adhd conference

Group of diverse people in a conference

The annual 2019 International ADHD Conference kicks off next Thursday, November 7th in Philadelphia.  Per tradition, it will be jam-packed with pre-conference workshops, general conference sessions, an exhibit hall plus a talent show.

Although the conference is focused around the sharing of information, research and resources on all things ADHD, I find that my favorite part of this conference is being with my ADHD tribe, seeing old friends and colleagues, meeting and making new friends in the ADHD community and basically basking in the unexpected fun that happens when over a thousand people with ADHD are gathered all in one place!

And sadly… this will be the first time in over 15 years that I won’t be attending.  The good news is my nephew is getting married and I will be celebrating with him and my family at this once-in-a-lifetime event.

In my stead, representing Coaching for ADHD and the International ADHD Coach Training Center (iACTcenter) at the ADHD conference is my VP of Everything, Meg Gehan.  I have complete confidence in her!  She has attended nearly as many of these events as I have and will be tending our booth in the Exhibit Hall, so make sure you stop by and say hello!

With the excitement of the conference growing, I’ve received many questions from clients and students about how to prepare and make the most of the conference.  So I thought I would share with you some things I’ve learned over the past 15 years attending these conferences in case it might help you as well.

Here are a few tips you might want to consider before arriving in Philadelphia to make this ADHD conference a success:

1. Know what you want to take away from the conference experience even before you arrive. For some it might be to hear a particular session, or to hopefully meet one of their ADHD crushes (mine is definitely Rick Greene J ), discover a particular ADHD resource or meet others with ADHD.  So, ask yourself right now, “What do I want to take away from this conference that will make it worth my time, energy and investment?”  Do this even before you pack your bags.

2. Browse conference, preconference and keynote sessions online at home. Take the time to review the title of the talk, the speaker’s bio and the objectives for each session.  Make a plan for those you want to attend.  During the conference there can be so much going on that you can get swept up in the crowd and find yourself in a session that wasn’t what you wanted.

3. Don’t hesitate to leave a session if it is not serving your needs. Your time is precious, and despite your best preparation, you may find yourself in a session or topic that isn’t what you expected.  It is perfectly OK to excuse yourself quietly, slip into another session, take the time to re-evaluate your plan or simply relax.

4. Check the schedule for sessions that might repeat. Occasionally conference planners realize that some talks or speakers are so popular they scheduled the speaker twice during the conference.  If this is the case it might help you when choosing what sessions to attend and when.

5. Bring a notebook and pen. Sometimes these are provided in the conference registration goodie bag, but having your own will assure you have room for the notes you want to remember.

6. Bring business cards if you have one. Although not necessary it sure is a simple way to exchange contact information with new friends.

7. Get two keys for each person in your room. I always lose it if I have one…with two…I always end the conference with both…go figure.

8. Take a black permanent marker and write the room number on your room key card. No more walking the halls or waiting at the check-in desk…again.

9. It’s Ok not to do, see, hear, or attend everything. Write down your “must do’s” and a few alternatives.  Pick the sessions and activities that fit for you.  Everyone is different and you want to get what you need from the conference.  Yoga or morning nature walks are not everyone’s way of starting the day.

10. Print out the handouts for the sessions before you leave. Pack these in your suitcase. Check to see if the session you want to attend has handouts by going to the conference site before you leave.  Typically there is a conference guide, but handouts for each session are not included.

11. Bring a smartphone and an extra personal charger. Smartphones are great for capturing those selfies and taking a photo of an information-packed slide during a session. Charging outlets are few and far between so be prepared with your own charger in case your phone starts to die.

12. Bring your own shoulder tote or backpack. A conference tote is usually given away as part of your registration, but it is rarely sturdy enough for carrying all the essentials handouts, giveaways, water bottles, snacks, extra layers of clothes and brochures you will collect.

13. Plan to smile and introduce yourself to people you don’t know. Remember most people attending the conference are newbies too. Worried you won’t know what to talk about?  Remember you always have the topic of ADHD in common!  One of my favorite conversation starters is to ask people is “What brings you to this conference?”

14. These conferences start early and go late. And if you are traveling across time zones, it is even more important that you honor your body’s need for sleep to synthesize all the learning you will be doing.

15. Take a break. If you feel you need it, step away from the noise. Excuse yourself and find a corner to gather your thoughts.  If you feel overwhelmed, go back to your room or sit in the lobby for a session rather than trying to cram more into your head.  When you are ready to dive in again, your brain will thank you for it.

16. Where to hang out to meet people. Past experience has shown that the lounge, bar or lobby are the best places.

17. Move your body if you need to. If you find yourself in a session where you need to move, this is the conference where no one is going to have any problem with you doing so. Simply move to the back of the room where you can stretch and wiggle without interrupting others.

18. Prepare for the next day. Each evening leaves a bit of time to review the following day’s events so you can be prepared with the conference guide, handouts, etc.

19. Know when, where and what meals will be served. This conference tends to be very good at providing nutritious options. However, it will be helpful for you to know which of these meals is included with the conference registration, which you can purchase on site at the conference and which you will need to plan on your own.

20. Pack snacks. Hangries are the worst buzz kill during a conference. Along with the handouts for the breakouts sessions you want to attend, add in some long burning fuel snacks like nuts, dried fruit and protein bars.

21. If you are a coffee drinker… plan extra time in any hotel coffee shop to get your caffeine.  These are some of the longest lines during the conference.

22. Attire is business casual. However, I would suggest wearing what you are comfortable wearing. Never in 15 years have I seen the fashion police at this conference.  However, you may want to add in an extra scarf, sweater or jacket.  The presentation rooms tend to be cool.

23. Be flexible. Things will not always go as planned.  Have fun going with the flow and enjoy being with a group of people who completely understand the fun and amusement of spontaneity.

24. Smile and smile more! You are almost sure to share lots of laughs with people you meet. Others who REALLY understand you attend this conference.  Enjoy their company.

25. Feeling overwhelmed and in need of a smiling face?  Visit the iACTcenter Booth in the Exhibit Hall and tell Meg you read this blog.  She will be there with some words of reassurance and can be your touchstone during the weekend.

Remember, that along with the information and resources, there are so many other ways to benefit and grow from attending this conference.  Be prepared to meet, shake hands or even get a hug from people you have only heard about or read about.  The professionals and experts that work with ADHD are very friendly and you just might get the opportunity to thank them personally for making such a difference in your life.

And, finally, don’t be surprised if a smile, hello or shared ADHD story from you makes a difference in someone else’s life…I know it happens to me all the time.

Enjoy the conference, I’ll be thinking of you all!

Stay amazing.


Want to know more about the iACTcenter so you know what booth to look for at the Exhibit Hall? Click here!

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