I can’t believe it’s been a week (and a bit) since I was at WebSummit, living my best conference life! Getting back into my day-to-day routine has been a little challenging, as it always is after a break.
What powered me this week back at work was definitely the inspiration that I took from WebSummit. Although the week was exhausting, it was well worth the trip and as I said in my previous post, I’m hoping to be back next year!
One of the things I took away from the event was around conference life. This was my first time attending such a huge conference at this scale and so wanted to share what I would do differently next time which to be honest, is applicable to any conference I will go to in the future.
1) Plan as much as you can – logistics 🚻
I’m already a strong Type A personality, so I made sure that I planned as much as I could beforehand. But I have to say that I didn’t take everything into account.
I vastly underestimated how huge the venue was and that planning to attend one talk after another that was located on the other side of the venue wasn’t the smartest approach. Not only planning the talks or sessions is important, but knowing the location is – as I learned – so important.
I guess this doesn’t really apply in smaller venues, but with something as huge as WebSummit – definitely need to take this into consideration!
2) Try and focus on what you want to get out of the session 🤷🏻♀️
(Especially if you’ve got a long list of talks you want to attend and need to narrow them down! Oops, guilty.)
Planning which sessions you want to attend is obviously a must.
But remember to focus on why exactly you want to attend, ask yourself:
- What do I want to get out of this?
- Is it Personal development? Something you want to learn in the future? Something you’re interested in? Does it benefit you or your work? How so? I think this is important for when you want to feed it back to colleagues or an audience post-event.
But it is completely OK if you don’t have an agenda. I found myself going to sessions just for fun.
3) Take notes 📝
It’s no good going to sessions and not remembering anything that was discussed!
I personally learned that typing away on a laptop or phone wasn’t very productive. It felt like nothing went in as I was typing and sometimes I felt like I missed some points when capturing notes this way. Writing on a physical notebook personally helped me take better notes, but it really depends on what your preference is. I also love the freedom I have with scribbling diagrams to help me take “quicker” notes. My workflow doesn’t stop there – I usually like to type up my notes afterwards too, this allows me to have a digital, searchable copy for the future, social media and blog posts!
Taking notes makes me feel like I also got more out of the session than if I just passively sat there listening – and knowing me and my forgetfulness, taking notes is definitely wise.
4) Talk to people 🤝
Attending talks and sessions is great and all, but don’t forget to make the most out of the people that are around you! You never know who you would connect with – there may be a potential opportunity there and/or most importantly, a meaningful connection. 😊
Take some time refining your introduction and “pitch”. I know that having some pre-set questions and an introduction set in my mind helps me fight the social anxiety that comes with meeting new people (especially in a conference setting)
5) Take healthy breaks 🧘🏻♀️
Although going to every talk possible and using any free time to network sounds like what conference life is about… I learned that taking the time to literally just breathe and chill out is equally (if not) as important.
There is no use sitting in a session when you have a horrible headache or feel overwhelmed. These are two examples of what happened to me during WebSummit! Being overly enthusiastic about everything during the first few days caused me to feel like I was crashing and burning by the end of it. It really is important to take care of yourself to make sure that you have the best experience possible.
It’s OK to miss out some talks to take half an hour or an hour just sitting around and chilling out. I learned that it is literally impossible to try and go to every single talk – it is also so unreasonable for your health to.
Luckily, WebSummit had a quiet space that allowed attendees to recharge during the day. I wish that they had more and actively encouraged taking a break (especially at the scale the conference was at)
I also want to mention in this section to be mindful of conference food. Although it’s convenient to get whatever food was at the venue, it’s also important to be aware of what exactly you’re putting in your body. I know from personal experience that having high sugar content at conferences just made me feel awful by the end of it (but may just personally have a low tolerance to sugar.) Alongside just drinking sugary drinks or coffee – it’s all just a recipe for disaster. 😳
Be mindful and remember to drink your water, yo.
I’m definitely going to be keeping these points in mind for when I attend future conferences – I hope that it has helped you too! Maximising time at conferences isn’t what most think that it is. It is about making sure that you’re putting yourself first to ensure that you’re living your happiest, healthiest conference life*.