knowing which conferences to attend can be a challenge

It’s conference season! For me, it’s never about whether I will attend conferences. It’a about which ones to choose!

As an active freelance writer (I celebrated 20 years in the freelancing business in April, 2013), I belong to a number of professional associations — most of which have spring conferences. Earlier this month, I attended the District 64 Toastmasters Spring Convention in Winnipeg. I’ve been a Toastmaster since 2001 and have learned so much from this great global network of public speaking enthusiasts. I recently helped launch a new Toastmasters club in my own community specifically for members of the arts community as we have an abundance of writers, artists, performers, and other creative individuals in the Interlake region of Manitoba. It was great re-establishing friendships, picking up tips, and being inspired by keynote speakers such as world champion Lance Miller at the TM conference.


Cathy Smolinski is past president of the Lord Selkirk Toastmasters club and a dynamic speaker

As a longtime member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC), I don’t think I’ve missed one national conference since joining in 1997 (other than the conference in 1997 which was held within weeks of my joining.) I’ve been an active member of PWAC ever since joining and currently serve as the national vice-president. PWAC helped build my career as a professional writer and gave me a strong foundation to make sound business decisions. I’ve always believed that every freelance writer in Canada should be belong to PWAC. I will attending the PWAC national conference in collaboration with MagNet in Toronto June 4-7th, with a day of meetings beforehand. Writers conferences help build our careers and strengthen our vision.

Three years ago, I joined the Writers Union of Canada (TWUC), a strong national association for Canadian book authors. I’m slowly getting to know the membership and am learning from their diverse knowledge. There are 2,000 members in TWUC compared to the 700 in PWAC, so I find the organizational culture to be quite different. There are many differences between TWUC and PWAC, yet many  similarities. TWUC is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year at the national conference in Ottawa May 30-June 2nd. I will be there.

That was a difficult decision for me to make, as I’d originally signed up to attend the Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX) conference being held in Toronto June 1-2. I figured that since I had to be in Toronto June 3rd for PWAC meetings, I may as well attend TBEX and get to know more travel bloggers. But once I read the TWUC conference program more closely, I realized that I am primarily a book author who blogs, rather than a blogger who may some day write a book.

And as many key presentations and discussions at the TWUC conference will centre around self-publishing, that was the tipping point in my decision to attend as I am self-publishing my book, Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate, which I hope to have published in late June.

Have you been in this situation before? Has it been difficult deciding which conference or professional development events to attend? I’m hoping that my intuition is right, and that making the decision to attend the TWUC conference was the right one. But with all the TBEX hype happening online right now, I wonder …

And if you think that’s not enough, I’m also attending the Travel Media Association of Canada’s (TMAC) national conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan from June 12-15. I’ve been a member of TMAC since 1998 and felt it was important to attend and support the Prairie region, plus I had the good fortune to be a speaker at the PWAC event in Saskatoon last fall and really fell in love with the city. Looking forward to a repeat visit to the Delta Bessborough, one of Canada’s premier hotels.


the Delta Bessborough hotel in Saskatoon is one of the stately Canadian Pacific (CP) Hotels that was built in the early 1900’s.

After the busy conference season, I hope to remain in Manitoba for much of the summer, promote Chocolatour locally and online, and then get back in the saddle in September when my research and events bring me to San Francisco and Los Angeles for you guessed it … more chocolate.

Please share your thoughts on attending conferences. Has something incredible happened to you at a writers’ conference or any other conference that wouldn’t have, had you not been at the right place at the right time?  

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

23 Responses

  1. There was intense debate during our business meetings as we discussed (and approved) the new “Bylaw” document that replaces our previous constitution. And the motion to hold our national conference and AGM in conjunction with MagNet for the next three years in Toronto drew intense and emotional debate. PWAC has always taken pride in holding its national conference in different cities across Canada. That has been a big drawing factor in attracting members to attend. You get to see a different part of the country and members who may not otherwise attend, get to participate.
    Tabitha Joyce recently posted…No last blog posts to return.My Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks for your comment, Tabitha. I look forward to meeting you at MagNet this week. I don’t think we had a chance to meet last year. There should be some interesting discussions at the PWAC agm.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…the birth of a bookMy Profile

  2. Fatima says:

    Picking up which event to attend can actually be a daunting task but I always go with the mood and what my heart says rather than thinking on any further technical terms relating to a conference. Thanks for sharing the thought.

  3. Aayna says:

    This post reminds me of the fact, that I haven’t attended any of the conference or other similar event in the past. It’s the right time I should decide upon which conferences I should become a part of. Thanks for the share.
    Aayna recently posted…The Most Important SEO Trends to Follow in 2013My Profile

  4. Conferences are what makes the world go round! Can’t wait for MagNet, coming up soon. Always an amazing learning experience, I leave filled with so many ideas I don’t know where to begin. Also meet many wonderful people, often that I’ve met online – but finally get to meet face to face. Not naming any names ; ))
    Krystyna Lagowski recently posted…What would Peggy Olson do?My Profile

  5. Stephanie says:

    Good post. I feel this way about sales seminars. I often have to identify if it’s a “sales motivation” or “sales training” seminar before I go. The two aren’t the same to me but often are billed incorrectly, so I dig a little before I decide where to place my dollars and “sense”.

  6. Jon Jefferson says:

    The closest I have been to any kind of conference lately has been beer feats in various forms. I may find a way into some writer’s conferences within the next year or so. Meeting up with others that share much of the same work troubles as you do can help to form common bonds and such.

    • Hi Jon:
      I’m sure you’d find a writer’s conference to be of interest as you have been dabbling in various types of writing. Attending a conference helps you sharpen your focus and acquire skills to help you advance your craft. And don’t worry! There’s lots of beer in the off time. 🙂
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…five reasons to visit GimliMy Profile

  7. Mark Brody says:

    Doreen – Great read! In my current organization, budgets really tie my hands as far as which conferences to attend. I try and immerse myself in the information being shared and envision how I can infuse a new thought or idea into my organization. I have begun to look at local conferences that are low cost because the networking aspect of conference attendance is invaluable!Thank you for sharing!

    • Hi Mark and thanks for your comment.

      Indeed, local conferences can be just as valuable as national ones. We had a World Champion speaker make a presentation at our local Toastmasters conference. He speaks all over the world, and yet we were able to get him to come to Winnipeg. So the key is to look at the expertise of the presenters at any conference and then determine if what they have to share is worth your time and $$.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…five reasons to visit GimliMy Profile

  8. I have yet to attend any conferences or blogging events. I am looking forward to attending my first one. Though I am more of a behind the scenes person, I believe that these conferences are a great learning and networking tool.
    Elizabeth Scott recently posted…Liebster AwardMy Profile

  9. Jeri says:

    I’m registered to attend my first writing conference at the end of this July. I picked the Pacific Northwest Writers conference, and from what I’ve seen and heard it will be well worth the expense and effort. Ideally, I would like to try to attend at least two conferences a year, but for now I’m happy with attending this one. The agent pitch sessions are already causing some anxiety to burble, but it’s a good kind of stress 😉 It’s great that you can be so involved.
    Jeri recently posted…On My Mind: Teacher Appreciation WeekMy Profile

    • Doreen Pendgracs says:

      Thanks for your comment, Jeri and Susan. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the PNWC, Jeri. I’ve heard good things about it. They say if you learn one thing or make one new important connection, any conference is worthwhile. Cheers!

  10. I do find it difficult to decide. Partly because of my diverse interests (Food,Wine and Short Stories). This year I would like to hone it down to a few that I would like to check out. I can see why you would opt out of the travel blogger one. That really made since to me. I just need to find them then decide is it worth while or not… LOL
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Perceptions and Chickenpox: Story (Podcast)My Profile

  11. Conferences can be so amazing. It’s an opportunity to meet with peers and learn so much. They can get ideas flowing and solve problems. The only draw back to attending conferences is the cost. 🙂
    Debra Yearwood recently posted…Handling HecklersMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      I know what you mean, Debra!

      Fortunately, 3 of the conferences I am attending offer delegate subsidies, meaning that you only have to pay a portion of the cost yourself. And the 4th conference was local, low cost and I was able to share a hotel room without cost. So even with a small income, I could make it work!
      WizardOfWords recently posted…knowing which conferences to attend can be a challengeMy Profile

  12. A.K.Andrew says:

    I’ve not yet been to any conferences similar to the ones you are talking about, but certainly in others that I have been to, it’s often a question of being in the right place at the right time. Connections and information can come at you from all directions. Knowing when theyre valuable is the important thing. I went to a talk by LIonel Shriver over the weekend (author of We Must Talk about Kevin) and it was only after I came away from the talk and had time to digest , that some of what she said really struck a chord with me. After the event can be just as fruitful as the event itself.
    A.K.Andrew recently posted…5 Books made into Films – Which Version is a Modern Classic?My Profile

  13. Linda says:

    Your energy and dedication to the writers’ community amaze me. I can’t seem to bring myself to join any of the local writer’s organizations or conferences. I love the solitude of writing and always feel like events like that will pull me away from valuable writing time. The only time I pull myself into the community just a bit is in my bi-monthly meetings with my small writer’s group.
    Linda recently posted…LebensbornMy Profile

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks for your comment, Linda.

      Having never met you, I can’t say for certain, but am guessing you are an introvert? I have friends who are introverts and they have told me that they find it draining to attend conferences as you have to speak to so many people. As an extrovert, I actually find human interactions fuel me. Most of the time, that fuel is positive energy. Occasionally … it’s not. But fortunately the positive far outweighs the negative.

      • Linda says:

        Well, I think you’re right. I’m probably headed toward the introvert side of the scale. I enjoy mixing with people in little bits. And then I run home and spend a couple of days regenerating. 😉
        Still, what you do takes a huge amount of energy and planning. I admire that.
        Linda recently posted…LebensbornMy Profile

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