This month I wanted to share some experiences about conferences! I love conferences and look forward to the opportunities to travel around the country to enjoy some time with other ADHD coaches and entrepreneurs, increase awareness of ADHD challenges, and finally meet some of my long distance clients face-to-face. It’s sort of like the social season of 19th century London, when the movers and shakers gather together in the city for debutante balls, elaborate dinners and spectacular galas. They can be both exhilarating and exhausting.
My next conference will be the three day 6th Annual International ADHD Coaches Organization (ACO) in Atlanta, Georgia. Then I am off to Orlando, Florida for Suzanne Evans’s four-day extravaganza “Be the Change Event”. At both events I will be presenting on different topics, hosting a booth and trying to connect with as many amazing people as possible.
And as much as I love conferences, they can be incredibly challenging for ADHD adults (and even for those who don’t struggle with focus, planning or organization). Over the years, I’ve become a veteran of these trips and have developed some strategies to offset ADHD symptoms so I enjoy and get the most out of these days. Here are some valuable tips and tricks that I want to share with you:
1. Do your homework. Many conferences post their speaker schedule online or provide some tips on how to travel to and from the airport. Doing research before you arrive makes you more prepared and less likely to miss important things such as when you are speaking or if meals are included.
2. Book your hotel room as soon as you know you are going to attend so you can secure a place at the hotel where the conference is being held. The “conference rate” hotel rooms fill fast. You will save time and money by not having to travel back and forth, (or get distracted by the scenery and miss your speaking time), and you will be able to sneak back to your room to rest if you get a break between sessions. Having quiet time to refuel will go a long way to helping you succeed with ADHD.
3. Bring a highlighter and a small notebook. When you receive the schedule of events, highlight the sessions you want to attend so you can plan your day and be reminded easily. The notebook is your ‘ADHD brain cheat sheet’. After you meet someone you want to reconnect with after the conference, jot down the information in your notebook. Or keep track of tidbits of inspiration and knowledge you acquire. Both are ways to offset the information overwhelm and distraction that often accompany conferences.
4. Wear comfortable shoes. No matter your role at the conference, you will be on your feet more than you think. It’s hard to smile and be your best self when your feet hurt.
5. Wear layers. The temperature in the rooms throughout a conference varies greatly.
6. Bring a trusted sidekick. If you have a booth, having an assistant there can alleviate the stress of keeping track of sales receipts or other details and allow you more time to network with colleagues and clients.
7. Take your ADHD medication. If your conference is out of town for multiple days, see if your psychiatrist will write you a short prescription you can fill if there is an emergency.
8. Realize that you can’t clone yourself. If there are multiple sessions running at the same time you will need to partner with a colleague, divvy up the schedule and share notes on what you learned. Or take advantage of the options to purchase recordings so that you can review them on the plane ride home, but don’t buy them if you won’t review them!
9. Decide what you want to get out of the conference. Your goal may be to acquire new skills, network with colleagues, build your contact list or interact with clients. If you set your intention before you arrive, you will be in the right mindset and prepared to learn, connect or promote yourself. But be flexible, new opportunities often come from these events and you can move outside your comfort zone to discover great new ideas at conferences.
10. Bring your business cards! In fact put them in your travel bags right now!
11. Be open to learning. You may be an expert in your field, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up something new. And you may be surprised where you learn it. Nuggets of life changing brilliance can happen anywhere – even during a brief conversation on the elevator.
12. Especially at niche specific conferences such as those in the ADHD field, everyone knows everyone. The traditional six degrees of separation is reduced to about two or three. It is a great chance to network and meet those you emulate…but also a damaging place to gossip.
13. Sleep. As much as you can before you go and during the event. It may be tempting to stay up all night at the welcome reception – the energy and thrills of being there can be hard to walk away from. But remember, that’s just day one. Conferences are marathons, and you need to recharge and take extra care of yourself so you can get to the end in good spirits.
14. Bring nutritious, easy to pack snacks. Conferences can be exhausting and having healthy snacks on hand such as dried fruit and nuts go a long way to keeping you energized, and your ADHD brain focused. Another trick is to travel with a few of packets of oatmeal and a disposable spoon. Breakfast is typically the hardest meal to catch during conferences. Adding hot water, readily available in most hotel rooms, along with some of those nuts and dried fruit is a great way to start your day.
15. Finally, plan for a day of decompression when you return home. A sudden reentry back into your world could create exhaustion that defeats all the positive energy you experienced at the conference. And it helps to process all of that new information with a clearer perspective.
If you are attending the ACO Conference, “Be the Change Event” (or any of the events listed in my newsletters or website), stop by and introduce yourself! I’d love to say hello!
And if you have additional tips on conferences, especially ideas on how to cope with ADHD symptoms, please share them below…