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Attending a writing conference is a great way to network and meet agents and editors. But let’s be honest: It can be hard to strike up a conversation in a room full of strangers. This is especially true for writers—the very nature of our work is solitary, and many writers are somewhat introverted. Sitting alone at your writing desk for hours at a time doesn’t exactly lend itself to confident socializaing!
But your writing conference experience doesn’t have to be all limp handshakes and awkward greetings. Remember, you’re all here for the same thing—most, if not all, of the people in the room are going to share at least some of the same passions you do. Use this knowledge—and these conversation starters—to break the ice. You could wind up making some important professional connections, and maybe even some new friends!
Writing Conference Conversation Icebreakers
How are you enjoying the conference so far?
Do you plan on going to attend [panel]? I can’t wait to hear [author] speak!
I like your [literature-referencing shirt, accessory, hat, etc.]! Have you read [book by same author]?
They did a great job on the food, didn’t they?
I saw you in [panel]. What did you think of the speaker?
There’s so much going on at this conference. How did you decide which events to attend?
Is this your first conference?
Exciting to finally be here, isn’t it? I came all the way from [location]. Where are you from?
It’s going to be a great conference this year. Are you looking forward to anything specific?
Are you from around here?/Have you ever been in the area? Can you recommend anything to do/see?
Do you have a favorite author? Have you ever heard him/her speak?
Have you seen the [popular/recent book] movie adaptation?
A Few More Tips About Conference Mingling
If you feel uncomfortable simply walking up to someone you don’t know, try starting your conversation at the bar or the buffet. Or, you can talk to the person sitting next to you in the session.
Be natural and genuine. If you’re opening a conversation with a compliment, mean it.
Keep your comments positive—don’t complain about the food, venue, speakers, etc.
Avoid divisive topics like politics or religion—unless the conference specifically addresses hot-button topics.
Don’t ask personal questions about marital status or children.
Remember: You don’t have to stride boldly into the room and be the cool, charismatic center of attention. Take baby steps! When you attend conferences this summer (you can find lots of great choices on our classifieds page), practice using these icebreakers with your fellow writers. As you build your confidence, move on to the literary agents, journal editors, and other influencers—and once you’ve returned home, make sure to do these things.
QUESTION: What other conversation starters would you add to this list?