Are Online Writers’ Conferences the Way of the Future?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I know I said I’d talk to you today about when you should tell rather than show, but I had to interrupt our regular schedule for a special announcement instead.

WANACon Online Writers' Conference

Yesterday Kristen Lamb announced the first ever WANACon, a completely online writers’ conference. While I don’t think online conferences will ever replace offline conferences any more than I think ebooks will ever completely replace paper books, I do think we’ll see more and more online conferences in the coming years.

The reason is simple—we can attend from the comfort of our own homes.

No Need for Travel

If you’re a parent or you work a full-time job, you can’t always leave for three days to a week to attend a conference.

And a lot of us can’t afford the airfare, hotel, and other related travel expenses that come with an out-of-town conference.

Lower Conference Registration Costs

I’ve paid from $400 to more than $1000 just to register for regular conferences. Because online conferences don’t require their instructors to travel to the site of the conference, they don’t need to charge as much to attendees. WANACon is $125 to attend both days, and $75 if you only want to attend one day.

Flexibility for Attendees

For most conferences, you have to be at a session to benefit from the teaching. If you miss it, you’ll have to pay extra to buy the recording. With online conferences, a limited-time recording of the sessions is often included as part of the conference fee. This means you can “attend” even if you have to be at work when the session you desperately want is running or if you get called away by the needs of your kids.

If you’re a jeans and pony tail kind of girl (…or guy) like me, you’ll appreciate not having to pull out your dress clothes and try to figure out a magical way to keep them from getting so wrinkled in your suitcase that you look like a hobo. (If anyone happens to know the trick to wrinkle-free travel, please tell me in the comments.)

Aren’t There Drawbacks to An Online Conference?

Certainly. One of the biggest benefits of conferences (aside from the teaching) is the chance to pitch to agents and network with other writers and industry professionals.

Networking will always be tricky, but with today’s technology, online conferences can handle “in-person” agent pitches as well as an offline conference. (And, in fact, WANACon is doing just that. You can sign up for one-on-one agent pitch sessions.)

For more on WANACon, and on the creative ways they’ve found to allow attendees to network (including a pajama party on Sunday morning), make sure you read Kristen’s post “And Now for Something Completely Different! Redefining the Writing Conference.”
You can see the complete schedule for WANACon 2013 here. On Friday morning (Day 1), I’ll be teaching Twitter: Ten Essentials Every Writer Needs to Know.

Click here to register for both days.
Click here to register for Day 1.
Click here to register for Day 2.

How do you feel about the idea of an online writers’ conference? Will they ever fully replace offline conferences? And are you planning to attend WANACon?

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