Lessons from a conference...

lessons for clara

Dearest Clara,

We’ve been on the go a lot, both with and without you, these last few weeks.  Most recently, I was in New York again, but this time for a conference.  I seem to have a lot of those---some for my day job, and a lucky few just for my own interests.  Conferences can be a little intimidating, a bit like the first day of school.  And when those presenting and attending are people whom you’ve long admired and want to learn from, you always wonder what your place is.  You wonder if you will be brave enough to talk to people.  And you’ll always wonder what you’ll say as you work up your nerve.   These are the things that have helped me in these kinds of events:

  • Bring lots of business cards: It’s a great way to break the ice and it’s a great way to have something to talk about.  And bring more than you think you’ll need---you’ll give them about because you meet people, because you have to leave one with your luggage, because you’ll want to leave behind your contact information, or enter to win something.  Just have lots---I promise you’ll use them.
  • Know something about those speaking: They took the time to prepare a presentation, so take the time to prepare and learn something about them.  That way, if you have the opportunity to meet them or sit next to them at part of the event, you already have a few things you can go to when making conversation.
  • Remember most people---even if they don’t show it---are just as nervous: Don’t be intimidated.  Everyone else is outside of their comfort zone too.  Introduce yourself, bring others in if you see they want to be part of the conversation, and don’t sweat it if a conversation doesn’t go the way you planned.  Try to be an even more friendly and approachable version of yourself, and be inclusive.
  • It’s okay to take a break: Sometimes conferences and events can become overwhelming---they’re full of people we don’t know, and hopefully new ideas we haven’t seen.  It’s tough to be always “on,” and the days can become long.  It’s okay to duck out for a few minutes into a corner or quiet space, or even take an hour back at the hotel to decompress and reset.
  • Go to more than one! Believe it or not, these things get easier over time, and when you’re a repeat visitor, you always know someone too, which makes for smoother sailing.  All of the sudden, you become the person that others come to see.  A few events a year where you’re exposed to new people and new ideas are good to stimulate your own ideas---choose wisely but make the investment!

Now back to the sessions!

All my love,