Tips for Creating Conference Magic

By Sherry Beck Paprocki

In the heat of last September, I called Estelle Erasmus with a hidden agenda. I'd never met her, but I had a feeling that she would be the person to lead this spring's New York conference. She was a productive New York area freelancer and a long-time ASJA member who had a long tenure working as an editor with various publications.

More than an hour into our call, I made the ask. Estelle accepted the role of conference chair, with only slight hesitation--and a brief comparison of our sun signs.

What has resulted for ASJA has been a vibrant six months of conference planning, of pulling together amazing talent, of brainstorming fresh ideas (early riser sessions!) and of planning a seamless event. Our registration numbers already look like it's been a huge success -- one of the biggest conferences in recent years.

Estelle is one of many polished professionals working on this conference to which ASJA owes a debt of gratitude. She's talented at pulling together people from varying corners of her life and integrating each piece into a well-designed orchestra of events. Thanks, Estelle, for your attention to menus, too.

I, for one, can't wait to get this party started. First, I'm sharing my best tips for making conference magic this year:

Start early, but the incentive is breakfast! Conference days begin with Early Risers sessions. But, do a happy dance because this year you can also get eggs, bacon and more with your coffee between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. in the ballroom foyer.

Dress for success and have your elevator pitch ready. You never know who you'll meet in the hallways. Editors, agents and others from nearly one hundred publications and publishing companies will be roaming around during the conference. At least fifty Client Connections editors are attending and add to that number, a few dozen other editors on panels will include those from Health, Saveur, Woman's Day, The Atlantic and more.

Make it a Networking Spree. Sign up for networking lunches, plan dinner with new acquaintances, and make your best impression all weekend long. Knowing your ASJA peers will most likely lead to lucrative job opportunities in the coming years.

Don't Skip the Awards. The top editor for USA Today digital and USA Today print has agreed to emcee. Awe-inspiring, award winning writers who are among the best will be there. The food at the 5:30 p.m. cocktail reception will include a steak carving station and a seafood paella station featuring other Spanish tapas, too. Please plan to join us this year.

Celebrate during the Awards Afterglow. Join award winners and friends for a cash bar for an hour after the awards. Toast the winners, chat with new friends and enjoy music provided by Bill Pfleging.

Saturday Agents Pitch Slam. For the first time ever, a panel of agents will entertain ideas on Saturday afternoon in the ballroom. Don't miss an opportunity to pitch four agents at once and be further entertained by ASJA Past President Randy Dotinga, who will wrangle the crowd.

Introduce Yourself. We may only meet once every year, so don't hesitate to introduce yourself again to me and everyone else around. Need a break? Check out the hospitality room where snacks will be served every afternoon and other writers will be resting.

Post-Conference Magic. Finally, on Saturday night, attend this year's special hospitality event at the modern LeGrande Lounge at the Time New York Hotel from 6-8 p.m. Even if you're not attending the conference, you're invited to join us there. We've reserved the entire bar for a night of networking with your fellow journalists. There's no admission fee, cash bar.

Still need to register for the conference? Do it here.