Zen 2.0 at #CommunityLIVE

When I first started traveling for work years ago, I flew about 100,000 miles every year visiting every hospital in every small town from Maine to Ohio. I promise you, the novelty of travel soon wore off. The stress of being away from home and making small talk with strangers took its toll on me.

I knew I was burned out when I started to resent the time it took me to pack my suitcase. That’s when I decided I needed to find a way to turn my attitude around.

I started making it a mission to find something remarkable in every small town I visited. I quickly learned everyplace had something interesting to offer. I watched baseball games in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Houston and Baltimore. I saw the giant Dixie cup the top the old Dixie cup factory. I visited the New England Confectionery Company in Boston to see the making of Necco wafers. The Fisherman’s Memorial in Gloucester and the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Stowe were well worth the stop.

Once I developed a strategy for making these trips more memorable, life on the road became much easier. In later years, I turned to Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives for inspiration for my quests – but that is another blog for another day.

My top 10

So, if you don’t relish another business trip to another conference, let me share with you my strategy to make it more memorable. Last year I wrote a blog post that offered six tips to turn CommunityLIVE into a Zen experience. Here are 10 more:

1. Be strategic with your time.

Don’t just hope you’ll stumble across a killer session. Review the course schedule and plot out which sessions you are going to attend. Create a schedule that contains a diverse set of topics. Don’t just limit yourself to one area of study.

If you’re attending with coworkers, divide and conquer! Figure out which sessions they’re going to and choose different ones so you all get the most out of your time.

2. Chitchat can be a goldmine.

What’s the best thing that happened at the last conference you attended? It’s very likely it was a “hallway conversation.”

Make the most of it – skip checking email during breaks and strike up a conversation instead.  This is also a great way to expand your network. And if someone tells you something interesting, don’t be afraid to ask for their business card, tell them “thanks” and complement for the information they just shared.

3. Talk less and listen more.

If you are as terrible at small talk as I am (and I find it difficult to believe anyone is) try this simple tactic: Talk less and listen more. Ask people what session there looking forward to attending or what projects they are working on now.

Remember this fundamental truth – you don’t have to work so hard in a conversation if you just let other people do the talking.

4. I like the people I work with but …

Don’t spend your day with the coworkers you see every day. Although it’s nice to have some time with people you already know and are comfortable with, don’t miss your opportunity to network with people you have never met before. Create a comfortable balance between the two and you will not be as exhausted at the end of the conference.

5. Participate in the bigger conversation.

Follow and contribute to #CommunityLIVE. It will put you in the middle of the biggest and best conversation.

By following, you will pick up more information from the conference. In addition, you’ll have something to talk about when you run into a conversation wall. Talk about what’s happening on Twitter!

6. Take care of yourself when you get back to the office, too.

Here’s a trick someone taught me: Leave your out-of-office message on for an extra day. That will give you a chance to get caught up on voicemail and email without feeling overwhelmed when you get back to the office.

You can still respond to urgent matters, but the note will help manage expectations, which will help decrease pressure.

7. Pay it forward seek out solo attendees.

Let’s face it, you have something in common with everyone at this conference – so you automatically have something to talk about. Ask them to join you for coffee. Ask them what they thought of a particular session or speaker. Ask them about what projects they’re working on.

If all else fails, ask them if their feet hurt yet. In no time at all, you will have a conversation going.

8. Contribute to the conversation.

Ask questions. The presenters will appreciate your participation.

You might ask the question others wanted to, but were too shy to ask. Or, your question might prompt another one. And it’s OK to make a comment and ask others what their point of view is.

9. Relax and have a good time.

Take advantage of being in Las Vegas. Stay hydrated. Get enough rest. Get outside. Walk along the strip.

My favorite thing to do before conference is to read a book that takes place in the city that I am visiting. For Las Vegas, I recommend Fools Die by Mario Puzo. It is an interesting story with a behind-the-scenes look at Las Vegas.

10. Bring the right stuff.

Alas, Las Vegas conference rooms are not built for comfort. The temperature can very between feeling like a sauna or an icebox. So come prepared with a sweater.

And it’s a long walk between classrooms, your hotel room and the restaurants. Wear comfortable shoes. Bring extra pairs of shoes. It’s best not to wear the same pair of shoes all day, so change them up.

Also, carry your phone charger and laptop power brick with you. Sooner or later, you will need it and you’ll be happy it’s not back in your hotel room.  Or better yet, visit the Healthcare Lounge in Community Central and juice up. You can knock off some networking at the same time and send a tweet or two.

Any more tips? Be sure to join the conversation at #CommunityLIVE and offer your best tips on capitalizing on a conference. Or leave a comment below.

See you next week!

Kate Barney

Kate Barney

Kate Barney is Hyland's marketing portfolio manager for the healthcare industry.

1 Response

  1. Tom Laraway says:

    Kate,
    Love your thoughts. Having traveled for 20+ years to some great cities, I realized I only knew the airports and restaurants neat the hotels I stayed at. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience!

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