Attending writing conferences can be an excellent way for writers, both new and experienced, to learn new skills and improve their craft.
Recently a writer friend asked on Facebook if anyone had ever been to a bad or unprofessional conference, and, if so, what made it bad or unprofessional. I responded with an experience I had at a national conference I attended not long after I started to write.
The content of the conference was fabulous and very professionally presented. However, it was held in a luxury hotel in New York City, and the meeting rooms were on three floors connected by escalators. Unfortunately, at the time I was on a motorized scooter and at least four other attendees were in wheelchairs or scooters. Obviously we couldn’t use the escalators, but the two upper floors of the conference levels had no other means of access.
Workshops were held on all three floors with only a few minutes between each session. I wasn’t able to attend the specific workshops I wanted because I had no way to get to the right floor, so I had to pick workshops that were held on the one floor I could reach. I still learned an incredible amount, even if it wasn’t exactly what I had planned to learn.
At the end of the final conference day, I was so exhausted I could barely sit upright on the scooter. The elevators were so crowded I couldn’t get the scooter in. Although others had to wait a while, eventually everyone else got on the elevators, leaving me alone on the second floor.
I sat there for almost an hour before I finally got the attention of a hotel employee setting up for an event and told him I had to have help or I would collapse. He said he would send help but no one came. Finally I went back where he was working and asked for help again. He called security, and after what seemed like an eternity, a security guard finally arrived and led me through the kitchens to the service elevator and got me back to my room.
The registration form for the conference even asked about special needs, and I had plainly indicated that I required handicap access. So it wasn’t like someone shouldn’t have been prepared for those of us who couldn’t handle the escalator/elevator situation.
No matter how wonderful the workshops are, a conference isn’t very useful to attendees who have no access to the meeting rooms.
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