Thursday, March 22, 2007

Conferences - Not Just About Learning or Getting Assignments!

It’s March and many of my writing friends are currently planning on attending the ASJA conference in New York next month; the Chicago One on One in July or the Society of Professional Journalists conference in Washington D.C. in October.
I recently planned a small local conference sponsored by the Kansas City Press Club. I didn’t get to attend because my mother passed away a week earlier. However, the comments I received from panelists and attendees alike were that it was well-thought out and informative.
Those were huge compliment because that’s what a conference is supposed to be. But the best comments I received (and what I missed the most) were also how writers at the conference networked together. Several writers that had taken my classes and are now part of my facilitated online writers group got to meet. Writers also met the panelists and editors – and you just never know who might be able to get you work in the future. At least two of those panelists have passed work along to me in the past.
And making friends with other writers is an opportunity a lot of people simply miss at conferences.
At my first One on One conference in Chicago, a group of us went from Kansas City. We shared a room, sat together at lunches and unless split up by the conference committee, was pretty much together most of the time. Nothing wrong with writing friends sharing a trip, don’t get me wrong – we had a blast (remember Godiva on the shore of Lake Michigan under the spray of fireworks, Mahnaz and Lisa?)
However, the next year, my writing companions did not attend the One on One and so I went alone.
You know what? Being on my own forced me to go forth and meet more writers, network more with the editors who were there (within the rules, of course)! We were all looking for assignments, but I came away with so much more that year. Due to better networking, I made acquaintances of several out of town writers I now correspond with through email and talk to on the phone. One of these writers gave me tips into breaking into one of my dream publications; another one gave me three hard to find sources for my first major travel piece and yet another is my daily writing goal buddy. Oh – and networking better with the editors also landed me an assignment in one of my dream publications.
And the best part about successful networking is that you’re really not looking for who can get you where; good networking involves being drawn to people for the same reason you’re drawn to your other friends – you share something in common, they’re fun to be around or you have the love of the same foods. I don’t consider these people my business prey, but friends and colleagues. And, most importantly, I look for ways I can help them too.
So, writers, when you’re planning to go to any conferences this year – be they big or small – remember, you’re there to learn and depending on the conference, possibly land assignments – but don’t discount the power of networking with your fellow writers.
You and your new friends might just be able to help each other out and no matter if they help you land paying assignments, your life is richer because there are more people in it.


Blogger Suzanne Lieurance said...

Hey, Kerri,

I can't say enough about the power of networking. Besides being so much fun, it's such a boost to business.

Through networking online with you, I was one of the panelists at the KC Press Club Conference earlier this month. And I've been in contact with many of the other writers I met there - I even had coffee with one of them on Monday.

Another writer I met there is going to be a guest author for my weekly teleclass for writers (Writers on Call) next month.

How cool is that?

Thanks so much for the connections! I hope to meet you in person some day soon.

Suzanne Lieurance
The Working Writer's Coach

1:58 PM CDT  

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