Attending a conference is nerve-wracking.
Let’s face it, you’re taking huge risks by going.
You’ve invested a lot of money: registration, hotel, airfare, some meals, and other incidentals. You’ve invested who you are – by attending you’re joining the ranks of those who have moved from wanting to write, to those who have taken steps to actively chase a dream. You’re risking your heart because you’ve gone public with your dream.
Bundle that with the fact that you might not know many people and you might be pitching the book of your heart to an editor and agent, and suddenly your stress is through the roof.
Sit back, take a deep breath, whisper a prayer for peace and help.
You’ll be okay.
As someone who’s been in your shoes, and helps those first-timers attending ACFW each year, I’d like to offer a bit of advice.
Pray, pray, pray. If God has lead you to attend ACFW or another writer’s conference, then He has a purpose and a plan for your time there. It may not be what you intend. But pray and ask for His will to be done. Ask for opportunities to serve others – nothing better to take your thoughts off your fears than to focus on others. And ask Him for peace to carry you through the days.
Prepare, prepare, prepare. ACFW has a conference blog that is packed with fabulous advice on everything from how to get from the conference to the hotel, where to find food for Friday’s free night, and how to get ready for that editor appointment. Take advantage of that repository of advice. Get your one-sheet ready if you have time. Polish that first chapter, and have it in your bag for appointments. Have business cards to leave with those you meet. Get your toolbox loaded and ready.
Research, research, research. Take the time to know what the houses you are pitching are currently publishing. How does what you write line up with that? Is it a new niche? Different from current authors? Etc. Google the editors so you can learn what you can. Same with the agents. Some of the agents have blogs. Read them. It is a wealth of information not just about the industry and their firms, but also on personality. You can tell so much from how a person writes for a blog.
Relax, relax, relax. ACFW, at least, is one big family. You may not think you know anyone, but you’re wrong. You’ll spend the conference giving and receiving hugs from folks you’ve met on the loop or first timers loop. Reach out to others with a smile, and they’ll be delighted to reciprocate. At my first conference, the friend and I who had driven down together grabbed a gal who was flying solo for lunch. Before conference officially began, we’d connected in a very cool way.
Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. By serving others you will find yourself relaxing, meeting others, and having a great time. There are so many ways to do it that don’t take much from you, but help the conference run efficiently and smoothly.
Rest, rest, rest. Sometimes you just have to skip a workshop because you’re brain is on overload. Or you can’t fathom the thought of another meal surrounded by people. That’s okay. Escape to your room. Put your feet up. Take a bath. Read a book. Do whatever it takes to recharge. We understand.
And at ACFW don’t forget the prayer room. It is open all the time, and the perfect place to escape when you’re rattled and overwhelmed.