I sent out my first emails today to set up meetings for
IATEFL, so I thought it was time I followed up with some more IATEFL tips. It’s a huge event and everyone does it in their
own way, but as a freelance writer this is my take on getting the most from it:
Be comfortable: it can be a very long day, so wear comfy
shoes and check your coat into the cloakroom so you don’t have to lug it around
(it usually only costs a pound). Personally, I also try to carry minimal stuff
to avoid achy shoulders – I always say no to the free bag/pen/notebook, etc. at
registration, it’s just more stuff to carry.
Be selective: if you’re registered and going along to
sessions, don’t try to do too much. If you fill up your day rushing from one
talk to another, not only will you soon be knackered, but you’ll also miss out
on lots of valuable networking opportunities. I usually earmark a few really
key sessions that I definitely don’t want to miss, then a few others that look
interesting and leave myself gaps for schmoozing and just catching my breath.
Arrive early: if there’s a session you really want to
attend, chances are others will too and the room may fill up quickly. Check
where it is on the floor plan so you don’t get caught out on the other side of
the conference centre just as it’s starting.
Be brave: it’s easy to mostly hang out with people you
already know. Of course, it’s great to catch up with old pals and to cement
existing contacts, but try to talk to new people too. If you go to a talk by an
author/publisher, go up at the end and introduce yourself, say how much you
enjoyed the talk. Sit next to people you
don’t know – I’ve met several really useful contacts as a result of a ‘pairwork
activity’ in a workshop.
Be flexible: if you get chatting to someone useful, suggest
going for a coffee there and then, regardless of whether you were planning to
go to another session.
Be ready to drink lots of coffee! The stuff you buy from a
coffee outlet is always going to be better than the free stuff provided in the
Give out cards: take along plenty of business cards and
remember to give them out. Make sure you don’t lose the ones you collect
either. And if you think you’ll forget who was who, jot yourself a note on the
back of important ones.
Chat to folk on stands: spend some time mooching around the
publishers’ stands in the exhibition hall. It’s a good way to keep up-to-date
with who’s published what and it’s a great opportunity for making useful
contacts. If you’re there during a session (rather than a break), get chatting
to the staff on the stand. They’ll probably be from sales or marketing, but
they may able to introduce you to any editorial staff who happen to be around,
or at least tell you who you need to look out for.
Go to publishers’ events: most of the publishers will have
an evening ‘do’ at some point. These are where a lot of the best networking
takes place! It may be open to everyone
and advertised on the stand or it may be invitation only. Ask stand staff if
they’re having a ‘do’, they’ll often be happy to give out invites.
Take a break: if you’re there for more than a day or two,
give yourself some down time – come in late or leave a bit early. If you’re
going to an evening do, a bit of a pit-stop back at your hotel can be a welcome
chance to kick your shoes off for a bit. And if you’re as rubbish as me at
drinking on an empty stomach, get a bite to eat before you go – the ‘nibbles’
will never be more than just that!
Take painkillers: inevitably all that coffee and sitting
around in stuffy rooms will give you a headache at some point - so I always
carry some Nurofen in my bag.
Follow up: I always write up a list of stuff to follow up on
the train home. If you met someone who said they might have some work coming
up, drop them an email when you get back. You may not get a response right away
but at least you’re in their email address book.
See you there!
Labels: freelancing, Harrogate 2014, IATEFL, networking