The other aspect of the conference are the 'live' events that happen over two days - the actual conference dates. Mostly this consists of twitter pitch sessions with an agent or editor, but they also had a couple of Q&A sessions with industry folks. Both the twitter pitches and questions are moderated and chosen at random, so there's no guarantee your stuff will show up. But you can follow along in real time and read the feedback from the pros for those who get selected.
My twitter pitch never saw the light of day, so I'm going to start off with what I learned from the forums - which really is general advice for critiquing and interacting with other writers.
Be positive!This is actually a hard one for me - I'm used to critiques that focus on what needs to be improved and can come off as rather harsh. But everyone needs encouragement, especially when you are dealing with what amounts to a bunch of strangers. Not only is it nice to be nice, but people are more willing to critique your work if you've given them a positive critique. WriteOnCon is very good at being a place of support and positivity.
Be SpecificThis is where I feel WriteOnCon can often miss. A lot of the feedback I see is very general - more voice, watch your punctuation. Even if someone wants to improve, they may not know how to do it. I try really hard to point out specific examples of things I think are wrong and then make concrete suggestions of how to improve it. I tell people where I think they should include a more personal expression, or highlight phrases that don't work for me. I don't expect everyone to just take my advice and make every change the way I suggest, but I think it's much easier for them to see exactly what I'm saying and deal with it however they want.
Be SelectiveIgnoring advice is an important part of taking critique. Not everyone is right, especially a bunch of strangers of unknown experience and background. Heck, I've even seen agents give contradictory feedback to a person. How do you know who to listen to? For me, I always start with patterns. If lots of people are saying the same thing, then they're probably right. Second, I read the writing of the person who critiques me - if I like their writing then following their advice is likely to help me improve (though not always). But at the end of the day, I'm my own writer. I get to decide what I want my writing to be. The important thing is to understand the suggestions you've been given before you dismiss them.
ConclusionOverall, I had a very positive experience with WriteOnCon this year. I got some excellent feedback and feel I was able to incorporate it into both my query and my first chapter in a way that improved my work. I only got the briefest of feedback from a ninja agent - they thought my premise was interesting but I could cut a little voice out of the query (the feedback was definitely split on that point since several folks loved the lines the agent said to cut :), but in the end I came out stronger than when I entered. That's what you want out of any experience.
I also put together my first twitter pitch, even though it wasn't chosen for any of the live events. Now I have that in my pocket and next time I'll talk more about what I got out of those twitter sessions.