Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association Conference – Manning the Booth

This past weekend I was at the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association Conference. Writers’ conferences are basically when writers, agents, and editors all converge to talk about the craft and business for a few days at a time. For more information on what they are and their benefits, check out my last post.

This was my first big conference, meaning I was excited, nervous, and not entirely sure what was going to happen. My main function at the conference was to man the booth advertising NILA’s MFA program and the Whidbey Island Writers’ Association. That means Friday and Saturday I stood next to a table with a display board putting on my best smile and trying to attract people so that they could learn about the wonderful programs we offer. I didn’t have to try all that hard because the esteemed Bob Mayer plugged us Thursday in his session. I did learn a few things about manning booths, though.

First, I got there early Friday morning (7:35 when it opened at 7:30) which meant I got first pick of the booth locations. I went for the booth closest to the main entrance. I did wonder if there is a strategy (I’m sure there is) for locations in these conference hallways, but since I don’t know it, the first table seemed most likely to grab everyone’s attention. I was not disappointed. Once again, the early bird gets the worm.

We had a bunch of brochures available for people to take, and when I first set up the booth, I arranged them in a beautiful arc that was very pleasing to the eye. I even took the time to make sure the pamphlets were evenly spaced apart. However, partway through the day, a nice man suggested that I mess up my display because people would then be more inclined to take the brochures. Apparently when the display is too pretty, people don’t want to ruin it. I had noticed that people were asking me whether I could take the brochures, a question that seems silly to me because why would I have out brochures if I didn’t want them to be taken? So I messed up my display and put the brochures in smaller fan clusters. After that, everyone took brochures without hesitation. This is definitely something to remember.

The other interesting thing about manning the booth was that Friday was much busier than Saturday. This is probably because the same people were there on both days, so those interested generally all came by the first day. However, the hallways were more crowded Saturday than Friday, so I expected more people to stop. It would be interesting to keep track of this kind of flow over the years to see whether it is a pattern and if so whether there is some way to garner the extra energy on Friday. But since I’m only here for the one summer, I guess I won’t know what it’s like next year!

I’ll post another day with more reflections on the conference, including some of my experience “schmoozing”!