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7 Things I Take to Writers’ Conferences

First up, a few announcements:

I have room for a couple more students in my Blogging for Beginners class, which starts August 7 and runs for four Wednesdays at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. Email me if you’d like to enroll!

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows that my posts become erratic every July. With the kids out of school and back-to-back family vacations, it’s difficult for me to keep up with my weekly blog and YouTube posts. However, I will be back in August with a vengeance!


Today I am headed to BlogHer ’13 in Chicago. If you are going, ping me so we can meet up! I’ll be at the newbies breakfast tomorrow (Friday) morning at 7:30 and would love to meet you! Meanwhile, I am packing my bags and these are a few things I’m taking:

1. Business cards
No matter what type of conference or networking event you attend, you should take business cards. It’s so much easier to exchange cards with the people you meet than to try to remember their names and contact info or write them in a notebook. I’ll also be carrying a pen to make notes on the cards.

2. Clothing that’s professional but comfortable
I confess I bought some new clothes for BlogHer ’13. While I typically wear jeans and tennis shoes to the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, I wanted to project my slightly less slovenly self to the thousands of bloggers attending BlogHer ’13.

3. Laptop and power cord
At a writers’ conference, you’ll use your laptop to write, revise and polish pieces you plan to submit to workshops and read aloud. At BlogHer ’13, I plan to take notes for future blog posts and to tweet the conference. Follow my tweets Friday and Saturday of this week @meghancward.

4. Comfortable shoes
Most conferences involve a lot of walking, so I am taking a couple of pairs of (nonathletic) shoes. No high heels for me!

5. Some of my best writing
Writers’ and blogging conferences alike offer opportunities to read your work out loud—either in small workshops or before a larger audience—and you’ll feel a lot more confident if you have a piece that you’ve polished and read aloud at home before you attend. (It’s best to bring a couple of print copies so you don’t have to read off your laptop.)

6. Contact info of other writers/bloggers who will be attending
One of the best parts about writers’ and bloggers’ conferences is that you get to meet the people you’ve been following online. So be sure to take their email addresses and cell phone numbers with you, so you can find them!

7. An open mind
I’ll admit I’m a little intimidated by BlogHer ’13. It’s very different from the writers’ conferences (Santa Barbara and Squaw Valley) I’ve attended in the past. It’s huge, it’s full of brand-sponsored events, and I am going alone. But I’m excited too. It will be an opportunity to meet some of the bloggers I follow in person, to meet new people, and to learn tips from some of the leading brand strategists in the world (Sheryl Sandberg, Randi Zuckerberg, Guy Kawasaki and Queen Latifah are among the speakers.) I think the key to attending any writers’ conference is to go with low expectations. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!

What about you? Have you attended any writing or blogging conferences? What items did you take? What advice do you have for first-time attendees?

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