I attended two back to back conferences during the past week. The first conference was a book marketing workshop sponsored by the BK Author’s Co-op in SF followed by the National Speakers Association conference in Washington, D,C. As I started to review my notes and highlight those actions I plan to take I realized that I have learned some other important lessons about how to “do” conferences. Here are five strategies that work for me. Perhaps some of these ideas will be useful to you.
1. Prepare – Ask yourself what your purpose is when attending. I wanted to connect with old colleagues, learn about new trends (ex. doing video blogging) and meet with new vendors. I set up a few dinners and a breakfast but didn’t go overboard with planning. This ensures that I will see the people I want to see.
But I also leave slack time for other spontaneous happenings. I was privileged to learn about a jam session with top notch performers like Freebo and Mike Rayburn. A small band of fans gathered in an empty ballroom and grooved to these “virtuosos”, a term that Mike uses in describing people at the top of their game.I also sketch out a schedule of programs I would like to attend. That allows me to get to the room early and ensure I get a seat for popular sessions.
2. Pace Yourself – Conferences can be grueling for introverts and extroverts too. I met one colleague who was so overstimulated it took her hours to fall asleep. Get your rest, eat as well as possible and exercise – even if a little ( I fell down on this one:) I also know my sweet spot for conference attendance. After 72 hours on my butt inside a hotel with few outside breaks I am ready to break out of hotel prison. I missed one of the banquets because I left early but I find those pretty much a yawn and can socialize in other ways.
3.Connect in The Corridor – At the NSA conference, walking around the hallways during sessions can be a walk down a hall of fame in the speaking world. Jeannie Robertson, Robert Bradford and Alan Stevens were some of my encounters this year. I gained a usable nugget from each one of them. At the Author’s workshop, the most “ah’ah’s” and relationship building came over a glass of wine (yes – authors and those in the publishing world don’t mind imbibing). Those brief “stop and chats” are priceless and make a huge difference in my biz and life.
4.Be Nice to Newcomers – I hate cliques and admittedly I too can be guilty of leaving newcomers out of the conversation. I am glad that at NSA all newcomers have a ribbon with “VIP” on it to help them realize how important they are. I learn so much from people coming in to the field and am happy to share my experience with them. I am able to chart my progress and lessons learned when doing so. I was able to facilitate a discussion about speaking at the Author’s workshop and was able to recognize my own professional growth by giving away some of my experience.
5.Leave the Husband at Home – Through a long marriage of the usual ups and downs Bill and I both realize that one of our winning strategies is to take space from each other. I go for my annual conference stimulus and get my extrovert shot of people stimulation. He gets to introvert to his heart’s delight. When Bill picks me up at the train station after my trips he does seem more relaxed. I spill out my stories on the 10 minute ride home and he listens patiently. So conferences serve another important purpose: giving opposites much needed respites from each other. The heart may grow a little fonder. It was especially true this time when I left him with all the dust in our kitchen renovation!