I just survived another great PNWA Writer’s Conference. With the event fresh in my head, it seems a good time to offer up a little of my experience for anyone who’s considering a similar conference for the first time or just looking for ways to better their experience at a familiar conference.
Writer’s conferences can be stressful, especially if you’re pitching a book to agents and editors. I picked up my agent, Emily Keyes, just before the 2012 PNWA conference. Since I was already registered and no longer needed to pitch, I decided to volunteer. I can strongly recommend volunteering for many reasons and suggest doing so even if you are pitching (or perhaps especially if you are pitching).
Benefits of volunteering:
- If you’re pitching, volunteering can help take your mind off that stress. If you’re not pitching, it can take your mind off other stresses like wondering if a publisher is going to make on offer on your book or if the blood work on the cat living in your shop is going to come back showing some horrible disease.
- Volunteering gives you a look behind the scenes. You get to see how things run and how much amazing work goes into putting a conference together. If you help with early pitch sessions, you can also get helpful insight into how those sessions are run before your turn to pitch comes up.
- You meet great people. Not just other volunteers and aspiring authors with their own fantastic stories to share, but also the agents, editors, and published authors sitting on the other side of the tables. They are great people and sometimes they’re just as nervous as the attendees are.
- In a business that can seem really lonely and unforgiving, you will be appreciated. It takes a lot to run a conference and more help is always needed. The conference staff will appreciate you for your help, as will the attendees and presenters.
The down side:
- You might miss a session you wanted to attend, but usually volunteer coordinators will try to work with you to find a time for you to volunteer that allows you to make the sessions you most want to attend.
As you can see, the balance is in the positive. There are many good reasons to volunteer and only one notable down side that I have run into. I strongly recommend the experience.
Have you volunteered at a conference? If so, how was your experience? If not, what concerns might keep you from doing so?