Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Meaningful Networking

When you attend a conference, you meet people--it's impossible not to! I'm sharing a few tips to soothe the meet-and-greet jitters. If you're like me, you may be socially at ease in your own circles--family, church, work, school--but a tad uncomfortable (or downright terrified) at the thought of meeting hundreds of writers.

If you're attending the conference with a few friends, you're very blessed. They're comforting, like a security blanket. You won't have to worry about having someone to sit next to at lunch, nor will you feel like a green M&M in a sea of yellows, and you'll have friends to share the ups and downs of each day with. Be thankful!

For all of you first timers who don't have a circle of friends to rely on, please remember you aren't the outsider looking in. Sure, there will be little cloisters of writers dotted throughout the facility. They all seem to know each other. They're laughing and patting each other on the back, hugging and hollering. And you might feel lonely, left out, as if you're the only stranger in the hotel. You aren't.

From the minute you arrive until the minute you leave, don't let the "poor me, everyone knows each other" attitude overcome you. You're going to have to step out of your comfort zone and make an effort.

And for all of you writers with a built in circle attending, you're going to want to step out of your comfort zone and make an effort too, or you'll miss out on meeting some incredible people.

Stop hyperventilating. You can do this. I'm going to show you how.

Here is my tip for meeting new people.


That's it. Easy!

Don't spend every second with your friends. Walk around and introduce yourself to people. Are you in line for something? Strike up a conversation with the lady in front of you. After the day's events are over, go down to the lounge. Sit next to a group of writers and introduce yourself. At workshops, talk to the people next to you before it starts. Don't let opportunities to be friendly pass you by.

So how do you strike up a conversation with a stranger at a writing conference? Again, easy!

1. Introduce yourself
2. Ask them where they're from.
3. Ask them what they write.

It's a guaranteed conversation starter. Everyone loves talking about what they write. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to all of the intriguing books people are working on.

If you think of it, ask for their card. Then, when you're back in your room, write a few notes about the person so you'll remember them. I met many, many people, but had meaningful conversations with about a dozen. When I returned home, I e-mailed the dozen. Will we always keep in touch? Doubtful, but I know I'll stay in touch with a few, and that's pretty great.

So here is my question for you: are you comfortable meeting new people or does it intimidate you? How will you handle the social aspect of conference?
If you get there and need a boost, e-mail me. I'll give you the nudge you need to meet some great people!

On a side note, I'm guest blogging over at Reality Covered in Chocolate today, so if you're addicted to magazines, or curious about someone who is (ahem), head on over! I appreciate your support!

Join me on Friday when we'll discuss the impression you make on people.

Happy Writing!


  1. Great tips. Whether I'm nervous or not usually depends on my mood. Also, there's always a few sweet, outgoing people who take newbies under their wings. :-)
    Love your tip about asking what someone writes. LOL

  2. Love the post, Jill! I'm pretty good at meeting people and carrying on casual conversation, but I find it exhausting! Don't get me wrong. I love to meet new people and socialize, but when every single person is brand new to me, my brain hurts in the end. It's a great idea to jot down some notes about the people you meet and send follow up emails!

    Oh, how I wish I was going to this conference coming up! I would love to meet some of my fellow writers that I've only met online.

  3. I'm a little bit of both. I have a hard time going up to people, but if someone strikes up a conversation with me...I'm good to go!

  4. I'm generally shy, but I do introduce myself at conferences and try to get to know them and what they write and where they're at in the process. I have yet to meet anyone nasty at a conference. Such a relief!!

  5. I'm am a naturally born introvert but was forced into socializing when I joined a sorority in college (it was one of the reasons I joined).

    Even though I'm GREAT at meeting people (really...ask anyone who was at the WTP with me), it's not my favorite thing to do.

    So here's my tip: Set yourself a "people meeting" goal. Decide how many new people you want to meet each day, then do it! Sometimes you only need to meet one person for it to make all the difference :)

  6. loving these posts! so much that i gave you a blog award today! check it out!

  7. I'll answer your question by mentioning me and the grocery clerk had a twelve minute conversation (no one was behind me) about her thyroid surgery yesterday. I love meeting new people. They become elements of my characters. :D

    Great insight in this post. I firmly believe if we're just out to meet the "important people" we'll miss who God is craving us to see as important in the moment.

    ~ Wendy

  8. I love meeting new people! I think I'd probably drive everyone at the conference crazy talking a mile a minute and introducing myself to anyone who would listen. I'm also a loud talker so everyone would hear me laughing and talking. Come to think of it, maybe the conference world isn't ready for us to attend just yet.

  9. Good Morning!

    Jessica: Oh, I agree. Sometimes I'm in top form and could meet anyone; other days I want to crawl under a rock. Thank the Lord for sweet, generous people who make an effort!

    Heather: Exhausting, isn't it? I know. I usually shut down after a while. Although, I found myself much more willing to meet skads of new people since they were writers. Maybe I'm biased? Ha!

    Marybeth: I think most people are a bit of both. I've had to force myself to be the introducer over the years because we've moved so much!

    Eileen: Nasty person at a writing conference? I'm sure it doesn't exist!

    Karin: Good advice! And I understand how you feel. I consider myself socially successful, but it doesn't come naturally.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  10. Jeannie: You're awesome, you know that? I'll come by later and check it out! Thanks!

    Wendy: Why does that not surprise me? :) Everyone needs a Wendy in their life, spreading sunshine around.

    Lisa and Laura: Do we have the same gene pool? I hail from two large families. One is loud, fast-talking, and the only way you'll be heard is if you shout faster than anyone else. The other family is quiet, bookish and calm. I'm a really weird blend of the two.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  11. I've made wonderful friends at each conference I've gone to, and I am anticipating similar results next month. :)

    As you say, I'm completely comfortable in my own circle, but when it comes to branching out, my imagination takes over and I envision all sorts of terrible things happening! I have to get a grip and just dive in.

    It helps that my daughter collects business cards. That's an easy way to break the ice. And everyone is happy to have given out some business cards. :)

  12. I'm not a shy person, but I find it overwhelming to be swimming around in a sea of unknown faces. I'm heading over to check out your guest post now!

  13. Good tips. Meeting new people intimidates me. And you know what? I really don't like talking about what I write all that much. Not because I don't love writing and sharing but it still makes me nervous. I'm trying to open up more but it's harder in person :)

  14. Erica: You're right--everyone loves trading cards. And I think it would be harder to make an effort at a conference not full of writers, don't you?

    LazyWriter: Uggh...I know! Everyone looks like they know each other and it's intimidating to go up to a stranger. I found it really easy with writers, but I would have been overwhelmed in a different pool of people.

    Cindy: You can share as much or as little as you'd like. The nice thing about asking about other people's writing is that it takes the focus off of you.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  15. What excellent advice! Mingling is a little daunting, but fun. Also, you get a lot of practice when you go to college. Every year is about meeting new people and stepping out of your comfort zone. :-)

  16. I am naturally shy, so a group of people is already off my comfort zone. I have learned to go ahead and be friendly and meet people. Almost everything I do (outside of family gatherings) if alone. Thanks for the intro tips. I am sure they will help a lot of people who are going to the conference.

  17. I was sooo nervous about going to my first conference and to make things worse it was one of those 'hormonaly' challenged days. Things were at their worse but I had a great time. I knew nobody but met everybody and I loved every minute. I'm so sad I'm missing the big conference everyone seems to be going to in September. I would love to meet all of my blogger buddies!

  18. Love the tips today, Jill! I think it's so easy in any situation for us to focus on ourselves and "poor me" I don't know anyone. But sometimes it helps to move outside of our selfish nature and think about others--truly be interested in them, notice others who seem lonely, and offer genuine love and friendship!

  19. Good post:) I went alone to my first conference--didn't know a soul but a few years later, I am still great friends with a few:) Everyone is nervous but like you said, ask a few questions and you can get everyone to warm up to you!

  20. Icy Roses: Yeah, college is a big meet and greet, isn't it? :)

    Nancy: I get it. It's hard taking a chance and introducing ourselves. Thankfully, conferences make it easy. Name badges are a plus!

    T.Anne: Yep, I understand the "hormonally challenged" portion very well! I'm glad you made the best of it!

    Jody: You are so right. It's such a blessing to put our own problems aside and interact with others.

    Terri: You were a brave woman! And it was worth it, yes? You still have a few friends from that first one. How wonderful!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  21. Jill, thanks for your consistently great posts. Today's was another one filled with helpful tips.

    I'm with Jody. I'm an introvert and inwardly cringe at the thought of being thrust into a group of strangers. What I attempt to do is take my eyes of myself. I look around for someone who reminds me of the me I'm struggling to hide--the knee-knocking cotton-mouthed coward--and strike up a conversation. My goal is to ease her discomfort.

    One of the terrified conference newbies I spoke with on the first day at my most recent conference ran into me on the last. She gushed her thanks about what I'd done for her, saying that before I spoke to her she didn't know how she was going to make it through the conference. By reaching out to her, she said I'd given her the confidence to meet others, and she ended up having a good time. That put a huge smile on my face.

  22. My inner-introvert is trembling at the thought of mingling. I love being with people, but I'm incredibly shy. But it's good to remember that they're writers and people too. :)

  23. Great post! I love meeting new people, so I'm not really nervous about that aspect of the conference. :)

  24. Great post. I wish I lived in the USA and then I would for sure be at every conference I could. We don't get many in Australia. In fact I don't currently know of any, but that could be just because I have only started looking recently.

    Thanks for checking out my blog and for your comments. I am glad I came over to check yours out too. I have joined up and will be back:)

  25. Keli: What a heartwarming story. It only magnifies the fact that by helping others, we help ourselves.

    Danyelle: When you attend a conference, everyone will love you. In fact, I have a theory that louder folks are drawn to quieter ones!

    Katie: Yeah, I've never met you, but I know you won't have ANY trouble meeting new people!! And maybe you'll be one who helps some of the shyer writers?

    Tabitha: Welcome! Australia?Wonderful! Home of Hugh Jackman, it's got to be good! I do think there is an Australian RWA but I don't know if they do conferences. I'm a big fan of several Australian writers: Ally Blake, Jessica Hart, and my all-time fave, Stephanie Laurens. I'm so glad you checked out my blog!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  26. I'm not particularly nervous about meeting new people, I just don't enjoy striking up multiple conversations with strangers in a very short period of time! I find it extremely draining... but I've yet to meet a mean person at a conference, and if you're willing to smile and say 'hi' when someone looks your way, you have nothing to worry about. Often, some of the more experienced conference-goers will sniff out newbies and introduce themselves... what a great way to help others get over the psychological barrier of 'meeting people'!

  27. All good advice for a somewhat extroverted introvert.

  28. I just read your guest blog too..made me laugh. And you are so right, it is so necessary to get out and meet new people. It can make you richer just for meeting them and in turn, make your writing deeper and far more interesting. It can be hard to put yourself out there, but totally worth it when you meet really great people.


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