Saturday, May 29, 2021

How to Get the Most Value From an Online Writing Conference

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

If 2020 taught us anything, it was how to Zoom. 


Meeting together online has become normal for a huge part of our population and the writing conference landscape has radically changed because of that. First, because last year, there was no other option. If we wanted to offer a writing conference or attend a writing conference, online was our only option. While we lamented the fact that we couldn’t be together—in person—we also discovered the ease and money-saving value an online conference can offer. 


Enter 2021.


This year more and more conferences are back to in-person events. But along with the physical conference, many of us are offering virtual options as well. At the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, we discovered that those who could never make a physical event, now have the opportunity to be with us online. And that’s a very good thing!


Just like there are advantages to online, there are also drawbacks. Networking is the biggest obstacle online events have had to overcome. But there’s also the fact that those attending are at home—with all the distractions that come with that local. 


So How Do You Get the Most Value From Attending a Writing Conference Online?


I’m so glad you asked! Here are my 


14 Tips for Getting Value from an Online Writing Conference

1. Choose events that offer networking opportunities. These can include (but aren’t limited to): 

  • private Facebook Groups, 
  • Zoom (or other) digital meetups, 
  • online appointments with faculty

2. Take advantage of the networking opportunities. It’s not enough that they’re available, you have to actually participate. I’m speaking to me here. As an introvert even walking into a virtual room full of people I don’t know well is intimidating. But I have NEVER regretted the effort!!!


3. Cover your attendance in prayer. Anytime we take a step of faith and follow God’s leading we can expect push back from the enemy. It’s critical that we cover our plans with prayer. Here are some things I pray:

  • Prayers for protections
  • Prayers for a listening ear to the nudging of the Holy Spirit 
  • Prayers asking God to open the doors He wants me to walk through and close the ones that He doesn’t plan for me
  • Prayers for those planning, teaching and organizing the event
  • Prayers for technology to work—in my home and everywhere else

4. Block out the time. It’s so easy to let things intrude when we plan to attend an event online. We think we can pop out for an hour or so and then catch back up. The truth is, if we don’t block out the time for an online conference—just like an in-person one—life will overwhelm and we’ll miss the opportunities available.


5. Volunteer to help. If you’re an introvert like me, sometimes volunteering to help is a great way to ease my way into the community of the conference. It gives me some advance connections and forces me to concentrate on my “job” rather than focusing on myself and how I’m appearing to others.


6. Remove every distraction you can. A closed door is your best friend for an online conference. I’ve discovered that when I’m online, if my door is open, others in the house tend to wander in with questions and distractions. In addition to that, I also try to plan the meals I’ll have during the event in advance. That gives me additional time to focus on the event rather than having to stop and plan.

7. Get your workspace organized. You're going to be sitting a great deal over the course of a conference. Make sure you have a comfortable—well-supported—place to sit. I prefer my standing desk. I can vary the height and use it with my desk chair or while standing. 

8. Build in regular breaks. Zoom fatigue is a real thing, as this blog post about Zoom Fatigue from Susan U. Neal explains. Take time to get up and move around, especially outside!


9. Sign up for appointments with faculty. Many online conferences provide the opportunity to meet privately—online—with faculty. Take advantage of this. 


10. Attend with a friend. Even if you can’t attend an event in person, you can enlist another friend to meet you online. Knowing someone else is with you can help you avoid skipping out on part of the event.


11. Comment and post pictures of your participation. This goes along with networking, but it’s also a way to give back to conference and those teaching. First, commenting during the classes is an encouragement to those teaching. It’s also a help to other attendees, especially if you’re asking questions that help clarify the information being provided. Posting pictures enhances your networking—it’s always easier to feel connected when we have a picture to connect to a name. Finally, post outside the conference and let others know how much you enjoyed the event.


12. Follow up with new contacts. When you connect with someone—fellow attendee or faculty—be sure to follow up after the event is over. Solidify the connection through social media or through email (if an email address has been provided).


13. Read the fine print. Many of these conferences offer contests, opportunities for critiques and even  mentoring. But each of these opportunities comes with an end date. Mark those dates on your calendar so you don’t miss out. Beyond that, notice how long you’ll have access to the classes and recordings. Don’t let time slip by without taking advantage of these valuable resources.


14. Re-listen/watch to the workshops that fit your needs. As you’re attending, make a separate list of specific workshops you’d like to listen to again. I’ve found that if I don’t, but the time the conference is over, I’ve forgotten the specifics of which ones I’d wanted to delve into deeper. 


I believe online events are here to stay. They offer opportunities we’ve never had access to before. For a lot of us, because online events tend to require a smaller financial commitment, we can attend more events each year. 


Now it’s your turn, what tips would you add to my list and what do you think about online conferences?


Don’t forget to join the conversation!





How to Get the Most Value From an Online Writing Conference - @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Edie Melson is a woman of faith with ink-stained fingers observing life through the lens of her camera. No matter whether she’s talking to writers, entrepreneurs, or readers, her first advice is always “Find your voice, live your story.” As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives.Connect with her on her website, through FacebookTwitter and on Instagram.


  1. Yes, yes! I agree with all these tips. Thank you for the reminders. :-)

  2. Miss Edie, thank you for the tips for the virtual conference. While my heart and soul aches to be physically at the conference having the virtual conference option available (and yes, I am resisted for Virtual Blue Ridge) makes my disappointment of not dining and networking with the friends I've made through the conference more bearable. The conference and some groups within it have become my extended family, prayer warriors, and Bible study/fellowship co-learners. I would add talk with family or roommates before the conference begins letting them know how important this time is to you where they can handle routine issues instead of passing them on to you. Set your alarm/reminders for each session in the day. Time flies and you don't want to miss out on this God provided opportunity. God bless you and Edie.

    1. Jim, these are great additions! Thank you for sharing, Blessings, E

  3. There’s not much to add, Edie, other than that technology is becoming an integral part of our lives whether we like it or not, so we might as well learn to use it to our advantage. That said, I would, however, like to add something general about prayer without my sounding too ‘preachy’. Doubtless, prayer holds a central position in the life of a Christian; in fact, it would be hard to conceive of ourselves as Christ-centred beings without a prayerful connection to our Lord. I think we all understand that. Yet we tend to overlook the way in which God speaks to our hearts when we pray for His guidance; more often than not, His voice is inaudible on account of our personal noise. More specifically, when we pray for God’s will—or His blessings upon our endeavours—it’s important that we allow Him to work freely within us. Oftentimes we pray for a specific outcome instead of acquiescing to His providential will. Let’s face it, none is free of self-will; and inasmuch as we set our hearts on what we deem fit, the voice of the Lord within us is muffled, as it were. Sometimes we even stand incredulous and in amazement at His perceived ‘quiescence’. Next time I pray for something really important, I’ll be sure to tone it down by putting the emphasis on “Thy will be done.” May God bless your endeavours!