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5 Ways to Enhance Your Conference Experience
WDS — a yearly gathering of remarkable people committed to community, adventure, and service — kicks off this week here in Portland, Oregon and I’m excited to present an Academy and to hang out with friends, colleagues, and readers from around the world. Since the event’s inauguration, I’ve participated at various levels, and every year, I end up talking to people about how to make the most of it.
I figured I’d share some things in advance this year for those who may be interested — while these suggestions are about WDS, they apply to just about any conference you’ll go to with creative changemakers.
Stay hydrated. I know, I’m always telling people to drink water, but people wear themselves ragged between conversations, presentations, and parties. (And, no, drinking Portland’s famous craft beers does not count as staying hydrated.)
Less is more when it comes to speeches and workshops. There’s a tendency to want to soak everything in and “get your money’s worth” if you’ve traveled all the way to a conference like this. The presentations are great, but the community is even better. And when it comes to the manic note-scribbling, consider that less is more there, too.
Balance “packing up” with meeting new people. It’s natural to “pack up” with the few people you know and hang out with them all weekend, and doing so is a great way of establishing and enriching bonds. That said, every year I’ve randomly met amazing people who I would be sad not to have met. Tip: Since other attendees may be looking for people to hang out with, too, add some new people to your pack.
Take time for you. Regardless of where you are on the introvert-ambivert scale, there’s a lot of social energy at WDS. Take time out for yourself and remember that the fear of missing out can cause you to miss out on something even more important. Leaving conversations can be challenging, too; Vanessa Van Edward’s How to Make a Graceful Exit is worth reading in advance so you know a) how to exit when you need to and b) how to tell when someone else needs to.
Decide which one project or goal you want feedback and support on. WDS is a great place to meet and talk to your yaysayers. Having one project or goal to talk about will help you decide which speakers and academies to attend AND give you something to talk about in those awkward moments when you’re meeting someone new. “I’m here to get ideas on X” is a much better conversation extender than just talking about what you do.
I hope this helps enhance your next conference experience. And... if you happen to see me at WDS and feel so inclined, please do come up and say Hi. Fair warning: I’m a hugger, but I almost always ask if it’s okay to hug you.