Participating in a blogging or writing panel is my favorite way to attend conferences for writers! If you’ve been invited to sit on a writing or blogging panel, these five tips will help you prepare and improve your experience. And here’s a bonus for the non-panelists in the crowd: the top three takaways from the last blogging panel I was on (the “Writing for the Web” forum at the Write on Bowen Festival on Bowen Island, BC).
Before the tips, a quip:
“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” ~ Mark Twain
I’ve been on panels, and could tell that my fellow panelists hadn’t prepared at all. Their thoughts were jumbled, their sentences mumbled. Participating in a panel requires less preparation than teaching a blogging workshop or running a writing session, but it does require some forethought! So, make like Mark Twain and prepare for the impromptu questions you may be asked.
If you’ve never been to a writing conference, you’ll probably find The Portable Writer’s Conference: Your Guide to Getting Published extremely helpful. It’s one of my favorite resources for writing because it offers more information than you’d get if you attended a conference in person (because you can’t possibly attend every session!). Okay…here are my tips for being a participant on a writing or blogging panel…
5 Tips for Sitting on a Blogging Panel at a Writer’s Conference
1. Ask for the panel schedule in advance. Our panel moderator — the organized Alison Bate — sent us her plans for the panel (we introduce ourselves, share our biggest web writing tip, answer questions from the audience, and be prepared to share more blogging or online writing tips if audience members don’t ask questions). Knowing what the moderator plans for the panel is key to feeling comfortable as a panelist.
2. Stay focused when you’re answering questions. I could’ve talked for hours about how I created and promote my Quips & Tips blogs, but that wasn’t what the panel discussion was about. If you’re sitting on a panel, make sure you stay focused on answering questions and giving information clearly and succinctly. Stay on topic, and don’t hog the time by marketing your blogs, books, or services.
3. Bring your business cards, books, swag. People often come up and ask questions after panels or workshops; that’s the time to spread the word about your work! If you’ve written books or sell products, make sure they’re handy for post-panel discussions.
4. Brush up on your public speaking skills. I attended the panel that was scheduled before mine, and was reminded of a few valuable public speaking tips. Room acoustics, for instance, and the importance of projecting your voice. I couldn’t hear one panelists because she spoke too softly and looked down at her lap a lot. Sit tall and speak up, fellow scribes! Project your voice to the back of the room, and focus on what you want to say.
5. Make friends with the other panelists. Talking to the other experts in your field is a great way to network, and networking leads to new writing opportunities! Whether you’re attending a writer’s conference as a participant or expert, make it your goal to meet at least three new people in each panel or workshop.
Here are the top three takeaways from one of the blogging panels I was on…
3 Tips for Making Money as a Web Writer or Blogger
1. Remember that making money from web writing takes time. It’s gauche to talk about money, but I can’t resist! I earn well over a thousand dollars a month from my Quips and Tips blogs (I started the first one two years ago). I also earn some nice coin over at Suite101, where I’ve been the Psychology Feature Writer since October, 2006. Though I’m happy with my web writing income, I plan to earn twice that by the end of this year. It’s been a sharp learning curve and it takes a long time to establish yourself, but it’s worth the effort.
2. Research your online writing opportunities carefully. Do you want to write for an online journalism or magazine website? They’re different things. For instance, Suite101 and Orato are both online magazines that recruit writers, but they operate very differently. Suite has an application process and fairly strict formatting requirements. Orato is a citizen journalism site that welcomes new reporters – no application needed. If you want to make money writing for the web — and your blog isn’t paying off yet — do a little research before investing your time writing.
3. Use specific key phrases and keywords (search engine optimization!). The biggest thing that writers transitioning from print to online writing need to learn is the importance of being specific. Don’t write about “relationships” – write about overcoming alcoholism in a 20 year marriage. The more specific you get, the more readers you’ll attract. I’ve been writing for the web for almost three years now, and I’m still learning this! It takes time, fellow scribes…
If you have any questions or thoughts on panels, writers’ conferences, or writing for the web, I welcome your comments below.