Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More On Conferences

Yesterday, I talked about attending writers' conferences. I got to thinking about it later in the day, and I wondered how many people look at lists of conferences and pass over the smaller meetings. The thought might be that if it's small, it can't possibly be good. I think that may very well be wrong.

The committee members that put together a small conference knows they have to be good enough (or better) to compete with the huge meetings that use large cities as their site, bring in prize-winning authors to speak, and offer top-rated food and entertainment, luxury hotel accomodations and more. All the things that a large conference offers come with a hefty price tag. You don't land big name speakers without paying them a large sum. Nor do you offer top entertainment and food at a bargain-basement cost.

The small conferences have costs, as well, but they can usually keep it to a reasonable amount. My community has had a Mystery Writers Conference for the last several years, and one of the high cost items is our location. We are two hours from a major airport, so those arriving by plane would need to rent a car to drive here. Extra cost. But it might be worth it as the registration costs and hotel room price would be considerably lower than a conference in Boston, New York or Chicago.

Another benefit of the smaller conference is the personal touch. A mystery writer such as Nancy Pickard, award winning author, speaks to a workshop group of perhaps thirty people instead of 300. The speech is more informal, there are questions and answers interspersed with her talk, and the thirty people in the room feel as though they have gotten to know Ms Pickard as a friend, not an author standing on a pedestal for all to admire.

In a smaller conference, many attendees feel more comfortable, are more willing to introduce themselves over cocktails or dinner. Walk into one of the huge cocktail parties at the big conferences, and you're lucky to meet half a dozen people if you're on your own. It's easier to mingle in a smaller group.

I'm definitely a proponent of small conferences. The one I'm going to in April is very small--only about 25 women, but I know it will be outstanding and that I'll come home filled with inspiration and ready to write.

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