I began attending conferences about two or three years ago when I first started my coaching business. Since my husband and I both used to work in the mental health and substance use disorder space, all of the conferences were really geared towards those topics. Not always the most fun or interesting.
Attending conferences as an introvert was also very draining. I spent most of the time in our hotel room or by the pool for the first few and would just go to dinners my husband set up. Over the years, I started to learn ways to make the most out of my time at a conference as an introvert which really paid off last weekend as I attended my first ever blog conference!
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First of all, a blog conference is so different than a health related conference! Everyone feels more relaxed, dresses way cuter, and the energy everywhere you turn is just inspiring! I had so much fun meeting some of you all in person and listening to some seriously inspiring speakers. Unlike past conferences, where I holed up in my hotel room nursing a headache, I actually feel like I made the most out of this conference and wanted to share my times on how you can do the same as an introvert:
10 Tips To Make The Most Out Of A Conference As An Introvert:
Pack Your Apple TV
REALTALK: Nothing recharges me like watching TV. Even when we picked our wedding venue, I checked the TV in the bedroom to make sure I could jailbreak it and get my Apple TV sync'ed up. I know you can watch Netflix on your phone or computer, but there is something about laying in bed and watching TV that feels different to me.
You can call most hotels IT Support number (found in your room or at the front desk) to get your IP address approved. Another option, if you're a Mac user and have apple tv, you can remap your computer's IP address to be your Apple TV's IP address so you can “approve” the internet connection, then just switch it back. Follow these instructions here (this is what I typically do).
If TV isn't your thing, then pack a book, pack whatever recharges you!
Get Clear On Why You're Attending
You're obviously there to learn and network! But that can look different for everyone.
In my case, this was my first blog conference so I wanted to put some faces to the blogs I read and meet some of my digital friends in person! I let go of the additional pressure that I needed to make a brand connection that guaranteed a contract by the end. I did leave with some wonderful warm leads that I think you guys are going to love, but nothing concrete, and that's okay!
The other thing I really wanted during this conference was to learn some new things to improve my intimate writing, which was why the majority of the workshops I was trying to attend focused on personal storytelling. My secondary learning goal was monetizing and blog maintenance, which I attended and learned from some of those sessions too. But with a workshop schedule that's so broad, its important to narrow down what exactly you want to learn during your time and prioritize accordingly.
The unexpected “why”:
I didn't realize this when I attended, but it became apparent right away, the inspiration and motivation. If you're ever in a blogger rut, attend a conference! I didn't even think about the motivation and focus I would leave with, but it happened. It's the unexpected why if you will. Legit, if you've never heard of Luvvie before, she is my new #goals:
Before the conference:
Plan. Be Flexible. Give Yourself Breaks.
Now that you're clear on your goals for attending, plan out your schedule. Before arriving decide which events and workshops you want to attend. If there are multiple things you want to do at that time, add them all to your schedule. This will allow you to get into a flexible mindset from the get go. If something isn't working for you, you can look at your schedule and adjust seamlessly. Make sure to also pad your schedule with some “break time.”
If your like me, and get headaches after prolonged conversations with others, try to schedule you expo time at the very end of the day. If it will only work for your schedule in the morning, make sure you have some headache medicine, water, and a snack to help you recharge and focus while your learning in a workshop session. The last thing you want is to go to the expo, feel so drained, that you can't even process the information you want to learn!
Arrive Late & Cut Out Early
On the note of planning, arrive late and cut out early! Often conferences will offer some sort of breakfast and morning keynote or meet and greet. Personally, I am not a morning person. In the past, I always sent my husband downstairs to sneak some breakfast up to me as I finish my second cup of coffee before heading into the lions den. If you can't have breakfast brought to you, head down (legit went down in sweats during this conference), grab a plate, and sit in a quiet (preferably dark) corner away from the hustle nad bustle. Then head immediately back up stairs for your second cup of coffee.
On the same note, a lot of conferences save their best speakers and content for midday. They know that people want to sleep in, or leave early to either do more personal networking or recharge. I have never been to a conference where by 2 pm on the final day everyone is still there. Instead you find most people at the pool, packing to leave, or at private meetings.
Trust me, you aren't doing yourself any favors forcing yourself to do more than you are ready to do.
For those of you who can rock heels all day, I tip my hat to you. But for me, nothing sucks the life out of me like wearing heels. I recommend keeping things comfortable and versatile. As a Florida native, I am used to 60 degrees inside a conference room, and 95 when you step outside. Keep in mind, that different rooms will have different AC settings. Dress in light and comfortable layers that can easily be put into a purse so you don't have to hold them.
Bring Your Own Water Bottle
Conferences will provide water throughout the venue, however the cups are often tiny and don't have lids. I am a klutz and nothing stresses me out more than juggling all my conference swag and accidentally spilling my water. I also legit dribble water when drinking from a cup without a straw in stressful situations #embarrassing. When I'm in nervous situations, I also like having something other than my phone to keep in my hand and fidget with. Plus, if you have an opaque container, you can use it as an reason to excuse yourself when you need to break away from a convo.
During the conference:
It's only a few days. Your time in this unexpected fast moving environment is temporary. Take deep breaths, remember you are getting exactly the experience the Universe intended you to receive. Stay open. Breathe deep. Be present.
The first keynote of the conference kicked off with a mindfulness moment by Starr Barbour, which was amazing! It set the intention to be still and present throughout the next few days. Remember that moment of tranquility you experience in yoga? Remember, you can reconnect to that feeling at any moment in time, in any place. Put both feet on the ground, face your palms up, and breathe from your belly.
Find a buddy
In the past, I've always attended conferences with my husband since we were in the same industry. He is a total extrovert so it made working the room super easy as I could piggyback off of him. This was my first solo conference as an introvert. Luckily I ran into my friend Rachel from Small Town & City Lights at registration and she became my buddy for the majority of the conference. It was nice to have her as support in the expo hall or while navigating particularly overwhelming situations. I wouldn't recommend staying glued to your buddy though. Stay true to your “why” and work on checking off your conference goals, but it's nice to have someone to text when you're feeling overwhelmed. Thanks, Rach!
Shop this dress (it's only $13!!!)
Let go of FOMO
You cannot be in all the places at once. Conferences are jam packed with things to do and people to meet. It's impossible to be a part of all of it. Instead, take cues from your body and adjust. You've already planned out your schedule and have multiple options for each time of the day. Go with the flow and if you aren't enjoying what you're doing, go to do something one of your backup options.
I did this at BlogHer, there were three workshops happening at the same time I really wanted to attend. I had some personal drama come up as a result of my Fatherless Father's Day post that morning, so I decided to go to the intimate writing workshop. Only the workshop focused a lot more on privacy, particularly with children, than actual intimate writing.
I quickly realized this was not what I wanted to be hearing and was rubbed the wrong way by a few people's questions in the session. I left and decided to hit up the digital advertising workshop which had (literally) a line out the door. This is when I decided to listen to my body (I had a massive headache by this point #introvert problems) and decided to go to my third option, book publishing (you might remember from my blogging awards post that my goal is to publish a memoir someday!). This workshop was legit fire. It was exactly where I was supposed to be and I learned SO much.
Grab people's business cards
The conference should just be the jumping off point for new relationships. It's perfectly okay to cut out early from small talk but ask for their business card to stay in touch. Trust me, as someone with some serious RBF and RBVoice, I would much rather excuse myself and follow up with someone I am interested in later. Otherwise, I likely leave them with a poor impression of me because I couldn't get my energy in check.
Remember, stay true to yourself and your goals. Everyone is feeling overwhelmed too.
Have you ever attended a conference before? What tips would you add?