How can you turn around a conference that just seems to be falling flat on your experience meter?
Every so often, I have to stretch my writing muscles and write about something unexpected. I’ve set myself a rule however – these blog posts are stream of thought, only allowed 15 minutes to be written and then I have to hit schedule or publish and leave it alone. and I’ll do it. I swear.
Today’s Random Post Topic is pretty timely, too, given that I’m at a conference run by a company I used to work for with my current company as an exhibitor. Small world, isn’t it?
The topic is 8 Ways to Save a Bad Time at a Conference, courtesy of Chris Brogan. And yes, I’m pretty sure the #8 was only in a numbered sequence, and not actually part of the post, but here goes anyway. 2 minutes down, 13 to go. (Thanks, Chris.)
So… you know the events this post refers to. The ones you have high hopes for that don’t pan out. The ones that you aren’t really sure about and can’t seem to connect to. Or the conferences that you might get the brain dump of information, but you don’t quite connect in a way that excites you. There are lots of ways to have a bad time at a conference, and here are my top 8 randomly connected ways to improve your event.
1. Go to a conference session you don’t think you need or want.
Often at conferences, we narrow our focus to specific things and gloss over others. So if your conference isn’t panning out the way you want, try something new. Go see a session that you don’t think you need, one you already “know” about — and try attending it as if you know nothing. Take notes with the other hand. Draw your notes. See what you learn when you approach it in a different way. (And post your notes on Twitter. I want to see.)
2. Hit the bar at the end of the day of the conference…or every day
Now, don’t take that literally. But one of the best places at conferences to connect with people is at the end of the day, in the hotel bar. You don’t have to plan to meet someone — just go. Grab a book, a phone, whatever you’re comfortable with and get a glass of wine (or bottle of Jack, whatever your fancy…) Look up every now and then and see where people are migrating to connect. You’ll be amazed at how connected you feel during the day when you’ve shared some off time with each other.
3. Make eye contact with other conference attendees
You’d be surprised how many people don’t look up, don’t smile and don’t connect in that simple way in the hallways at conferences. A lot of people are introverts , I get it, I am too — and I need my quiet time, but look up. When you see the same person enough times in the hall and share a smile, conversations come easier. Need a little push – check out how to bring out your Wonder Woman (or man) at a conference.
4. Take a break
Another thing that can make a bad experience at a conference is just not giving yourself the breaks you need. Introvert? Take ten alone. Tired? Grab a nap in the middle of the day. It’s easy to try and see everything, hear everything and not miss a session, but you’ll get more out of it if you balance yourself in the mix.
Okay, I have 6 minutes left to finish this. Yikes!
5. Go see something else
We got to conferences in great places. I’m in Boston right now, and have I really left the convention center? Nope.
Yup, do as I say, not as I’m doing right now. (Though I swear I am going to take the 14 minute walk to the Cheers bar. I swear. ) Enjoy a little piece of the city and see something different.
6. Don’t dwell on the bad
It’s easy to focus, talk about and obsess on what you don’t like at a conference. I’ve done it. (Paper plates are not a good way to serve food to an audience whose paid a lot to be there, conference peeps. Just sayin’.) Instead, find 3 things you like about the day. Focus on that.
3 minutes… we can do this!
7. Live tweet a session and share for someone else to learn
I love to tweet sessions when I’m in them, and because I type like a crazy person, it’s easy. But even if you can only put out one or two tweets, it helps you put the focus on what you’ve learned that’s worth sharing. So think about your audience, who you are talking to, and find some relevance for them.
8. Leave early.
I know, this isn’t saving a bad time, it’s leaving one. But sometimes, the best thing you can do is not prolong the pain. If it’s not salvageable and you feel like you wasted your time, give yourself permission to get some of it back.
Okay… 38 seconds to spare. I’m done! Stick a fork in it. 🙂
What is your top tip to save a bad time at a conference? And thanks again Chris Brogan for the idea…