Survival guide for conferences

Let’s imagine your industry’s biggest conference is coming up. Three days of back-to-back presentations, workshops and panels, with endless opportunities to network, pitch influential people and evenings spent keeping the party going…
If you’re an introvert, this may sound about as appealing as a punch in the ribs. Unfortunately, conferences are generally not designed with the quiet-seeking, introspective and highly sensitive type.

Conferences are designed for the many, not the few. If a quiet meeting over tea with a friend is pole fishing, conferences are ocean-floor scraping. They prioritise mass engagement, not one-to-one connections.
Highly sensitive introverts have it even harder. A highly sensitive person tends to feel overstimulated with bright lights, lots of noise, lots of action and before long they burn out.
If you’ve ever been to a conference and felt like you’ve been run over for days afterwards, you’ll know how this feels.
If you haven’t attended a conference yet – don’t let this put you off! Remember introversion is not an excuse not to do something because it’s hard. If going to a conference aligns with your goals – and if getting your work out into the world and making a living from your creative pursuits is one of those goals – then it’s more than likely going to a conference is something worth considering.
I’m recording this just after my final day at one of these big conferences, with over 2000 attendees, Alt Summit. I travelled 20 hours to get here, gave two 90 minute presentations and spoke to more people than I have done in the past year or two combined.
Worth it? Well, the sunk cost fallacy, a cognitive bias we all have that leads us to judge things we’ve invested time or money in as positive regardless of whether they were or not, could be at play. But: objectively speaking, I can honestly say that even after my first day of the conference I had:

  • Met someone who I might collaborate in the near future with
  • Got some great advice for using video and guest blogging (which I will of course be sharing with you)
  • And got a real confidence boost from knowing I could speak to an audience of strangers without reading a script and without relying on slides

But as great as all that is for me, I was hyper aware of (1) my jetlag and (2) my need to conserve my energy. I already had a game plan mapped out to minimise the damage, and I really think it’s what has helped me keep my energy and enthusiasm up.
Regardless of your conference experience to date, I want to show you the simple strategies I mostly managed to apply over the past few days. So hopefully you can put these into place should you have a conference in mind and want to make sure it’s manageable, valuable and maybe even… enjoyable.


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