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Really, it’s okay if you need to hide under the covers for a bit: My tips for making the most out of conferences

I’m looking forward to Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit in Portland this weekend (that’s us at his SF book signing for The $100 Startup – it’s a fantastic read, BTW).

I know I need constant reminders though about how to make the most out of an event whether it’s a jam-packed convention, a local professional networking meeting, or a virtual event from home.

One of the first conferences I attended as a newly minted entrepreneur had about 2,000 attendees (the following year had 3,000!). For this highly sensitive introvert that was quite a shock to the system. I also shared a hotel room to save money but learned very quickly, that for me it’s well worth the extra expense to have a quiet, private sanctuary to slip off to in the middle of the day to recharge. Really, it’s okay if you need to hide under the covers for a bit!

Here are some of my other tips on making events work for you:

  • Set an intention. What is the one thing you really want to walk away with from the experience? Is it a certain knowledge or information? A fresh perspective on an issue you’ve been wrestling with? New creative cohorts? Deeper connections with existing friends? Or just to have plenty of rip-roaring fun? Align your decisions and actions around this intention.
  • Conscious connection. Make a mental note of who you want to connect with and in what way. For me, I prefer deeper, more intimate conversations than feeling the need to meet as many people as I can. Knowing that helps take the pressure off.
  • Practice self-care. Usually when I’ve invested time and money into an event, I make up that I need to “milk it” for all it’s worth and I force myself to cram everything into the schedule. However, that just ends up draining me and I stop retaining anything useful (and I get cranky). So pay attention to what you need and tend to that so you can stay present.
  • Shake things up. For example, if you tend to sit in the same place, mix it up after a break. You’ll shift your energy and experience a new perspective. If you’re in a virtual event try interacting in a different way. Are you always providing answers or solutions to other people? Why not ask a question and let yourself simply receive.
  • Make learning fun. Take pictures for visual reminders. Draw mind maps of key points. Doodle in your notes. Last year at WDS writer and coach Cynthia Morris documented her conference experience in a colorful illustrated journal (love!)
  • And of course just be open. You never know what you’ll learn, who you’re going to hit it off with, or what fun adventure you’ll find yourself in.
  • Build in recovery time. Don’t forget to give yourself some cushion after the event to recoup and integrate your learnings.

And check out this series that my creative cohort Jamie Ridler (who I can’t wait to see in Portland) put together after attending WDS last year. There are two posts featuring tips from several guest contributors (including me) on How to Get the Most Out of a Conference When You’re an Introvert or HSP (highly sensitive person) Part 1 and Part 2.

And if you’re heading to WDS, I look forward to seeing you. If they have the hammock lounge again, you can be sure I’ll mozy on over there at some point during the day! I’ve heard from some of you that you’ll be in my Right-Brain Business Plan breakout session on Sunday. I can’t wait to play with you!

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The Right-Brain Business Plan®