Me keynoting the Second Life Community Convention in 2006
Last weekend, I was at the Digital Media and Learning conference in Los Angeles, an intense, three day gathering of academics, educators, tech providers and funders who work in the digital learning field. The sessions started at 9am with meetings and receptions going late in the evening.
After being at the conference most of the weekend, I took a flight home early Monday morning, went to straight to work, put in a full day’s effort, and went out dancing that night. By Monday night, I was pretty tired, but not exhausted.
How did I do it? Am I superhuman? No, I just have figured out a few things about staying energized and focused while away at long conferences.
Over my long career, I’ve attended probably hundreds of conferences, conventions, and summits around the world. During the first few years, I struggled with staying emotionally centered and mentally agile during these extended work events. After a few days away, I felt drained, anxious, unfocused and homesick.
If you have found yourself in a similar boat, here are some interventions that I’ve found helpful to keep me centered and sane during multi-day conferences. Hopefully, these tips can help you find your own way to take care of yourself during long work events.
1. Stay Active
Conferences can entail long, long hours of sitting — attending keynotes, panels, workshops and working meals. While you might be intellectually engaged (hopefully), you are physically sedentary. After a couple of days of this, your body will start to push back. For me, that means that I start feeling sluggish, lazy, and haggard. I start needing frequent infusions of caffeine and sugar to keep me semi-alert.
It’s important that you do something physical every day, preferably in the morning before the conference, but wherever you can fit it in. If you hotel has a gym or a pool, plug yourself into one of the cardio machines / torture devices or swim some laps. Better yet, throw on your running shoes and go for a brisk walk, jog, run, or whatever your body can handle.
When I’m traveling for work, I love the opportunity to run around the neighborhood and explore. Being in downtown Los Angeles for DML, my morning runs gave me a good sense of what was around our hotel, spotting neat cafes, galleries, shops, and parks. I got a stronger sense of place and ideas for what I might want to do later.
2. Practice Self-care
We all have our routines that we do for ourselves: making a proper cup of tea, singing in the shower, taking a long walk. If you are away from home, practice doing at least one thing for yourself each day that makes you happy.
For me, that’s making myself a perfect cup of coffee. I can’t stand those in-room hotel coffee machines. Most conferences serve at best Starbucks-in-a-box, which is just barely passable in my book. So I bring my own coffee kit with me.
4. Eat Smart
5. Stand Up
Sitting for long periods of time is just not good for you, the experts say. I’m a big fan of standing during any session where it won’t be distracting for others. During morning keynotes, you will find me on my feet in the back of the plenary hall, jotting down notes on my phone. Panel sessions, I’ll do the same, with my laptop open beside me if I need it.
Standing forces me to stay alert and engaged, although it sometimes robs me of the opportunity of networking with people that I’m sitting next to. Which leads me to my last tip…