Employers look at conferences as a reward for good performance on the job. But the truth is, if going to a conference adds stress to an already overworked schedule and takes you away from family matters that need your attention, going to conferences can be more of a punishment than a reward. The stress level goes up further if you’re expected to present at the conference. This article gives 10 tips for stressing less about conferences and turning your trip into the perk it was meant to be.
10. Plan in Advance
Get your ducks in a row before you hit the road for the conference. If you’re stretched for time at work, this may be challenging. But as soon as you know you’ll be going to a conference, try to find out more about it. The more lead time you have planning the conference, the less stress you’ll feel at the event.
9. Make Decisions About What Discussions or Talks Are Best for You
If the conference you’re attending has panel discussions scheduled so that you’ll have to choose between selections, don’t wait until the last minute to make your choices. Review the list of speakers and attendees and take some notes about them. Think of five or ten questions you’d like to ask the speakers. This will help you gain courage to speak up during audience participation. And if you are going to be on a panel, certainly find out about your fellow panelists so you’ll be able to ask them questions more easily.
8. Get Oriented in the Town
You may be attending a conference in an unfamiliar city, so when it comes to booking a cheap hotel near the venue, you might be unsure of your location in terms of proximity to the airport or other places you may want to visit during your stay. Before you arrive at the conference, make sure you know how far away you’ll be from the events so that you can plan how to get there. Will you have to rent a car? It makes sense to take a look at a map of the city so you won’t spend too much time driving around looking for things.
7. Look for Nearby Entertainment for Off-Hours
Find out if there are any local sights you shouldn’t miss—you should make a little time for yourself as well. Seek out an interesting bar or restaurant near the convention center so you can suggest it if you make any connections you’d like to meet with in the evenings or for lunch.
6. Find Out If Anyone You Know Is Going
Having a pal to go around with will make the experience more fun and less like work.That said, don’t limit yourself to talking to only people you know. The point of a conference is for you to meet people—and for people to meet you and your company.
5. If You’re Shy, Practice Smiling
This might sound silly, but speaking coaches regularly advise people to practice smiling. Get a mirror, and look yourself in the eyes while you practice your presentation or introduce yourself to your reflection. The physical act of smiling is said to reduce stress levels, so go ahead, give it a grin.
4. Rehearse Everything
Additionally, make sure you know your presentation (should you be giving one) inside and out. Not just that, but try to anticipate possible questions you might be asked. Think of several so you can hopefully not be caught off-guard. Even if you’re not presenting, rehearse how you would question a speaker.
3. Think of Making Connections Like a Game
If you’re really having a hard time getting out and about with the people at the conference, set some goals for yourself. How many business cards are you going to give and receive? Give yourself a quota and then strive to meet it.
Conferences are a lot about who you are, not about who your company is. You represent your company and products or services, of course, but you also need to let people get to know you as a person. Having something to hand out will make it easier for you to start conversations and meet people.
2. Stay Organized
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, keep organized to help you minimize confusion. Taking notes and writing down your new contacts’ information will help later too, when it’s time to follow up on new acquaintances and sales leads.
1. Follow Up Later
If you’ve made some great connections at the conference, don’t wait too long to send a follow up email or to connect with them on your favorite social media platform.This will make the next conference easier.
About the Author: Britta Hamilton is an event organizer originally from Calgary. She has hosted many kinds of events and conferences and is living proof that there’s no problem that can’t be fixed with a smile.