In a couple of days I’ll be traveling to New Orleans for this year’s Mom 2.0 Summit, and although I’ve covered various aspects of choosing a conference, preparing for a conference, and what the heck to do at a conference, before, I’m going to do it again.
Because a refresher is always good, even for me. Also because we’ve all mostly forgotten those other posts. Right? Right!
It’s been a while since I did a sizable conference, so either I’ve forgotten what they’re like or this one is particularly packed (maybe a little bit of both?), but I am finding the various announcements of parties and gatherings and suites and things to do kind of overwhelming, to say the least. So maybe you don’t need a refresher, but I think I actually do. I kind of had to have a little talk with myself this morning about how to handle all of this. And now I’m going to share it with you.
It’s very easy to get swept up in the mindset of “Well I’m here, I should do everything.” For some people, that totally works. For those of us for whom it doesn’t, here’s what to remember.
1) Remember why you’re attending the conference. I am attending Mom 2.0 to a) speak and b) network. There will likely be some people there I’ll be delighted to see, but for me this is not a social trip or mini vacation. I have specific goals to bear in mind. Some of the ramifications therein are obvious; say, I’m never going to go on a trip like this and choose to stay up all night partying. But other conclusions may be harder to reach; as an introvert, I’m inclined to skip some social events that may offer networking opportunities, and then I have to figure out what the odds are of such an event being worth my time. (Now—bear in mind—I’m coming at this from my perspective of this being a business opportunity. I know some people go to conferences to socialize and I’m not knocking that, just saying that’s not how I, personally, approach it.)
2) Know your limits, but leave your options open. Um, apparently one of the sponsored events at Mom 2.0 this year is a “pajama party” on Friday night. I know myself well enough to know that my desire to participate in this event falls somewhere between “please just kill me now” and “I will be tired and cranky and need my sleep.” Chances are excellent that I will honor my personal limitations and not go. But you know what? I’ll bring a pair of pajamas I’m willing to wear to it, just in case. Maybe I’ll be feeling all energized and willing to step out of my comfort zone, and then wouldn’t I feel silly if I didn’t have the option?
3) The conference is the thing, but so is all of the other stuff. I’ll tell you right now that I really do not understand people who go to conferences and attend none of the sessions. It doesn’t make sense to me. But on the other hand, I used to fall prey to the “I’m here and there are great sessions and I have to go to all of them!” mindset, which is really no better. Networking happens between sessions, during sessions (in other locations), and, yes, at parties. I handle this as best I can by sitting down with a schedule and figuring out the things I really want to attend, and then trying to guesstimate how I’m likely to want to spend my time otherwise, and plan accordingly. (For example: Should I decide that for some reason I really want to attend the pajama party, I will make sure I build at least an hour of quiet-alone-time into my evening before I have to go do that. It’s just something I’ll need.)
4) Dress for success, but mostly dress to feel fabulous. I’m a big believer in dressing for the job you want to have, rather than the job you do have. I also like to dress up and I like how I feel when I’m wearing something pretty. That said, there is absolutely a sweet spot between “looking like you just rolled out of bed” (which, again, if you’re not there to do business, carry on, I suppose) and “did you kill a high-end hooker for those shoes.” What should you wear? You should wear what makes you feel confident and is comfortable enough to get you through a few long days. While I don’t think it’s necessary to have multiple outfits for every day, be honest with yourself about what will make you feel best. Does changing into something clean before the evening’s festivities make you feel better? Then absolutely do it. Comfy in that dress all day and evening? Great, rock on.
5) Embrace an opportunity you normally might not. One of the things the Mom 2.0 organizers did this year that I think is fabulous is that they’ve built “experience New Orleans” right into the schedule. How many times have you gone to a conference and barely left the hotel? And then someone says “How was [cityname]?” and your response is “It looked exactly like a hotel lobby.” Now; strictly speaking, in the business sense, will going on a tour of the French Quarter build my business? Not directly. But I’ll enjoy the tour and chat with other folks and who knows. It’s still networking, and I’ve got the opportunity to do it while having a really unique experience. (For the record, Mom 2.0 is also offering a “High Tea and High Strategy” session at the hotel in that time slot, and I’m not going to lie, my inclination was definitely to stay and do that. More “businessy” and all. But you know what? I’m going to go see New Orleans.)
I know some regular readers will be there, too, and I hope you’ll come say hi! I always love putting faces with names (or real people with screen shots). Anything to add on preparation?