After the Conference
Blogger: Wendy Lawton
We often write about how to get ready for a conference and how to make the most of each day at the conference, but what about after the conference is over? There’s usually a natural letdown after intense days of friendship, scholarship and relationship. I know in years past when I attended writers’ conferences I would often come home so full of information and exciting possibilities that when anyone asked me how it went, I just froze up. There were so many complicated interactions I knew it would take far more energy than I had to explain everything and put it in context.
So how do we navigate the post-conference?
First of all, and possibly most important of all, Recharge Your Batteries. I’m thinking of those who just returned from ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) on Sunday and had to go to work on Monday. Eek! Don’t do it if at all possible. We need to allow ourselves time to process. A rich brew needs percolating time. For me, unpacking, doing laundry and organizing the paperwork is fertile ground for processing. Here at Books & Such we try to allow ourselves one day on either side of a conference, otherwise much of the work we accomplished gets muddled.
Update Your Contacts. Take all those business cards and input them into your contacts program. If you learned important bits and pieces about people, put that in the notes section of your contacts. Don’t rely on memory. These details may be important sometime down the line, but by then you’ll have hundreds of other contacts and if it’s not written. . . well, you know.
Process Your Notes. You probably already have a system for dealing with all the notes and materials from the sessions, but here’s how I deal with them: Divide the notes into two categories: “Valuable” and “Throw Away.” Toss the second pile. The note taking did its job of keeping you focused during the presentation, but there’s no need to handle the information again.
For the valuable information, divide it in two piles: “File” and “Action.” As you file the notes you will want to refer to again, think hard about your filing system. If you just put them in a file marked “conference,” they will remain out of sight and forever out of mind. Instead, create files that might read something like “Building Characters,” “Deep Point of View,” “Social Marketing Tips,” etc. then each time you find more info on that subject you have a place to put it, and you’ve enlarged your knowledge base.
Take Action. The pile that requires action needs to be prioritized. One of the first things you’ll want to do is to write out a list of all the things that need to be done in the order of importance. If you have an agent, you need to send her an email outlining what interactions you had and what proposals if any need to be sent to editors with whom you met. Don’t do it in a phone call because an email will form the basis of your record as well as your agent’s action plan. And if your agent attended the conference, don’t rely on the quick interaction you may have had. Trust me, he will be as brain dead after the conference as you. The email will be a solid reminder of that conversation.
Write Thank You Notes. In this day and age of quick email or even worse, Facebook messages, we often think we can just jot an email to conference organizers or industry professionals thanking them for their time and effort. Yes, it works, but trust me, it’s not memorable in the least and that’s one of the reasons you want to write notes–to cement relationships. Your sweet grandmother had it right. Take the time to write heartfelt notes. In our hurried world they stand out more than ever before. Besides, it’s another way to help you to process the people who made a difference to you.
I couldn’t attend the ACFW conference this year, and I really missed it. The one thing that always impresses me about that conference is that the work is largely done by volunteers. That’s right, volunteers. And a smoother, more professional conference would be hard to find. No one deserves thank-yous more. When I think of the work done by the contest coordinators alone. . . well, a thank you note seems hardly enough.
Anyway, those suggestions only touch the surface. How do you process? How long does reentry generally take for you? Does the after-conference glow last? How do you deal with the reality of real life after the fellowship of other writers? Got any tips or observations for us?