A Guest Post by Lynn Blackburn
A few weeks ago I attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for the second time. The fact that I live less than two hours away from one of the best conferences in the nation made this an easy decision.
But what if you have to fly to all the big conferences? What if you can only choose one? Do you return to a conference you’ve attended before, or venture out and explore something new?
Based on my own experience, let me give you a few pros and cons for returning to the same conference.
Understanding the Schedule. New conferees take a look at the schedule and start searching for a paper bag to breathe into. But once you’ve gone through it, the flow of the conference makes sense and the only thing you have to stress about is choosing classes.
Reconnecting with Friends. Instead of standing in registration hoping you don’t stick out as a newbie, you’ll be squealing (well, the men do more of a head bob than a squeal) and hugging friends you made the last time.
Fewer Newbie Gaffes. There are plenty of stories of writers who didn’t recognize award winning faculty members or who tried to pitch to volunteers or who misspelled names on thank you notes. I can’t say you won’t do any of that on a return trip, but it’s less likely.
More Interactions. Lots of writers are introverts, and hanging out with 400+ strangers can be intimidating. This time, I found I was more likely to introduce myself to people and strike up conversations on the way to meals or before classes.
Better Overall Experience. I didn’t think my conference experience could get much better than it was in 2010. I was wrong. My conference goals were different but my sense of satisfaction, both with what I learned and what I accomplished, was much higher. In 2010, I was thrilled to keep my head above water, but in 2012, I felt like I was riding the waves.
Now, to be fair, there were a few negatives to returning to the same conference.
Fatigue. With so many friends and so little time, I didn’t get much rest. I networked (that’s conference speak for “hanging out with friends eating chocolate”) after the evening sessions and then got up early to network (that’s conference speak for “meeting people for breakfast or coffee”) most mornings. I decided I could sleep when I got home.
More Interactions. Contrary to popular belief, faculty members are not mean ogres out to embarrass you. They try to be kind to the newest members of the conference community. But, if they get to know you and know you can take some tough love…well, you might get some. The good news is you’ll learn a lot…and get a story you can use out of it!
So what do you think? Should you return to the same conference or visit a new one each year?
Lynn Huggins Blackburn has been telling herself stories since she was five and finally started writing them down. She blogs about faith, family, and her writing journey on her blog Out of the Boat. Lynn is a member of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and the Word Weavers, Greenville. She lives in South Carolina where she hangs out with three lively children, one fabulous man, and a cast of imaginary characters who find their way onto the pages of her still unpublished novels. She drinks a lot of coffee.