What to expect when you go to a conference

I recently came back from BlogHer 2013, and I feel like I am still recovering from my time there. As an introvert, I use a few tried-and-true coping methods to make the most of my conference experiences. That means:

1. Not trying to meet EVERYBODY but trying to meet a few awesome people.

2. Taking little mini-breaks throughout the day so that I don’t start to look like I’m thinking about ways to end it all in the middle of a plenary.

3. Breathing. A lot.

But sometimes you go to a conference and you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into, because you think it’s going to be a magical experience that gets you motivated to write and introduces you to lots of progressive, intelligent minds, and it ends up being a corporate sponsored frenzy where mom and lifestyle bloggers physically react in the negative when you say you blog about things like “women’s health.”

One of the lovely women I connected with has already blogged about this ordeal so I am just going to link to her and tell you to go read it.

And when you’re at those types of conferences, you’re reminded of a few things:

1. Conferences are jam-packed and exhausting – good luck trying to have meaningful conversations and build deep relationships with people. Unless it’s scheduled in, you’re going to have to work to create that space

2. Panelists can suck! – Pitching a panel for a conference is really different than presenting at one. Sometimes, great ideas are lost to a poor presenter. Sometimes they ramble. Sometimes they downplay their achievements and make you wonder why they’re up there and you’re listening to them. Sometimes they go way over time. Sometimes they read off the powerpoint with a look that says “I can’t wait to be out of here.” It’s hit or miss. Do your research on presenters if you haven’t already. A panel topic that mildly interests you may still trump one you’re dying to attend if the presenters are better.

3. For many, conferences are isolating and just not as fun as everyone says. By the time all the evening happy hours have started, all I want to do is crawl into my hotel bed and watch Friends reruns. Conferences are an energy sucker for those of us who don’t find joy in networking or making hundreds of new best friends. It does NOT mean we shouldn’t go to conferences. It does NOT mean we can’t have fun. It means that people’s experiences look and feel different. It’s taken me a while to accept that I just can’t be “on” 24/7. While a part of me wants to be out late drinking wine with potential new friends, I am just not that person. I need recovery time so that I can smile and shake hands at 6:30 AM without looking like a zombie.

4. No matter how much you think it makes sense to pack workout clothes before you go, there is just no way in hell you’re going to run on a treadmill after 12 hours of networking. To be fair, there were a group of women who ran a 5K before the first day of the conference. The sour-grapes part of me says that they must all be fitness bloggers.

Any conference expectations I’m forgetting? Comment away.