

You can be quaking in your shoes, but the truth is, it doesn't matter as long as you don't act like it. I've heard conference attendees stammer through apologies for being so nervous and seen them actually cover their face with their hands. One lady actually stopped in the middle of speaking and told all of us she needed a moment to take some deep breaths to calm her nerves. The truth is, I wouldn't have known any of those people were even close to that level of nervousness if they hadn't come right out and told us.
Fake it till you make it

Faking confidence is hard, but it works. I've had people compliment me on how relaxed I seemed--when internally I was this close to running screaming from the room. Keep the focus on appearing confident and unconcerned, and I guarantee you'll fool almost anyone.

A few tips: do try taking deep breaths (but not during a speech, please!). Agent Gemma Cooper wrote a fantastic blog post with some excellent tips for conquering nerves that's well worth a read. Most importantly, keep the goal in mind. Whether you're there to pitch your work to an agent or editor, network with other writers, learn from workshops, or all of the above, focusing on the end goal can make all the difference.


  1. Good advice. Now if I can just find the nerve to actually GO to a conference!

  2. Thanks for the good advice. I heard somewhere that practicing what you are going to say or answering questions about your book can help some too.

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