Friday, July 24, 2009

Coaching Up Your Conference Skills

I got the jits as jitters. I know better but I'm starting to get the "What do you mean I'm meeting 1,400 plus people? What am I suppose to do and say and not say…" and the screaming Mee-Mees are in full gallop. After laying off the ice tea and other forms of caffeine I have some answers. As always I have to start with what I know.  So, in the order of each prior conference location here are some ideas on how you and I can cool our jets and make the most of any convention.

Santa Clara Lessons
Sometimes you have to take a chance. I heard about the 2005 BlogHer convention indirectly. It took about a half second to know that I wanted to go. I made it to the wait list. In the meantime, I made plans to get the money, airfare and hotel. Shortly before the start of the convention I got the word that I could attend. Did I think my way into the convention? Um, no. Yeah. Maybe.
I just felt certain that I should be there. If I couldn't get a ticket I had other options.  I could have just taken a chance and showing up hoping for a no-show. Or just enjoying a weekend in a new place. Tia Singh at CoachTia writes about Inspired Action:
Sometimes inspired action feels like a force you can’t ignore, that literally moves you to a certain action even if it doesn’t make sense to you. So when you find yourself suddenly taking a different route to work, or stopping by the grocery store even when you don’t need anything, it’s likely an intuitive sense that’s guiding you to take that action.
San Jose Lessons
I remember really firm beds and spiders. I don't mind spiders half as much as sleeping on a brick. I was a little more sleep deprived than usual and not because I was hanging out late. I didn't speak to many people. To be honest, I might have given off a vibe that said back off. I didn't mean to, I was sleepy, cranky and probably more shy than I let on.

Kathy Mallory at Coaching Biz Tip reminded me that yes I was uncomfortable and not a happy camper. But there were things within my control.
Try giving yourself three free passes on complaining about an issue, but when you've used up the third pass, it's time to stop complaining and either accept things as they are and move on, OR do something.
I had choices. I could have said something to the hotel and I could have been more open with strangers. There usually choices if we are open to them.  Yet there are times when you just got to go with it. It wasn't forever and sometimes life is not perfect. Give yourself permission to find alternatives but don't let yourself get you distracted from your purpose or the people you wanted to meet.

I liked Karyn Beach's post at Lose the Excuses - The Fear Factor. In this post she is talking about employment and creating a different kind of future but I think fear is rampant at conventions too.
Fear can be a debilitating, nerve-wrecking, soul-churning experience. What if’s snowball each one pessimistically worse than the one before it. It’s a quote that I’ve used before, “95% of the things we fear never come to pass.” Yet, the feeling of fear, the emotion of it, can be so strong that logical thinking is the first casualty of that snowball as it gains speed careening down that hill.
Chicago Lessons
You don't know who you know. Six degrees of separation is no joke. I remember being in the elevator with Carol Lin, formerly of NBC News and CNN. I didn't want to invade her space so I just nodded my head and smiled. Later in the day she was on a panel and had mention that she had been helped by Rox of Beach Walks with Rox.

I've met Rox and she does a great job on her video blog.  This is a one of her videos on Sorting Out Your Travel Energy.

I don't care if you have a cat walking blog, you might know of another blog or person that someone else might need to know about. Value what you  bring to the conference, it may have a present or long distance value. For those of you who live by Twitter perhaps you should have a look at a TwiTip post on Networking Tips for Tweeters. Read #5 and commit it to memory. Don't be afraid to approach others.
The UC Berkeley Career Center website has good tips on what to do when you really are in a room of un-met people. Definately read the part about risking rejection. It can happen. So what, one body spoken down and 1,399 to go. Don't sweat it.

San Francisco Lessons
I loved the pillow top beds! I have curves and those beds made nicey nice with said curves. This meant I was rested and ready to go. My goodness there were a lot more people coming and going. Going to get massages, going to search engine optimization, going to see Elmo and always seem to be going and filling up the seats (and even the floor spaces) of the sessions I was trying to get to.
It was too much. By Saturday afternoon I decided to walk into the first room that would have me. I didn't care what it was. That turned out to be a Room of Our Own session with some grand big legged girls who bought a wee bit of orange juice, some other stuff; I can't quite recall the name on the bottle and some cheese. I mellowed out. Cheese can do that for me.

Christy at Quirky Fusion understands where I am coming from and she has a list of tips, dig #4 Know Your Limits:
…Even though I know better, some perverse part of me insists that I’m somehow obligated (to myself and to conference planners) to attend as many sessions as possible. But, going back to number 3, that doesn’t always match my priorities. First of all, there won’t always a be a session that you’re interested in. But, more importantly, sometimes you’ll have an opportunity to chat with someone really amazing, or chat with vendors/manufacturers.
Victoria Janssen is an author of Romantic Fiction. She has been to a conference or two and has Five Conference Tips that would work for any conference, including staying hydrated (She means water and so do I).
To Recap:
  • Reach beyond the fear and trust you healthy positive intuition.
  • Take care of yourself, ask for what you want and need.
  • Be flexible. Meet new people.
  • Be open to helping other with a smile, a link or referring them to a resource. I’m telling you straight; it will come back to when you most need it and when you least expect it.
And lighten up! Fun is ok. Play is essential. Mix and match. Create your own positive experience and go with the flow.

Gena Haskett is a Contributing Editor at BlogHer where this post originally appeared.


  1. Hi Gena!

    Funny you should mention Carol Lin - turns out she married an neighbor of mine from high school - yes, they too connected via Beach Walks and one of those random things that happens with perfect synchronicity on line.

    Your conference tips are wonderful - the socializing of the web has made even events in real life friendlier for strangers.

  2. Hi Gena, thanks for linking to my post. Glad you got to attend Blogher and thanks for sharing your experience! Tia