Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Writing Conference Etiquette 101

By Narelle Atkins

I love attending writing conferences and networking with other writers. Your first conference can be a daunting experience. Below I've listed some tips to help you navigate the etiquette of writing conferences and events. 

  • Dress appropriately. Research the dress code so you’ll feel comfortable and confident in what you’re wearing at the conference. The dress code at a five star hotel venue may be business or smart casual whereas a country retreat may be more relaxed, for example jeans and a T-shirt.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You don’t want to be experiencing pain while mingling with conference attendees during the breaks. 
  • Advise the organizers of any special dietary requirements prior to the conference. At meal times, alert the wait staff if you’ve ordered a special meal. If the seating has not been prearranged, the staff will be looking for you. 
  • Remember your good manners and act like a professional at all the official conference events. 
  • Many writing conferences have etiquette and rules regarding children. Read the FAQ’s in the conference information that are applicable for you.
  • Switch your phone to vibrate or silent at the start of each workshop. Never answer a call during a conference session.
  • If you’re a first timer, attend the orientation sessions. Seek out others who are new to the conference. They may become your lifelong writing friends.
  • Be friendly. Many writers are introverts and struggle with the social aspects of a conference. Make eye contact, smile and say hello. Most writers want to network and meet other writers at conferences. One of the easiest ice breaker questions is “What do you write?”
  • If someone appears to brush you off, don’t take it personally. There are dozens of reasons for why they can’t chat that probably have nothing to do with you.
  • If you’re by yourself at a meal, instead of sitting alone you can ask to join another table. Most writers are more than happy to talk writing with whoever is around.
  • Sign up to volunteer at the conference. Conferences are often organized by writing groups. Volunteering is a great way to meet people and give back to the organization.
  • Respect others. Treat other people the way you’d like to be treated.
  • Don’t harass industry professionals. For example, pitching your book to an editor or agent in the bathroom is rude and inappropriate.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption. Publisher parties and conference dinners often have liquor flowing freely. Know your limits, and remember you’re attending a work function. Professional courtesy is paramount, and you don’t want to be remembered as the badly behaved author who drank too much.
  • Don’t wear fragrances. Be considerate to those who suffer from allergies and leave your perfume at home.
  • Thank the organizers. You’ll come across many volunteers who have given their time to make the conference a special event. Take a minute to thank them for their contribution, and let them know they’re doing a fantastic job.
  • Complete the post-conference survey. Provide constructive feedback to help the organizers evaluate the success of their event. 

I hope my tips are helpful. I’ve also written posts on Writing Conferences: The Benefits for Writers and Author Etiquette 101. If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.



NARELLE ATKINS writes contemporary inspirational romance and lives in Canberra, Australia. She sold her debut novel, set in Australia, to Harlequin's Love Inspired Heartsong Presents line in a 6-book contract. Her debut book, Falling for the Farmer, was a February 2014 release, followed by The Nurse's Perfect Match in May 2014, The Doctor's Return in August 2014, Her Tycoon Hero in November 2014, Winning Over the Heiress in February 2015, and Seaside Proposal in May 2015.

Narelle blogs regularly with International Christian fiction Writers and Inspy Romance. http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com/ 

She is also a co-founder of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA).

Website: http://www.narelleatkins.com
Blog: http://narelleatkins.wordpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NarelleAtkinsAuthor
Twitter: @NarelleAtkins https://twitter.com/NarelleAtkins


  1. I've heard some conferences are fragrance-free, and I think it's a good idea. The idea of dozens or hundreds of men and women who have overdosed on scented body products ... no thanks (unscented deodorant was invented for a reason).

    One of the cabin crew on my recent Sydney-Auckland flight was wearing far too much perfume. It followed her as she walked up and down the plane, and while it was probably expensive, I found it unpleasant—I don't suffer allergies, but find a lot of scents give me a headache, both perfumes and other body products.

    1. ACFW is fragrance free, and it makes a difference. You don't want to have a headache at conference that could be avoided.

  2. A good summary, Narelle. I make a point of sitting with strangers, well, 99% of people at conferences I usually don't know so they're all pretty much strangers anyway. One never knows who you'll meet and what fruit comes out of the meeting.

    Volunteering is a great way of meeting people while serving others.

    1. Ian, I agree and I enjoy chatting with people I don't know at conference. Volunteering is a fun way to meet people.

  3. Great points Narelle, thanks.

    Just thinking about the upcoming Christian Writers Conference in Melbourne, the two I think are particularly important are: Wear comfortable shoes - there is about 100m walk from the auditorium to the other meeting rooms; Complete the post-conference survey - the committee is looking for constructive feedback and even if you aren't able to go this year we would still like your feedback.

    1. Note to self: don't pack the heels.

      Thanks for the heads-up, Susan! I'm looking forward to the conference.

    2. Thanks, Susan. That 100m walk could be tedious in heels. I usually only wear heels in the evening at the parties and dinners, and wear comfortable flats during the day. I hope you all have a fabulous time at the Christian Writers Conference next weekend :)