Going to a conference can test your ability to remain calm. There are options for excess to overwhelm you everywhere you look. Just opening the schedule can send some people immediately into a panic attack. But step away from the anxiety. I have five suggestions to calm your mind and help your heart.
The most important choice to me is knowing I cannot do everything. I know I will skip things that other people feel are essential because I have to pick myself first. I might miss “the best” lecture or night out, but at the end I will feel good about my choices that matched my goals. My most important goals are to eat well and exercise every day to keep the weight off I lost years ago.
1. Schedule your day to match your goals
I plan my day in advance at a conference. I can either change the time I want to set my alarm or choose to arrive at the event later than others. If I am willing to miss sleep, I can be at the earliest sessions. At the last conference I went to, there was a time change and I was unwilling to miss sleep, so I missed the opening plenary.
At another conference at the Mall of America, I chose to miss the closing session. During that time, I returned to my hotel so I could put away my laptop, change my clothes and walk back to meet the bus for the closing party. I did miss a great speaker, but I also had on comfortable shoes for the party, knew my belongings were secure, had a great walk through the park nearby and saw a stunning sunset.
2. Plan for food
Eating well can be challenging at a conference or really anywhere. When I eat at a hotel, I often step away from the buffet. After paying for the entire breakfast buffet, it can seem a requirement to eat one thing from every section or everything that is there. I look at the menu and think about what I would eat if I were at home. What is a good, simple choice for me? What will keep me going throughout the day? I know if I skip breakfast and rush to the conference, I will feel hungry and not pay attention. I will make choices that I will regret, like eating a candy bar or anything that I can find. I often take a banana or apple from breakfast with me so I have a morning snack choice that is healthy. Often there are muffins and cookies as snacks, and if I do not have a good choice in my bag, I will eat what is there. I recommend keeping small bags of nuts or a box of raisins in your bag. I almost always have a protein Luna bar with me so I can pick a snack that is good for me.
3. Working out is a commitment to yourself. Write it in your schedule!
Many people have a list of their appointments. We write down when we are going to the eye doctor or the dentist, our meeting with our supervisor and parent-teacher conferences. Sessions with a personal trainer that cost money often get in the weekly calendar. I have found that during a conference, the focus is on the speakers, meetings and events.
I make certain to schedule the time I am going to work out. I often wake up and hula-hoop for twenty minutes while listening to a mediation experience about gratitude from Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey. If I can wear sneakers, I might choose to walk twenty minutes to a conference so I spend time outdoors and get my blood pumping. I often choose to stay at a hotel near a conference instead of at the main hotel so that I am more likely to have a reason to go outdoors and walk. Most hotels have large and often empty fitness centers where you can find top-quality exercise equipment. Make the decision to work out. When I work out and choose which sessions to go to carefully at a conference, I feel better and I get more out of my day.
4. Make connections in advance
For a recent travel conference, I made many appointments in advance. The conference offered many activities and tours before the conference. I thought about which ones matched my website and would make the best videos. I was able to contact Beth Blair, the author of the upcoming book The Unofficial Guide to the Mall of America and interview her before and after the tour. It made my video better and I made a new friend.
As part of the conference, there was speed networking. I contacted all the companies and people in advance. When I could, I made personal connections so that when we met for our allotted eight minutes, it was as fruitful as possible.
5. Have fun
There have been times where I went to a conference and left feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and frustrated. I knew I ate the wrong things, made the wrong choices and did not get much out of it. Now, I carefully choose which events to go to and think about my goals. I have the intention to take care of myself before, during and after the experience.
I do go to the evening events, but not all of them. I often drink sparkling water at the parties instead of the free alcohol. By the end of the day, I am thirsty and cheap glasses of wine do not solve that. I feel better if I rehydrate and I can always buy myself a good drink later that I will enjoy more and that will not hurt my head in the morning.
There are times when an early night or a massage at the hotel spa are the best ways to end the day. When I stayed at the Hotel Maya in Long Beach, I spent one night at one of the seven fire pits with my s’mores kit and enjoyed being outdoors by the water and at my own campfire!
My conference was literally a short walk over the bridge to the convention center, and each time I returned to my hotel, I felt like I was a world away. Choosing carefully can make all the difference!
Hyatt Regency Bloomington hosted Lisa near the TBEX conference at Mall of America and Hotel Maya Long Beach hosted her for the SCUBA Show.