Are you feeling burned out on writing and blogging conferences?

I’m not! And here’s why — this past weekend I had the opportunity to speak at and attend the Southern Christian Writers Conference for the first time and it was amazing! I left with a notebook full of useful information and feeling incredibly inspired. I made new friends, too!

But let’s be honest — sometimes attending writing and blogging conferences can be a waste of money and time. And if you’ve had this experience it may be because the conference was poorly planned and highly disorganized, or perhaps it featured subpar presenters.

However, here’s a hard truth — most of the time when we don’t get anything out of writing or blogging conferences it’s our own fault. Most of the time we were the ones who failed to plan and get organized.

My friend Randi Pink, author of the young adult novel Into White and the forthcoming novel Girls Like Us, calls herself a “conference-a-holic” and with good reason. She proudly proclaims that it’s because of the conferences held by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators that she is published today. (SCBWI’s 48th Annual Summer Conference will be held in Los Angeles, August 9-12. Learn more here.)

I’ve been attending writing and blogging conferences for years and I’ve learned that how much I get out of a conference has more to do with me than the conference itself. To make the most of writing and blogging conferences you must ask yourself important questions before you even step foot in the venue.

What are my goals for this conference?

Always set a few goals for yourself before you attend a conference. These goals should be based on your current needs as a writer or blogger and should take into consideration what the conference has to offer.

For example, if you’ve completed a book proposal and you’re attending a conference where literary agents and editors will be present, pitching your book idea should be at the top of your list of goals. If you’re a blogger struggling with consistency or with growing your readership, look at the list of workshops being offered at the blogging conference you’re going to and be sure to attend sessions that will help you in those areas.

No matter what, you should always include the goal of meeting new people on your list. Collaborating with other bloggers could be exactly what you need to boost your brand. The person sitting next to you at a writing conference could be your writing partner or beta reader. The fellow freelancer you meet could help you land your next big gig.

What should I do to prepare for this conference?

When preparing and packing for writing and blogging conferences keep your goals in mind. If you plan to meet with agents and editors you obviously need to prepare your pitch, making sure it’s compelling and concise and that it clearly communicates the big idea of your book and why it matters.

Make a list of the workshops you plan to attend but keep an open mind. You may arrive and learn a session has been canceled or that the topic wasn’t quite what you thought it would be. So, have a plan but be willing to be flexible.

Get a fresh batch of business cards and get ready to network and mingle.

Related Reading: How to Network Like a Boss

Along with those business cards, be sure to pack outfits that are comfortable yet make you feel confident and cute. And don’t forget to pack a sweater or jacket. You know it’s always freezing in conference halls and meeting rooms!

How will I apply what I’ve learned?

How many times have you attended a writing or blogging conference, filled your notebook with tips and tricks, only to then put the notebook in a drawer and never look at it again?

If you’re not going to apply the things you’ve learned at a conference, what’s the point of attending in the first place?

At the end of a conference, I always make it a point to review all the notes I’ve taken and use them to compile a list of action steps — specific things I will do to apply the lessons learned. I’ll then use my planner and decide exactly when I will work on each task.

When will I follow up with the people I met?

One of the action items you’ll always find on my post-conference to-do list is to follow up with the people I met. Do this as soon as you can to increase the chances that they will actually remember you. Don’t use this follow-up email to ask for a favor. Instead, offer the person something useful based on what you learned about them at the conference. For example, if you met a children’s book writer you could share with her information about SCBWI.

If you’re searching for writing and blogging conferences to attend, be sure to join the See Jane Write Network Facebook group where we’re compiling a list of conferences were love.

What are some of your favorite writing and blogging conferences?