Several years ago, I attended lots of conferences. It just seemed like the thing to do.
I attended Christian conferences, writers conferences, a state homeschool conference, and essential oils conferences.
I was all about learning and networking and growing my blog and business.
Then I hit a plateau that wouldn’t budge.
We moved to Europe and all that went out the window.
All that time and money I spent on the conferences doesn’t even seem to matter now. I wasn’t able to keep up with my business at all and I put my blog on the back burner. I didn’t feel I could maintain a relationship with many authors, bloggers, and oilers. I found I didn’t often agree with them or their values. I quit writing for other blogs. I take fewer sponsored jobs now. I’m pickier and choosier.
Now we’re back in the States and I have little desire to pick it back up.
I don’t go to conferences.
There are so many conferences for bloggers, writers, oilers, homeschoolers, faith…you name it. I don’t feel they have much to offer me for the high price tag.
I feel selfish for wasting weeks of my time and so much money on plane tickets and hotels. I missed my family and they missed me.
Many of the moms at the conferences I attended were just so excited to experience some freedom, but I found I didn’t have much in common with them. Conversations lagged and then it became awkward and embarrassing.
Online personas are often very different from the reality and several bloggers got very upset when I didn’t recognize them right away…or remember them a few days later. There are so many people and it can be overwhelming.
Some of the writing and homeschooling conference agendas don’t interest me. And I don’t want to sign a statement of faith that I don’t agree with. I’m pretty comfortable in who I am and how we homeschool and I don’t need the sessions or curriculum fairs.
Some of the faith conferences I’ve attended made me really uncomfortable. It seems the target audience for most of these events is an evangelical, charismatic, conservative demographic. These conferences interspersed writing, blogging, charity meetups with religious churchy clappy-happy preachy services. When they started singing “Jesus is my boyfriend” music and painting in the Spirit, I ducked out.
I don’t care about Christian celebrity speakers. I’m not a conference groupie. There seems to a certain kind of speaker that makes the circuits and they’re all pals. Once you’ve heard one, you’ve pretty much heard them all. They’re little more than motivational speakers with some Bible verses.
I may attend conferences in the future, but I doubt it. I have other priorities.
Advice for Going to a Conference:
Success for Conferences
- Know your Goals. Why do you want to go? What do you expect to get out of it?
- Plan. Most agendas are online. Make a list of the sessions of interest. Which speakers do you want to hear? Are there any extra fees for meetups?
- Look Your Best but Be Comfortable. Wear sharp, clean, comfortable, and classic clothes. If you have some signature item like a scarf or jewelry, wear it every day so people can remember you.
- Eat Lightly. Don’t fill up on salty carbs but choose wisely at the buffets or with meal choices. Don’t overdo it with cocktails or drinks. Use the gym or take a walk around the block to relieve stress.
- Meetups. These are greet small meetings to get to know others in your niche or interest group. Much more manageable and often more casual than the big anonymous sessions.
- Stay Open. Some of the best networking happens in the hallway. Be ready with a little bio info that sound authentic and stay open to new ideas.
- Follow Up. Make notes on the backs of business cards or tape them to a page in a notebook or folder to keep track of meetings. Follow up with network contacts immediately via email – even during the conference if you can make some time before crashing. Try to follow up within a week after the conference.
How to Conference as an Introvert
- Find a roomie…or don’t. I attend most conferences alone and rent a room to give myself much-needed downtime and privacy. I did have roomies for one conference and it was uncomfortable and they passed out very early in the evening while I wasn’t ready to sleep yet.
- Get out of your comfort zone. I’m not shy, but I’m often quiet. I have to speak up and greet people if I want to know them or network. I tell myself that I deserve to be at that conference as much as anybody.
- Don’t attend all the sessions. Don’t be afraid to skip a session to have a private chat with some new contacts or to give yourself a break. Or to go to the hotel bar or pool. Don’t worry about FOMO.
- Order room service or dine alone or with small groups. Sure, most conferences include meals and buffets, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel obligated. I often get breakfast ordered to my room so I can prepare myself for a busy day. One of my favorite conferences had an executive lounge where I could grab dinner and drinks alone after the conference schedule. Another time, a few of us met at the hotel bar and ate dinner across the street.
- Social media. Follow the conference hashtags for info on sessions you missed or to interact with speakers and other conference attendees.