DevLearn is upon us and I’m sad that I’ll be missing this one. I’m not cleared to fly post-op until the beginning of November, so I will desperately be consuming the conference backchannel all week long! In any event, several of my colleagues have been sharing their conference-related tips, so I thought if I can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
Tip #1: Be Comfortable
So you’re attending a conference, you’re going to spend your days (and sometimes evenings) learning. You will do a lot of sitting and a lot of walking. If you have an activity tracker, THIS is the time to capitalize on all of the steps you will be getting in!
Because you will be doing so much walking, you will want to make sure you pack a sensible shoe, one that you won’t want to set on fire immediately after the conference because of all the blisters they gave you. When I travel, I usually bring options, but will ultimately choose my old reliable Birkenstocks because 1) they go with everything, and 2) they’re the most comfortable shoes I own.
Tip #2: Fuel Yourself and Pack Snacks
I like to think that I’m good at taking breaks, making time for myself, and being smart about eating lunch and drinking water…but I’m not. I’ve learned that in order to set myself up for success, I need to pack myself a range of snacks. Because there’s so much going on at conferences from the sessions to the expo to the networking nights to the other random conference events, I can’t guarantee that I’ll force myself to eat regular meals.
Here’s what I do: I wake up a little earlier and make time for a decent breakfast. I’ll either fuel myself with something healthy and hearty like oatmeal or eggs. Then, I’ll hit up Starbucks and get the largest vat of coffee they offer. While there, I’ll load up on my pocket snacks of nuts/fruit/something sweet, and will also grab a green juice and fill up my water.
Packing snacks ensures that whatever time it is and wherever I am in my conference-day journey, I can reach into my bag and shovel something into my mouth. This is a very important tip.
Tip #3: Be Organized
This concept can be applied to several areas:
- Session Selection: Be sure to use the conference app to select your sessions and plan out your day. Before the conference is in full swing, do a quick lap around the event area to identify/locate the rooms for the sessions you want to attend. With big conferences (e.g., ATD ICE), you usually don’t have a ton of time to get from room to room, and not being organized in terms of conference geography may contribute to you missing a session you really wanted to attend.
- Note-Taking: You are most likely at a conference for professional development reasons, so you’re most likely going to do a ton of learning and a ton of note-taking. I recommend setting up a notebook page (physical or digital) for each session you plan on attending, ahead of time, so that you can simply flip to that page and start taking your notes. Don’t forget your pen/notebook/laptop. Depending on how organized you are, you might be able to come back to your organization post-conference and share what you’ve learned with your colleagues.
- Devices: Make sure you pack your devices, such as phone, tablet, laptop, and ensure you pack all of the related charging peripherals. You will deplete your batteries faster than you think.
- If you are participating in a conference event, such as DemoFest, this is doubly important for you! Make sure everything is pre-charged and bring fully charged battery packs in case you deplete yours.
Tip #4: Network, Network, Network!
As a Learning and Development (L&D) professional, your participation in these conferences is also to network your butt off and make as many connections as you can. L&D is not only a great world to work in, it’s a great community to be a part of and I have met some of my best friends at these events, so don’t skimp on this tip!
Tip #5: Treat Yo’ Self
Now this is a tip that I learned just last year. If you have spare time at the conference…say you got in early or you fly out late, make some time for yourself. You’ve had a long week. This could be something as simple as taking yourself out for lunch to a nice restaurant, hanging out by the hotel pool, or my personal favourite: spring for a spa day (you will thank me later).
Last year at DevLearn, I delivered a pre-conference certificate workshop, facilitated a morning buzz, judged a HyperDrive competition, delivered a Bring Your Own Device session, participated in (and won!) DemoFest, and then filled up on all of the conference sessions and networking I could. My Friday I. Was. Beat! My flight didn’t leave until 11pm, so I finished up with the conference and admitted myself to the spa at the Mirage for the rest of the day. It was hands down the best decision I made. I got on my red-eye flight back home so relaxed and zen that I couldn’t care less about being trapped in a metal can in the sky for 7 hours. It was luxurious! 10 out of 10 would recommend.