Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Conference Likes and Dislikes

By reader request we've put together a list of those things we like and dislike about conferences. Some are just plain silly, while others are things we see conferences do that either help or hurt the attendees. Whatever we've listed, though, is something we have experienced in one way or another.

Like: A room supplied with water, other beverages, and snacks for faculty only—a place to hide and take a break.
Dislike: A full day of back-to-back appointments. No one should ever have more than two hours, it's not good for agents and certainly not useful for attendees when we're too tired to think.

Like: A ten-minute break after the first hour of appointments (for obvious reasons).
Dislike: Cash bars. If you're planning to have a cocktail party or dinner where alcohol is not complimentary, be sure to offer at least one drink ticket to faculty members.

Like: A personal escort or host—someone to make sure I get to and from the hotel, picked up at the airport, know my schedule, and am taken care of over the course of the weekend.
Dislike: Being trapped in a hotel for three days with no break.

Like: Entertainment. Often I'm traveling to a place I've never been and love the opportunity to get out of the hotel and explore (as a group or with the host). Obviously this should always be optional.
Dislike: Long, drawn-out meals. Awards ceremonies and speakers are part of the event, but it's nice to have a meal or two where there's actually a chance to talk and network with people at your table.

Like: A gift bag or small welcome gift when arriving. This doesn't have to be extravagant or expensive, but it's always nice to know you're appreciated with snacks, a bottle of water, or even a trinket or two.
Dislike: Conference organizers who say, "We're going to keep you really busy this weekend. We've got your schedule completely booked." While I am there to work, this is still my weekend and a free moment is appreciated.

Like: Attendees who are well prepared. They know how to handle pitch appointments and they know not to approach agents in the bathroom.
Dislike: A bar that closes before 11:30.

Like: Ten-minute appointments.
Dislike: Appointments that are too short or too long. Sometimes there's not enough time for an author to even get through their pitch, and other times they go on so long that my eyes start to glaze over.

Like: A pitcher of ice water at the table while I'm holding appointments.
Dislike: Dry mouth.

Like: Legible name tags that include the name of the agency and "Agent."
Dislike: Carrying around balloons or some other "neon sign" so that even planes flying overhead can see that I am a conference speaker.

Like: Being given a clear, thorough schedule of conference events and my responsibilities as soon as I arrive.
Dislike: Being asked to add impromptu appointments. I'm too nice to say no, but not too nice to resent it.

Like: A little relaxation time after my flight in.
Dislike: Required cocktail parties or meet-and-greets scheduled just an hour or two after I've spent all day traveling to the conference.

Like: Prepared, courteous conference organizers and volunteers.
Dislike: Pitches on the way to or from the airport by my escort. I am happy to speak to that person during any free time at the conference, or to receive an email from them later, reminding me who they are.

—Jessica & Kim


Jaye Wells said...

Great post.
The "too nice to say no, but not too nice to resent comment" is key. Too often, people have no idea they're offending because of that very thing.

kris said...

Printing this out to keep in mind when my local RWA chapter hosts our upcoming mini-conference. Great info from the other side of the table. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Uh...by being asked to add impromptu appointments, do you mean a block, or if your first appointment turns out really short and you have maybe eight minutes out of your original ten minute chunk and there's still time for a "waiter". I hate asking, but I honestly never thought about it.

Anonymous said...

If there's a hole in the appt. schedule or I'm running super early, I'm happy to talk to a "waiter." As Jessica pointed out in a previous post, some of our best pitches were "waiters." But I've been asked at a meet-and-greet to hold extra appts. right then and there --the same day I flew in and a whole day before the official start of the conference. That didn't make me too happy.

Unknown said...

I can see where that would be upsetting, thank God you weren't talking about the set appointments, I'd wondered what the agents and editors thought about people who tried to squeeze in. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking the time to share. It's really interesting to those of us who hope to someday attend and meet you in person. I enjoy your blog and learn a lot.

Anonymous said...

Jessica and All:
Thank you for inviting me to your blog. I don't think I've ever seen a wish list quite like this one. As a presenter (not agent), I tend to agree with many of your suggestions. Many would work for anyone dedicated to making a conference a success for the attendees--whether presenter, panelist or agent.

Very best,
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Anonymous said...

Excellent! Thanks so much, Jessica & Kim. I'm printing this out for my own use, and will add it to the conference guide for my writers' organization.

Paula J. Matter