Attending On-Line Writing Conferences

Last January, my critique partner and I had booked a train ride to Chicago to attend a writing conference. We looked forward to sitting back, relaxing and meeting all our writing pals. Then it was cancelled. In fact, all the conferences I had signed up for were cancelled. Some organizers tried to reschedule, but ultimately gave up.

The year 2020 wouldn’t work for gathering writers together. What a disappointment. In-person writing conferences are such a treat.

But conference coordinators kept dreams alive and started transforming in-person conferences into on-line experiences. I applaud all the hard work of the organizers. The hurdles they had to jump must have been high. So, thank you. Now I’m able to see writing buddies on my computer.

“I stumbled over my first 2020 virtual conference. Whether it was a blurb on FB or IG, I don’t remember, but what incredible luck! Thank you, Dana Kaye!”

It was a day-long series of speakers organized by publicity specialist, Dana Kaye. She pulled together a rockstar line-up that made me stop scrolling. Dana had scheduled five publishing professionals: an agent, an author website designer, a publishing expert, and an Instagram guru. Dana used Crowdcast as the platform.

Each presenter spoke for approximately 40 to 60 minutes long while Dana moderated with questions. On Crowdcast, registered attendees are not on camera and can comfortably watch the moderator and speaker engage on a split screen. Questions can be typed into a tab on the bottom of the screen and comments can be submitted during the presentation. Answers and responses to the questions are discussed at the end of the speaker’s presentation.

In between speakers, attendees take a short break and are able to digest all the information just fed to them. As well, Dana made sure to incorporate an integration session. Attendees had the opportunity to talk about points of interest. Dana encouraged us to develop an action plan to stay motivated after the conference had ended.

Dana Kaye’s conference kicked off at 9am, broke for a half-hour lunch, and ended at 4pm. This format introduced me to a fantastic and easy-going conference atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, by the end of the day I was exhausted. The amount of quality information that was provided by the publishing professionals was intense, but throughout the day we were able to digest and discuss.

For me this year, the wealth of knowledge gained at on-line workshops/conferences has been a fantastic learning opportunity. Escaping from my writing routine for a day or two has been enjoyable. The key, I believe, to a positive on-line experience is having a knowledgeable moderator.

Every Successful On-Line Conference Has to Have a Moderator

Moderators Are Necessary Because—

Someone needs to take the lead in the virtual world. There are a lot of pot holes on the inter-galactic highway. Someone needs to explain about all the gadgets and buttons, so we know where and how to fix any technical glitches.

Nimble Moderators Work Best—

When one interweb stumbles, another one races forward. Tripping and dodging during presentations, is inevitable in the virtual world. When one speaker has technical challenges, the moderator can hop around and direct viewers to another topic or answer questions until the presenter is back in action.

Moderators Care about Information Overload—

If there is too much one-way interaction or worse, no interaction, fatigue and boredom set in fast. Good moderators try to gauge the audience in the virtual world and attempt to keep them engaged. They ask questions, create a poll, or drum up a quick contest to win a prize. Sitting behind a screen for an extended period of time can be overwhelming. Conferences, once fraught with too much action, have a new challenge—connecting without face time or one-on-one dialogue or they risk having the audience turn into sloths! Moderators can, and must, keep the virtual world, real.   

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