Today’s the day! I’m headed out on another trip, but this time it’s a little closer to home. I’m headed to Cincinnati, Ohio to attend the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA) conference for the first time. A dear friend and mentor recommended that I go, and I’m always excited about a conference.
There are many really awesome things about AWSA, but one that I’m really looking forward to is the focus on prayer and ministry. I get super focused on business and work sometimes, and I need the reminder that everything I do should be about the Lord and His plans for me.
But probably the most awesome thing is the musical artist who will be there: Ginny Owens!
You guys don’t even know how exciting this is for me. I’ve been listening to the music of Ginny Owens since I was in high school. I have five of her CDs. She ranks among my top favorite artists of all time (right alongside Third Day, Disciple, Skillet, and Red, which makes precious little sense, but welcome to my world). I didn’t realize she would be there until long after I’d signed up, so that just makes an already-exciting conference doubly so.
This is Ginny Owens. Listen at your own risk and make sure you have tissues handy.
I’m especially eager for the branding workshops, book review tips, other media courses, and all the different networking opportunities. I’m a major introvert, and networking isn’t my strongest suit. But I’m really clinging to Philippians 4:13 on this trip, also because I’ll be at this conference on my own. I haven’t attended a conference of any kind by myself ever, so I’m praying that my inner introvert won’t take over.
One thing I’ve learned about conferences over the years though is that you go in with open hands, an open heart, and a willing spirit, you’re bound to learn something. And usually you’ll meet some pretty fantastic people too.
I thought I’d share some of my personal goals for this conference. Most of these are common sense, but they’re all things I struggle with. So maybe you can find some value here as well.
Don’t ever underestimate the value of note taking. Write everything down, whether you think it’s important or not. Try to keep it organized too so that you can find it again once the conference is over. You never know when you’ll find your notes again and see a point in an outline or a comment someone made that will encourage you.
Bring business cards
Conference are about networking, so go to one prepared to meet people. If you meet someone and don’t have a card to give you, I promise you they’ll forget all about you. It’s not on purpose, and it’s not because they’re rude. It’s because there are so many people, so many demands on time, so much to do at a conference. You can’t expect people to remember you.
You’re there to learn, aren’t you? So don’t be ashamed that you don’t know something. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you don’t understand something. If you don’t, there’s a good chance someone else doesn’t either. Don’t let your pride get in the way of you learning something you might need tomorrow.
By that same token, if you know the answer to a question someone asks, give it. Granted, don’t show off. If you’re at the conference to show off, people will pick up on it. Show offs usually stand out and not in the way you want. But if you genuinely have an answer and you genuinely want to help someone, that spirit will be obvious.
Chill out and be you
Stop worrying. Don’t fixate on how people perceive you or whether the ladies around you like your blouse or whether your socks match. Yes, there are common courtesies you should observe. Yes, you should be polite, you should chew with your mouth closed, and you should be pleasant. But if you’re so busy critiquing yourself and your performance, you won’t have time to be yourself. And that’s the most important part of networking. If you are yourself, you’ll attract people who are attracted to you.
If you try to attract people who you don’t agree with, imagine how awkward that would be if you start working together. If you paint a portrait of yourself that isn’t true, you’re going to draw people to you who will have a different vision than you do. So always be genuine. Always be yourself.
After AWSA is over, it’s off to Realm Makers in Reno, which is one of the highlights of my year. I think AWSA is going to be a lot more chill, though, so it’ll be nice to meet some new friends and maybe introduce them to the joys of being a nerd.
Also, my buddy Hermes the Frog will be traveling with me to Cincinnati, so those of you who enjoy his Wanderlost adventures, keep a sharp eye out. You might see him in some exciting places on this trip!