Having previously blogged about how to organise a successful writer’s event, it only seems fair to point out that writers too have obligations when they agree to attend an event.
Prepare for the Writer’s Event
- Find out whether you are running a workshop, doing a reading, a book signing or a talk
- Plan your route there and work out approximate travel times so you can arrive early
- Tell the organisers what you need – are workshop attendees to bring paper and pens or will they be provided, do you need a table/lectern if you are reading, etc
- If appropriate – depending on the timing and length of the event – check accommodation and catering and what you are expected to pay for
- Check whether book sales are permitted and whether you are expected to bring books or if books will be there – some local groups may have an arrangement with a local bookshop, others will leave you to bring your own books
- If doing a reading or talk, prepare and rehearse in advance
- If running a workshop, plan exercises and pack any required items in advance
- Check the organisers are publicising the event
Arriving at the Writer’s Event
- Try and arrive early as it gives you chance to check out the venue and puts the organiser’s mind at rest
- Be ready to start when the event is due to begin. It’s better that you wait for the audience than keep the audience waiting for you
- Focus on your audience, not the audiences other writers attract
- Remember your manners. You may have had a nightmare journey, got lost several times on the way to the venue, had to find your own way after the organisers who promised to meet you at the station failed to turn up and been offered meat-filled sandwiches after expressly telling the organisers you are vegan, but the audience doesn’t know that
During the Event
- Focus solely on your event and your audience, make eye contact and appear to welcome them
- Run to time: if you’ve rehearsed your reading or talk this won’t be a problem, but if running a workshop keep an eye on the clock and remind attendees of the time. Both over- and under-running an event can cause nightmares for the organiser
- If there’s a question and answer session, have a few questions prepared so you can kick a session off and try to give polysyllabic answers by avoiding “yes” or “no”
- Remember to thank your audience: you want them to turn up at any future events and you want to be invited back or invited to another event
Even if you are not a natural performer and dread having to network and make small talk with strangers who may or may not be pleasant and polite, if you turn up prepared, rehearsed and remember your manners, you’ll be welcomed and invited back. Just as writers talk to each other about event organisers, so do event organisers talk to each other about writers so how you behave does influence whether you will be asked to do another event. Writer’s events do present publicity and promotion opportunities so are generally worthwhile.
Beware of event organisers who expect you to do an event for free, especially if the organiser suggests that the “wonderful promotion opportunities mean you can earn in sales.”
It is your choice as to whether you waive the fee because you know that the event organisers are unpaid volunteers or because it’s for a charity. But think very carefully before agreeing to attend an event where the organisers are being paid, the staff serving refreshments and selling books are being paid and the only person not being paid is you, the writer, whom the whole event is about.