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Dimitris Kalogeropoylos / Flickr

How To Survive a Conference and Not Completely Lose Your Mind

Call it working, efficient networking, call it a schmooze-fest, call it whatever you like. But on those times I’m required to attend a conference, there’s a part of me that dies inside. Just a little part of me.

This is not that kind of conference survival guide. For a more practical hands-on approach, please refer to exhibit A and exhibit B. This conference survival guide is focused on one thing and one thing only: Staying sane.

Realistically, here are a couple of things to do off the bat.

Zombie proof yourself. You can never be too safe.

Then, circle all the important events that you plan on attending. This does not mean every single event. You will probably die. Again, I am overusing and abusing the word “die,” but I am an introvert. Unless you are the type of person that thrives off constant, relentless social interaction, take breaks every two or three hours.

If there is a session that seems important to pay attention to, make sure to allot a break before the session… Or make sure a phone or device is recording the whole thing. Take pictures of the slides to review the information later. Note taking is always useful, but phone recording is probably the most efficient form of taking notes, though it does come with additional work later in the form of transcribing. If you’re going to do this, sit in a place where its easy to record the session.

Bring headphones (to block everyone out).

Is he thinking about checking Facebook or lunch? (Media Evolution / Flickr)

If social interaction becomes particularly droll, here are some proven and effective icebreakers:

  • “How you holding up?”
  • “So how is the speed dating going so far?”
  • “When is your last appointment? When do you get to be released from jail?”
  • “Where is the REAL coffee?”
  • “[stilted serious talk] SORRY, I’ve talked to 900 people before you. Can I send you a follow-up email?”

Hang out with the baristas. They are the pathway to caffeinated sanity. Don’t even try to be under-caffeinated for these things. Considering crawling underneath a booth to nap at regular intervals throughout the day. It is okay to have an active cup of coffee in one hand while you do this.

Acknowledge the whole shit is weird. People will love you for it. You might not get any viable deals out of it, but at least you’ll be the (drunken? caffeinated?) life of the party?

Start thinking about how it could potentially be worse. For instance, it could be taxation law, or god forbid, a sales conference. Can you imagine being stuck in a room full of TechCrunch Disrupt guys? See, life isn’t that bad. (In that case, I give you the floor if you are in tech.)

Make a mental note of the the last appointment. Celebrate it.

In the case of the all above failing, it is completely acceptable to get a glass of wine from the downstairs restaurant and get it to go in a coffee cup. (Destination British Columbia tourism board, you guys rock!)

Suggested reading

The Muse, "How to Make Friends and Connections at Your Next Conference"
Hubspot, "8 Top Tips to Survive Your Next Conference"



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