Top Tips to get the most out of your Conference Experience
This time of year, a lot of people begin thinking about what they want to do, where they want to go, how to get the most out of their business for the year. And a lot of times, we get the strong desire to go to a conference for a variety of reasons. Here at the Society for Creative Founders, we have our 11th Annual Conference taking place eight weeks from now, April 15-18 in Pensacola, Florida! We wanted to write a post today filled with tips to help you to get the most out of your experience while you’re there, whether you are joining us at the Creative Founders Conference or another. We are hoping that these nine suggestions below will help you to get the most out of your Conference experience!
1. Prep yourself mentally to be out of your Comfort Zone.
At our Conference, we limit it to 28 people in total to keep it a more intimate setting where everyone gets to know each other, however there are a lot of conferences where you can expect to see and be surrounded with anywhere from 10-300+ people. If you are an introvert, as challenging as it may be, find the courage to strike up a conversation with the people surrounding you, and ask them questions about them both personally *and* about what they do. Go with the flow and let your guard down, opening yourself up to all sorts of possibilities rather than what you think you know. If you mentally prepare yourself to know you’ll be out of your comfort zone, you will be better for it.
2. Start Conversations
A lot of times people want to talk and connect with people, they simply don’t want to take the first step to do so. Sometimes this is nerves, sometimes shyness, but if you take that first step and initiate a conversation, it may be that the person you open up to could become an amazing friend or mentor to you in your business! If you have the opportunity to speak to anyone, don’t let the fear of being the first one to chat scare you. This goes for both fellow attendees and speakers!I will add a personal note here on this specific one too - A lot of people think of me as extroverted but I am actually really shy and find I am a wallflower or most comfortable “behind the scenes” working on things. A few years ago I was at a Conference (not our conference, but another) where I had the opportunity to talk to two people who were speakers that I admire in business, and one day I sat right next to them both prior to a breakout session starting, so it was the perfect time to say hello. I was so nervous, my palms were sweating, and my heart was beating out of my chest, and I couldn’t find the courage to say anything. A friend of mine saw this, knowing how much I wanted to speak to them, and she actually confidently strode over, sat down next to me, and introduced us both. Once I said hi and we started talking, the nerves calmed down (inside, I was fangirling and screaming, but on the outside, I like to think I appeared calm!). If I hadn’t said anything, I would regret it to this day. Start the conversation, you will be glad you did!
3. Ask Questions
A lot of times, you think that you can’t ask for clarification on something because you’ll feel like you’re the only one wondering that. That is truly not the case! A lot of times, multiple people have a similar question but don’t want to ask. In addition, when you ask questions and they’re answered, everyone can learn from them! Don’t leave yourself wondering things. Raise that hand high and don’t be afraid to ask anything!
4. Pack Layers + Comfortable Shoes.
If you’re cold, you won’t be able to concentrate on what you’re learning as much. The same goes for if you’re too warm. As much as we like to regulate air conditioning or heat, sometimes it’s not right for your preferences - pack a cardigan or a light sweater that you can put on or take off so that you’re not thinking about how to cool off or warm up.
When it comes to shoes, think smart! If you’re going to be standing or doing a lot of walking, if you’re wearing an uncomfortable pair of heels, we all know that the pain from our feet can take over our brains - as much as you may want to wear those amazing 7 inch platform heels for a cocktail party, if they make your feet scream at you within 30 minutes of putting them on, you may want to wear something more comfortable so that the only thing you’re consumed with is all of the people, conversations, and goodness that is surrounding you.
5. Get to know your fellow Conference-goers ahead of time.
Is there a way for you to connect beforehand? If so, great! When you’re heading to a conference, chances are you may know of a couple of people, but you may not *know* them. By reaching out and connecting on Social Media ahead of time, when you are both there in person, they may not seem like so much of a stranger! You will learn more about each other and see what things in common you have, or find things that you can learn about them to strike up conversations (see tip 2 above) if you’re looking for ways to connect with them.
6. Take a few pictures. And then take some more.
Although most conferences have professional photographers that they hire, having your own images from the conference in your point of view can make all the difference as you’re looking back through it. Some of my favorite images are actually selfies taken with new friends - there’s one I have with a friend in an airplane (we happened to unknowingly book the same flight and seats next to each other on a flight on the way back) and another where we squeezed together for a party of five shot while we were going up in an elevator together - the candid moments may be some of your faves when you look back!Also - some of these people, the likeliness of you seeing each other again is small. If there are people you want to remember from that specific time together, having a photo of you together is something you will want to have to look back on!
7. Communicate with your clients + customers that you will be unavailable.
The last thing that you want is for your inbox to be filling up with things you need to tend to while you’re at the Conference. Think about client work and when to change outgoing shipments for orders from your shop - prepare to be gone for a few days and turn on an out of office reply. Communicate with everyone clearly beforehand that you will be unavailable for a certain amount of dates and then stick to it. If you can, even take it a step further and take your email off your phone so that you're not enticed to check it and thus want to reply. When you are at a Conference, you want to have time to connect, reflect, learn as much as you can, and then have times to implement those things. You don’t want to be spending time working in your business while you’re at a conference to learn more about working on your business. Communication is key here - let people know when you’ll be unavailable, add it into your email signature, and create an auto-responder for your inbox when you’re unavailable so that people can know when to expect a reply from you.
**Tip: If you’ll be attending our Conference in April, we suggest to plan to take the whole week off. We will be together Sunday-Wednesday, and then we recommend you give yourself Thursday + Friday to think things through, work on things you learned, and simply unwind. Plan for easing back in to “business as usual” on the following Monday. You will be glad you did!
8. Let the ideas flow
Sometimes, you come with certain expectations of what you're hoping to receive during your conference experience - certain things you want to learn, and that’s what you’re set on. However, you have to leave yourself open to new ideas too! Open yourself to new ideas, thoughts, and little whisperings that may change your trajectories completely. This is okay! You may come in thinking you’ll learn one thing, and learn things that you weren’t expecting. The same may go for your business - you may open yourself to a whole new world of ideas that you had previously put on a shelf and forgotten about, or something that you hadn’t thought about before. Write them down and let the ideas flow!
9. Have Fun!
You didn’t invest in this Conference not to enjoy yourself while you’re at it. You have invested in this conference to have an incredible experience, and the more you come with the mentality that you’re going to enjoy yourself, meet new people, learn new things, and have fun while you're doing it, you will! Let your guard down and be open to things, even if they’re new to you. Chat with those surrounding you, don’t be afraid to be yourself, and simply have fun!
If you would like to attend our Conference this upcoming April, we have ONE spot remaining! Additionally, the Payment Plan option is only open through TOMORROW, Friday, February 16th! If you would like to join us, find out all the details here!
Do you have other tips or suggestions for how to get the most out of enjoying a Conference Experience? Share with us in the Comments below!