Okay, I confess that I go through these phases where I’m seeking out writing conferences. And other times, I go cold turkey. Sure in my heart-of-hearts I really do love conferences. I often come away inspired and make a lot of new resolutions. Yes, now I’m going to spend more time doing research, or now I resolve to never watch TV and only read or I resolve to write more poetry, or I going to contact this person and apply for this grant or…on and on. And there is all of this yummmy energy swirling and twirling and lifting me off the ground and I feel like Wonder Woman.
But sometimes it can be overwhelming too. I try to take in everything. Take a million notes (that I often never look at it because it’s written in scrawl and filed who knows where–but my need for more organization is another story for another blog post). Anyway, there are things that I have learned from my past mistakes. This also applies to going to conventions/tradeshows as well. So here are some rules. Hillary rules but maybe they will help you too.
1) Always bring some kind of water container so you can stay hydrated. Yeah, I know you’ll pee a lot but that gives you a self-sanctioned potty break. Better and healthier than a smoking break. This brings me to point number two.
2) Bring aspirin or your favorite pain reliever because if you have forgotten to drink a lot your brain shrinks and it hurts your head and you get a…headache. That brings me to a third point.
3) Snag fruit from your hotel or gasp even buy some so that you don’t let your blood sugar drop. That leads me to my fourth point.
4) Try to avoid all of those free danish and sweets. Yeah, they look good but then you’ll get a sugar crash and then you’ll really need to sleep which means that you’ll need…
5) Coffee. But not me. I can’t do caffeine. So even though I’d like something that would keep me going, I can’t do the drug of choice so if you’re like me do herbal tea. No, it won’t put pep in your step but it will make you feel as if you’re taking care of yourself.
6) Try to take notes on a computer. Why well, that way you can actually, maybe and truly use your notes and put them on a computer in way that it is accessible except for in the depths of some scary box I have under my desk that I’m afraid to open in case a mold monster drops out.
7) Blog about the conference but be very careful. Don’t do it word for word. Do not summarize in great detail the session because otherwise you’re stepping on some toes but you can summarize and give your take on it in a more general way.
8) Bring a stack of business cards and exchange them and make new friends. In order to make new friends, you’re going to have to be brave and sit with new people. Over the past couple of days I’ve been at the PNBA Fall Trade Show and Conference in Portland, Oregon and I’ve been trying to sit with new people for every meal. Deep down I’m shy but my need to connect is now stronger than my need to preserve some wrong-headed idea of dignity.
9) Go outside your comfort zone. At a conference sit in a session or at a show go to a booth where you would never normally go. You’d be surprised how much you can learn.
10) Remember to thank the organizers. You can say this person but it’s nice to follow up with an e-mail or card. Most organizers do a lot of work and hear lots of complaints. It’s great to feel appreciated.