How to Have a Fun and Productive Time at Conferences by Heidi Mastrogiovanni

I just went to a wonderful weekend-long gathering of booksellers, publishers, and authors. I’ve been to a lot of film festivals and Writers Guild events because I live in Los Angeles and I work in the film industry, but this was my first event that was dedicated to the joy of writing, reading, and selling books. I had an absolute blast. I learned new things, and information I had learned before was reinforced. Here are some thoughts I hope will help make your next networking trip a joyous and beneficial one.

    1. Plan ahead so you can book your stay at the hotel where the event is being held. It’s just so much easier that way.


2. Get excellent business cards and bring lots of them with you. Hand them out all the time.


3. Bring more clothes than you think you’ll need. I tend to under-pack, and I’m really glad I listened to my publisher’s advice to bring extra outfits. I ended up changing several times a day. The morning events were fine for more comfortable clothes; the evening and book-signing events required fancier outfits. You want to have options on what to wear.


4. Whatever you do pack, make sure it’s comfortable and professional and fun. Maybe not an easy combination of adjectives, but it’s worth aiming for.


5. Pace yourself.  You should be attending as many seminars, panel discussions, breakfasts and lunches and dinners, cocktail parties, etc., as you can, but you don’t want to be at any of these events if your energy is low, because you won’t be presenting your best self. Take a cat nap, take a walk outside to get some fresh air, go to the gym for a quick workout—whatever you need to do to recharge and refresh.


6. In the elevator, in the hallway, at the tables for meals, at the bar, when you’re signing books…be open and be interested. Smile. Ask questions (I’m naturally curious, so this comes easily for me). Have fun meeting new people. Two men I met at a film festival in Calabasas are now my web series producing partners and my lifelong friends.


7. Chat with people at the airport and on the plane when you’re traveling to the event. Chances are at least a few people en route will be traveling to the same conference. It’s a good way to meet colleagues in your area.


8. Have your “elevator pitch” perfected.  It’s one or two (no more) sentences that get people interested in your work, that make them want to ask questions, that make them want to get a copy of your book to read. Try out different versions before you settle on the one you’ll use. It’s your hook. It’s one of your best marketing tools. Don’t settle for anything less than brilliant.


9. I realize that “relax and have fun” is rather nebulous advice, but it might be the most important thing for me to remember when I’m attending a conference or festival. Because there’s the creative side of our work, and then there’s the business/marketing side of our work. Both are vital to our careers, and we need to be excellent at both. I find that I’m better at the things I’m doing when I’m having fun doing them. So my closing thought has to be “Enjoy!”