You're going to a writer's conference. It's actually a bit unfair to ask you to take something that's hard enough to do well: write a query, and convert it to something even harder: an elevator pitch.
Elevator pitches are definitely good to have. They're particularly helpful when talking to other authors and finding beta readers, because they keep you concise. And at some point, you're probably going to have to whip out that short verbal pitch, so don't discount it.
But at a writer's conference, your main goal is to learn (not, as we've covered, to get signed). The verbal pitch is important, but more important is your written pitch. Your query.
When you sit down to pitch, you should have copies of three things (all with contact information):
- Your query
- The first five pages of your book
- Your synopsis
When you sit down, have the query out and start like this:
"Hi, thanks so much for taking the time. I've got a [CATEGORY] [GENRE] complete at [WORDCOUNT] called [TITLE] for you today, and I have my query here as well, just in case."
Then start into your pitch. It should be only two sentences maximum, and in the first sentence you should name your main character and the main problem. Then, STOP TALKING. The agent or editor will then give the session some direction by asking for the information that's most important to them. Or they might read over your query. Either way, the pressure's off of you after those first two or three sentences:
- Sentence including wordcount, title, category, and genre
- Sentence or two (max) that names the main character and presents the main conflict
The synopsis and first five page are there just in case. If the editor or agent really seems enthused (beyond requesting a full--that's not so uncommon) ask if they'd like to take the pages or synopsis with them. Most of the time, they'll say no. But you never know, right?