A few years ago, I attended two back to back conferences. The first 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 planned to take I realized that I had learned some other important lessons about how to “do” conferences.
Here are five strategies that worked for me. Perhaps some of these ideas will be useful to you introverts and extroverts.
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 ensured that I could see the people I wanted to see while still remaining spontaneous.
But I also left 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 sketched out a schedule of programs I wanted to attend. That allowed me to get to the room early and ensure a seat for popular sessions.
2. Pace Yourself –Get your rest, eat well and exercise – even a few stretches in your room are helpful. I also have learned 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 didn’t regret it.
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 that year. I gained a usable nugget from each one of them. Those brief “stop and chats” have been priceless and make a huge difference in my biz and life.
4. Be Nice to Newcomers – I hate cliques but can sometimes be guilty myself 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 learned so much from people as I came into the field and am happy to share my experience with them. Mentoring VIP’s also helps me to chart my own progress. I was able to facilitate a discussion at the book marketing workshop and could recognize my own professional growth by giving some of it away
5. Leave the Husband at Home – Through a long marriage, Bill and I both have realized that one of our winning strategies is to make space away from each other. I travel for my annual conference and get my energy boost. He gets to enjoy solitude 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. Conferences give opposites like us much-needed respites from each other.
So consider how you can “do conferences” to play to your own energy needs and get the most out of those days away from home.
Knowing how to pace yourself and figuring out your purpose will help you get the most out of these professional development opportunities.