Are you going to a multiple-day conference soon? Rebecca Thomas recently attended the Florida Rural Health Association’s Annual Educational Summit. Here are her conference survival tips, especially useful if you’re an exhibitor at one of our events:
A couple months ago, I attended the Florida Rural Health Association Summit at the Rosen Plaza in beautiful Orlando, Florida. I run exhibit tables for a living, so I travel to conferences and meetings, with my 30-second elevator pitch always ready to go!
Over the years, I’ve learned how to make the most of my conferencing experience. Some of what I share may or may not work for you, but if you are a business traveler, I hope that this post will at least help you to think through how you can get the maximum return on your trips. Because, let’s face it: work, and even leisure travel, can be exhausting!
When tabling, it can be very easy to just do the bare minimum. It is tempting to put up your display, plop down in a chair, hide behind a laptop or other device, and coast through the exhibit hall experience. During the exhibit hall hours, I like to stand by my table, as much as possible, for a couple of reasons. First, it helps me to interact with other conference-goers. This doesn’t mean that I need to chase people down, and interrupt their conversations. But, I want to make myself available when people have questions. And, standing burns more calories than sitting. With all the yummy conference food and eating on the run, I need all the help I can get!
Some conferences allow the exhibitors to attend the meeting sessions. Most that I’ve attended have allowed me to sit in on the conference presentations, with the other attendees. It can be tempting during the presentations to hang out in the lobby, catch up on social media, etc. But when I participate in the full conference program, it helps me to engage with the other attendees, and I learn so much about the topics at hand. As you know, any worthwhile conference is going to recruit the best speakers and leaders possible. At the Rural Health Summit, I participated in a discussion about the opioid crisis, and I learned so much. It was very eye-opening and sobering.
We all want to have some fun on business travel, right? Once again, it can be tempting to “check out and drink up”. However, whenever I have over-indulged (mostly on food, since I’m a pretty moderate drinker), I usually regret it when I get home, and have to face the effects of my nosh fest. My work trips are fairly short, usually two to four nights. A couple ideas that keep me focused: I like to pick one night out on the town, and stay in the other nights. Staying in allows me to rest and relax, and perhaps check out the venue pool! If you feel pressured to go out every night, visit my Social Work post for some thoughts. I always attend the post-conference party, or “social hour”, even if it’s just for a few minutes, and even if I’m exhausted. I think it’s nice to show up, and at least say hello to the conference organizers, and thank them for their work. And, if you are entertaining clients, suggest that you meet at the conference social. This takes some of the pressure off of you to be constantly “on”. Clients can mix and mingle with everyone, and it provides them with more opportunities to network.
After your trip, if you can squeeze in a mini-vacation, go for it! For me, I always have lots of work waiting back at my desk, so it causes more stress to go on holiday straight from conferencing. But if you can swing it, it may be a convenient way to fit in some down time.
Check out our Live Events page to see what conferences we have coming up so you can put these tips into action! And be sure to check out Rebecca’s blog, where she writes about all things work and school-related.
About the Author: Rebecca Thomas
Rebecca Thomas is a Florida blogger who works full-time, and attends school part-time. She enjoys connecting with other bloggers from all over the world.