You’ve registered for your first RWA National Conference, scheduled vacation time from work, confirmed your travel reservations and you’re ready to…well…you’re not really quite sure what you’re ready to do next.
PJ: What clothes will I need to take? And how many clothes? Is the dress casual, business or dressy?
Andrea: What about shoes? Are sneakers okay? (I’ve heard there’s a lot of walking!) Should I take heels?
Buffie: What’s the etiquette for approaching favorite authors in the hotel lobby or bar? Is it okay to just walk up and say hello?
Gannon: What about workshops? There are so many! How will I know which one(s) to attend?
Dishes: What if someone asks for my phone number…email…website? Should I carry a pen and paper with me at all times? Should I have business cards made? (Actually, that's one we already figured out and we can't wait to show off our brand spankin' new Romance Dish business cards!)
These are only a small sampling of the thoughts that were swirling in Gannon's and PJ's heads when they started planning for their first National conference last summer in Washington, DC and currently have Buffie and Andrea spinning in circles as they prepare for their first National next month in Orlando! Not wanting anyone to step off on the wrong foot, we turned to our friend, Kim Castillo for expert guidance. As a conference veteran and assistant to many published authors, we knew she would have the advice we will all need to enjoy a successful conference experience. Please help us welcome Kim to The Romance Dish!
Thank you so much to PJ, Andrea, Gannon and Buffie. They're such wonderful women and advocates for romance authors. I just adore each of them. Thanks for inviting me to the dish, ladies! (We adore you too, Kim!)
|Kim & Eloisa James|
Let's talk about what to pack a little bit. Comfortable clothes and shoes! You're going to be in one hot, over crowded room after another. You need to be as comfortable as possible. You're also going to be walking everywhere. These hotels are HUGE and the conference will be spread out. Forget those cute shoes-wear what's comfortable. It's not the time to break in new shoes either.
Take at least two evening/cocktail outfits. You never know who'll be willing to sneak you into the Harlequin party or invite you out for drinks!
|Ready for the RITA Awards!|
This is going to sound silly, but pants with pockets. It makes it so easy if you can just stick your room key, debit card and cell phone in a pocket and go. Plus you're not lugging around a purse that feels like cement.
A large, sturdy tote bag for the book signings.
Minimal make up-you're going to sweat it all off anyway.
|Santa, J Perry and Kim|
Your camera! You definitely want memories!
Print out your room reservation confirmation email. Trust me on this one. If there is any confusion with your reservation you're going to need this. Keep it with your airline tickets and other important travel documents.
My biggest tool for conference is my large Vera Bradley purse. It has several pockets and holds so much it can be used as an overnight bag. I use mine as a traveling office. Things that I have to have at a con: 2 black pens, Sharpie marker, tape, hand sanitizer and wet wipes. Trust me on the sanitizer and wipes. You're going to want those. A mini can of Febreeze or Lysol comes in handy too ;)
One of my favorite things about con, other than seeing all my friends and favorite authors, is of course, THE BOOKS! You're going to want to take home loads of books. This has become somewhat of an issue the past couple of years because of those horrible airlines and their baggage charges. One way around this is to plan ahead! If your suitcase is large enough grab one or two (I recommend two!) large flat rate boxes from your local post office. While you're there buy $14.95 in stamps for each box. The box should fold in half to fit fairly easy in a suitcase. Put the stamps in your wallet. Once you've gotten all your books together you want to take home, use the flat rate boxes to mail yourself as many books as possible. Don't forget to bring a small roll of packing tape ($1 at the Dollar Tree!). After you've got the box all packed up and addressed to yourself, affix the postage, take the box down to the front desk and ask if they can mail the box for you. You can even call ahead, after you've made your reservation to ask if this is a service they offer. Most hotels will have a business center but the shipping can get pretty expensive that way.
My biggest piece of advice is-RELAX and HAVE FUN! This is conference! Don't be shy! Be out there, introduce yourself to people. I met one of my dearest friends this way. At my first con, we were always in line together. Then, my last day, we were both at breakfast together. Instead of sitting alone, we sat together and chatted. Every year Kristan Higgins is still my breakfast buddy!
Are you attending RWA in Orlando in July? Do you regularly attend conferences? If so, what's your best piece of advice for attendees?
Make sure to check the comments! I'll be sharing lots more tips, answering all of the Dishes' questions and maybe sharing a story or two in the comments ;)
Also, one lucky commenter will win some stash from my office! (PJ popping in again to say that Kim has some really good stash in her office!)
Kim, thanks for all that terrific advice! I'll be checking back throughout the day for more tips and those stories you promised!
Author's Best Friend. A life-long bookworm, she started out with the Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew, and then turned her love of great fiction to the romance genre. Now alpha heroes and happily ever afters are a pre-requisite for her bookshelves. Kim was rescued from the drudgery of a 9-to-5 job when she discovered a passion and knack for marketing. Soon her marketing and organizational skills found a niche in the romance novel industry she loves so much. As a freelance personal assistant, Kim spends her days working with the crème de la crème of best-selling and award winning authors. The work she does for authors – everything from bookseller outreach to managing websites to handling fan interactions and contests – makes her authors’ lives easier, giving them more time to write and be with their families.