Despite the fact that I felt like a Facebook stalker fan girl at Killer Nashville last weekend, I took a lot away from the conference, not the least of which are these five tips for attending any writer’s conference. Learn from my mistakes. Please.

Lesson 1 – Always, always, always bring cards.

In truth, this is not something I’ve done wrong in the past, just something I did wrong this time. Bringing lots of cards with you to a conference is a basic essential. And I know this. Yet, I didn’t have a single card with me. Everything except my laptop is in storage right now, and I thought that was a good excuse to not have cards.

Business cards from authors attending Killer Nashville

I was wrong! I can’t tell you how many times I wish I’d had cards with me.  I could have designed and had small photo cards with my book covers and contact information on them.  I should have done that.  I didn’t. It was a poor decision on my part.  The first thing I did after the conference ended was to take the stack of cards that I had and connect with all of the authors through Facebook, Twitter, or their websites.  Most of them I also added to my phone as contacts. Those same people won’t have that information about me, which will make it harder for them to remember me when I reach out to connect.

Lesson 2 – Don’t be so star struck that you don’t introduce yourself to the “stars” of the show.

This is a huge failing for me. I’m not exactly an introvert, but I’m also not exactly an extrovert, so introducing myself to new people, especially those people whom I perceive to be more advanced than I am is stepping outside my comfort zone. It cost me dearly at this conference. I missed the opportunity to connect with John Gilstrap, M. William Phelps, and Robert K. Tanenbaum because I didn’t step up and stick out my hand.  I also missed opportunities to connect with C. Hope Clark, Dietrich Stogner, Terry Odell, Nancy Sartor, and many others. My loss, and a costly one at that.

Lesson 3 – Get over yourself! (Or, shut up and listen.)

I’m guilty, guilty of talking far too much and not listening enough. It’s because talking about myself is a comfortable subject. It’s a subject that I know well, and when I’m talking about myself, I can’t be showing how little I know, right? Wrong. Talking about yourself constantly is a sign of one of two things: either you’re egotistical or your newbie is showing. In my case, maybe it’s a bit of both. The problem is, during that time when I was talking about myself, I missed the opportunity to listen to someone else share their own experiences and information.

Lesson 4 – Ask lots of questions.

The point of these conferences is for writers to share what they have learned with those who have not yet learned those lessons. Two decades ago, I begged for people who would share their experiences with me. Now, I have that opportunity, but at times, I feel embarrassed by the questions that I have.  As a result, I still don’t have the answers. It took about a day and half, and I finally did start asking even what I thought were the stupid questions, and no one thought I was stupid. Go figure. Everyone starts as a newbie and works their way up to expert.

Lesson 5 – Show off your work.

I can’t tell you how many times I kicked myself for not having something to display. I have beautiful covers, one pretty good book, and more on the way. I missed a golden opportunity to show off the work that I’ve done so far and start building buzz for the stories that are coming. Never attend a conference with swag, and if you’re on a panel, try to always have handouts for participants. They truly do appreciate items they can carry away with them, especially if those items are useful!