This month I went to the 2016 ProBlogger Training Event on the Gold Coast. In case you don’t know, it’s an annual conference geared towards bloggers of all experience levels so they can learn & network their hearts out in a safe space. It was my first time.
You might be thinking…is it even possible to remain at ease at a conference as an experienced attendee let alone a first timer?
Probably not…but, it is possible to feel a degree of control in all the chaos & energy. Obviously we are all prone to nerves, not just those of us with a diagnosed anxiety disorder. I certainly packed & used my meds. It would be dumb not to. Medication wasn’t the only tool in my kit though.
Before I get into outlining the approach I took…let me just give you a little taste of what the event was like as a first time attendee.
Confessions of a conference newbie
As an extrovert with an anxiety disorder I’m constantly at war with myself in this type of situation. The battle between what I want to do versus what I feel I can do raged on each day.
I had extreme highs as well as times when I just wanted to hide & hide I did! It was like I was suddenly bipolar…not that I want to dismiss the condition at all, but for a lack of another fitting comparison, allow me to use it here. One moment I was hugging a presenter that has long been one of my unofficial mentors, to the very next moment having lunch by myself…rendered unable to string a coherent sentence together.
Discomfort & nerves aside, it was probably the best learning experience I’ve had to date. That’s saying something considering my background in Learning & Development. I’d say it was the perfect blend of motivation to learn, the breadth of the learning offer & the support of many like-minded peers there for the same thing.
I totally pimped my brain!
Pre-conference planning essentials
Set an intention: I can tell you that intention is everything. Setting a clear intention prior to the event about what you want to get out of it & how you want the experience to feel is a winning strategy. It will stop you from getting distracted by things that don’t align with your purpose.
Mine was: “Solidify my knowledge of the basics of blogging & connect with the bloggers in my niche.”
Network early: Who is going that you might already know or want to meet? Get social with them online so it will be less awkward when you meet them IRL.
Plan your learning: What do you most need to learn? What sessions are most appropriate? Stick to that formula & don’t get swayed by stuff you aren’t ready to implement yet.
Research what you need to bring: Ask past attendees what they recommend you bring & pack accordingly. If you can’t ask anyone specifically, read anything online about past versions of that same event or events that are similar.
Stay on site: If that’s not an option then as close as you can to the venue. It saves on transport costs, reduces stress in traffic & makes your days a lot shorter. I’d even go so far as to plan to stay away from home, even if the event is in your own city. You’ll be able to fully immerse yourself & not get distracted by what might be going on at home.
Conference time tips for going with the flow
Take rest breaks: Take short meditation breaks. Even as little as a minute can help to refocus & recharge. If you are staying on site, perhaps have a nap at lunch time or before dinner. I know a couple of bloggers who did just that! You’ll last longer overall if you listen to your body & go with your energy as it ebbs & flows.
Don’t spread yourself too thin: You are going to get tempted to try to be all things to all people. You can’t meet everyone, nor should you. Remember who you wanted to meet & make sure you do that early so you don’t regret not reaching out. Anyone else you connect with after that is a bonus.
Take notes by hand: I know a lot of you can type faster than you write, but recording notes in your own hand activates a different part of your brain & will your recall is guaranteed to be higher.
Spend some time offline: You don’t need to live tweet every second, by doing so you will lose being in the moment.
Stay hydrated: Drink lots of water, but make sure you pace yourself or you’ll miss all the good moments queuing for the bathroom.
Eat moderately: By all means enjoy the food but don’t stray too much from your normal diet. If you are not used to rich foods, or you normally don’t eat sugar, or can’t eat certain foods due to intolerances, don’t be tempted to gorge yourself or cheat. You’ll feel weighed down, or worse suffer through a reaction in public…I’ve been there!
Go to bed early: Don’t stay up partying, you’ll only rob yourself of the energy you’ll need the following day. It’s been proven that your brain needs sleep to help you learn.
Post conference assimilation & recovery
Take time for the dust to settle: Your brain is going to feel full to bursting if the conference was worth the investment.
Build in rest & recovery time: Don’t race back to work or family immediately after the event. I spent a day at the beach after the conference ended. No racing back to the airport. I enjoyed my own company & I didn’t have to talk to anyone if I didn’t want to. If I had have raced back home, my Husband probably would have been overwhelmed by the download I was likely to give him. I needed to unwind & kick it back a few notches.
Don’t race into taking action: You’ll be full of ideas that you’ll want to implement, but don’t be tempted to get straight into it. Allowing yourself some time to get clear about what you need to do first for the biggest impact. Doing this will ensure your action is a well considered option & likely bring you a better outcome.
Get some accountability buddies: We’re lucky as event attendees the fantastic ProBlogger crew have set up a Facebook group to keep us connected & get us to take action.
It might have been my first conference…but it’s definitely not my last!
Things I’d change for next time: Stay onsite! My days were unnecessarily longer & the money I’d saved on accomodation was more than doubly spent on cab fares.
Things I’d do the same: Take the day off before the conference to chill out & pack. Take a couple of days off afterwards to chill, unpack & come down!
Were you one of the other 500 bloggers there with me at #pbevent that I did meet or missed out on meeting? Chime in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
From my heart to yours,