Be This, Not That


Observations on attending writer’s conferences; #WDC15


The Teddy Bear: Almost everyone at a writer’s conference is feeling insecure in one way or another. Are my ideas as bad as my breath? Did that person just roll their eyes at me? Why am I wearing jeans? Am I the oldest/youngest/stupidest/fattest/ugliest one here? Is that my EX??

 So just be nice for, as they say, everyone is fighting a hard battle of their own. I find that the best way is to smile at people, be encouraging and extra polite. Feel free to strike up conversations, freely share what you know (without being intrusive) and just project an overall aura of warmth. Everyone is as lost as you.


The Stenographer: Yes, I know. You just dropped $400 on the conference and another $600 on travel. You want your money’s worth – but do you have to crack open that laptop in every session? This isn’t a deposition. Plus, we all hear you. Clickety-click-click. Clickety-click. Clickety-clickety-clickety. Next time, just bring a small notepad, K? My favorite’s a little black Moleskine. It fits in my purse and best of all, it’s silent.

The Thief: So the presenter in this session has really good material. There’s tips on accounting, copyright, sales – but do you have to hold up your giant iPad and take a pic of every single slide? Did you know that’s their copyrighted material? Pro tip: If you loved the session, approach and thank the speaker afterward and politely inquire if they would share their slides or a summary/handout. It’ll give you a chance to make a connection (and not get sued later for plagiarism or infringement).

The Muncher: Skipped lunch but didn’t want to miss the session? How about stepping outside the room to fuss with that extra-resistant bag of chips? That way you can avoid all the crinkle noise and can hork it back noisily with no one noticing the crumbs falling down your chin (or onto my lap). No one to judge you in the hallway, friend. Least of all me.

BRING THIS (My handy list of items):

Empty plastic water bottle: Because: Hotels, convention centers are dry places and you’re walking around, talking to people all day. Plus, it’s cheaper than buying bottled water. You don’t really think a couple days of tap water will kill you, do you? I picked up a Rubbermaid bottle at Target for a couple bucks. It fits nicely in the side pocket of my backpack and I’m never thirsty.

Empty Altoids tin: Because: It can double as a wallet or mini-survival kit. I put my credit cards, room key and cash in mine. It’s low profile, lightweight and fits anywhere.

Nice-looking athletic shoes: Because: I used to run a major conference event that took place over a three-week period, requiring me to practically live at a convention center. One year, as I walked from one end of it to the other, wearing the wrong shoes, I ruptured a disc in my lower back, requiring surgery six months later. Outcome: I choose my footwear very carefully and I always pack a cute pair of sneakers (my current pair are all-black Nikes with a white sole and pink swoosh). People don’t judge me. If anything, I get compliments.

Lip balm, hand cream, sanitizer: Because: See reasons above, plus with all the handshaking you’ll do as The Teddy Bear, and touching strange doorknobs and handles, you’ll need to keep the copious conference germs out of your system.

Mints: Because: Fresh breath is friendly breath, Teddy. Plus, in these conditions, you are likely going to be standing closer, and talking louder, to be heard over the din of others doing the same. Pro tip: If you take a swig from your handy water bottle, you’ll likely clear out your sinuses too.

Tissues: Because: Is the toilet paper out in this stall? Where’d my napkin go? Oh no, I’m going to sneeze all over the guy sitting in front of me. These handy paper items are nearly universal in use. I never attend a conference, or travel, without them.


Gum – What?! I can’t hear you over all the chomping and smacking you’re making.

Low-cut or revealing clothing – Those are nice boobs but I’d rather look at your face.

High heels – Are you going to dinner or to “Building Your Social Media Presence?”

What would you bring/do at your next conference?


2 thoughts on “Be This, Not That

  1. Fantastic advice! I learned to carry a small bag for handouts/swag and extra cash for books. Oh, and a quiet snack, like a granola bar. And don’t be afraid to strike up convos on social media first. Some of us introverts have a seriously difficult time with the face to face, but if we’ve chatted with someone online it provides a good ice breaker. Great post!

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