What I Learned as a Participant in an Online Writing Panel

I was honored to be a panelist in the “Writing for the Web” forum at the recent Write on Bowen Festival on Bowen Island, British Columbia. It was so much fun, in fact, I wish I’d signed up to teach a blogging workshop! I love answering questions about my passions: writing and blogging.

Here are a few online writing or blogging tips that were highlighted – plus what I learned about being a panelist in a writing conference….

Online Writing or Blogging Tips

Remember that monetizing your blog takes time. I’m earning slightly under a thousand dollars a month from my Quips and Tips blogs and my online writing at Suite101 (where I’ve been the Psychology Feature Writer since October, 2006). I’m happy with what I’m earning as a blogger, and I hope to double that within a year! It’s been a sharp learning curve, and I’ve put in a ton of time and effort — but I love it.

Research your online writing opportunities. Do you want to write for an online journalism or magazine website?  Suite101 and Orato are both online magazines that are recruiting writers, but they operate very differently. Suite, for instance, has an application process and fairly strict formatting requirements. Orato is a citizen journalism site that welcomes new reporters – no application needed (Lisa Manfield, the Managing Editor of Orato, was also on this panel). If you want to be an online writer but don’t have a blog, make sure you research your options.

Use specific key phrases and keywords. 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 (without writing about topics nobody cares about), the more readers you’ll attract. I’ve been writing for the web for almost three years now, and I’m still learning this!

What I Learned About Being a Panelist

Ask for the schedule in advance. Our panel moderator — the lovely, organized Alison Bate — sent us her plans for the panel (we introduce ourselves, share our biggest online writing tip, answer questions from the audience, and be prepared to share more online writing tips if people don’t ask questions). Knowing what the moderator plans is key to feeling comfortable as a panelist.

Stay focused when you’re answering questions. I could’ve talked for hours about how I created and promote my blogs, but that diverged from our topic of online writing and takes time away from other panelists. If you’re participating in a panel or any type of media interview, make sure you stay on topic.

Bring your business cards, books, swag. People often come up and ask questions after panels or workshops; it’s a perfect time to spread your word with business cards! If you’ve written books or created something, make sure you have it handy for when the pane is over.

Brush up on your public speaking skills. I attended the panel before mine, and couldn’t hear one panelist in particular. She spoke too softly. Sit tall and speak up, my friends! Project your voice to the back of the room, and focus on what you want to say (and don’t worry about what you think the audience is thinking).

Befriend the other panelists. Talking to the other experts in your field is a great way to network, which can lead to new writing opportunities and connections. Whether you’re attending a writer’s conference as a “student” or expert, make it your goal to meet at least three new people in each panel or workshop.

Participate in the writing contest. Many writer’s conferences include a writing contest, and some allow the conference experts to submit their pieces. The Write on Bowen festival had a fiction writing contest, which I didn’t participate in. I did, on the other hand, submit my Learning to Write Without Fear and Trembling piece to the Surrey International Writer’s Conference. Even if you don’t win the contest, writing for a specific reason can help you improve your skills.

If you have any questions or thoughts on panels, writers’ conferences, or writing for the web, please comment below!

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