WriteOnCon is an online writing conference that I’ve been attending and volunteering with for four years now. Time flies!
I’ve shared my experiences and takeaways as an attendee before, but it struck me this year that I’ve never shared what it’s like to be part of the team! Being part of the behind-the-scenes crew is a unique and amazing experience that I think a lot of people would be totally excited about if they only knew the opportunity existed.
Today, I’m going to share my Top 10 tips, tricks, and favorite things about being a conference volunteer in the hopes of shining some light on the fantastic people behind the scenes and also, maybe, inspiring you to give it a go!
10: A Foot in the Door
WriteOnCon’s admission is notably the most affordable conference registration out there, but if you can’t afford access to similar events, sweat equity may be your ticket in. Willingness to show up, do the work, and be a team player can make the conference double your fun at no monetary cost.
9: Working Smarter
Putting a conference together requires efficiency. You may pick up new productivity tricks from the people you work with and get a trial run of the tools they use to multitask and stay on track. If you’re hands-on, it’s especially satisfying to work and learn at the same time.
8: So Thankful
For me, working behind the scenes is an amazing reminder to be more thankful in my day-to-day life. It makes me more patient with others. It reminds me to think about the person on the other side of the screen. It causes me to notice more details that someone worked hard to provide. And it’s not because I feel my work is invisible or underappreciated. In fact, it’s the opposite! Seeing how many people really and truly see your effort inspires you to be one of those vocally grateful people, too.
7: Conference Friends
You hear stories about people meeting their best writerly friends at conferences a lot. It’s impossible not to bump into a kindred spirit or two while attending an event that brings passionate people together to discuss their very favorite thing. And this is doubly true for volunteers! If you’re the kind of person who wants to make an event amazing for others, love working behind the scenes, and feel most rewarded by a job well done, you’re going to be fast friends with your fellow volunteers, because they feel the exact same way.
6: Show Some Initiative
Being me, I usually show up to a project with a lot of ideas. I love contributing to the conversation and brainstorming ways to make something better. Based on my experience, conferences are an amazing place for people who show this kind of initiative. Respectfully submitting your ideas and communicating your specific strengths is a good way to show you’re ready and able to take on more responsibility.
5: Pros and Cons
Being a volunteer may result in moments of contact with professionals in the field you’re aiming to have a career in. Ten minutes of small talk in the greenroom may not seem like a big deal, but being able to reference a previous conversation makes a nice icebreaker later on social media or when you see them at another event. Everyone, even the pros, love to have a familiar face greeting them!
4: Try Something New
For a hardcore introvert with a work-from-home career, getting a dose of adventure in my life requires some creativity. Rather than ditch my desk-bound day job to wander the world, exploring my options in online spaces has proven to be more than enough to keep life interesting. If you want to be thrown into the unknown without leaving home, working with fun new people, learning skills you never thought you’d need, and pushing yourself to grow in unexpected ways can satisfy the urge to escape your comfort zone.
3: Be the Change
Volunteering is probably the easiest way to support something in a positive way. Tired of the lack of writerly community on social media? Be part of a passionate team of fellow writers who work hard to bring people together! Sick of the competitive nature of modern publishing? Help bring more positive content to aspiring newbies who need to hear encouragement instead of criticism. Using your time and energy to bring something useful to people feels amazing.
2: No Job Too Small
Maybe your few spare hours in the week don’t seem like a useful contribution. However, as the saying goes, “many hands make light work”. Taking on a small piece of a big project is what volunteering is all about! It changes your whole perspective to see what an hour or two of effort on your side can amount to when joined by a dozen or two others.
1: Anything is Possible
Putting on a conference is a lot of work, a lot of ideas, a lot of people. It’s easy to be wholly overwhelmed if you’ve never been part of something so big. But taking part, even in a small way, is an empowering accomplishment. If you can help put together an incredible, wide-reaching event, what’s going to stop you from getting whatever else you want? Being part of something that no singular person could accomplish is something I recommend everyone try at least once in their lifetime.
Have you ever volunteered? Share your favorite takeaways and tips in the comments!
Want to volunteer? The WriteOnCon team is a wonderful group of people to work with if you’re ready to get busy.
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