Treat Yourself: Tips for a Happy Conference Experience
I find myself traveling for work pretty often. Whether attending an event/training/conference (exhausting) or staffing an event (even more exhausting), there can be something a little draining about working all day, going to sleep a few hundred feet away from the site of said work, and then waking up and doing it all over again. I know a lot of women who can spend a whole conference fretting about the laundry piling up at home or who just can’t find a way to get to sleep in a hotel bedroom. I was like that for a long time, but thanks to some long conversations, trial and error, and just plain dumb luck, I have been able to come up with a few ways to not just cope with…but LOVE conference travel.
1) Make yourself at home. My husband refers to this as my “sprawl.” When I arrive at a hotel, even for a one-night stay, I immediately unpack my bag appropriately. I take out my things and put them where I think I might need them. I iron my clothes. I settle…even if it’s just for a short time. This accomplishes two things – it quickly lets me know if there is anything I forgot and it keeps me from the psychological unpleasantness of living from a suitcase. I usually only get a few minutes to do this, but when I return to my room later that night, I’m always pleased with my past self for laying out my toiletries, preparing tomorrow’s outfit, and placing my slippers by the door.
2) Speaking of which, bring slippers or at least heavy socks. Slippers make you feel good. It’s as simple as that. In addition to being plain ol’ comfortable, slippers create a familiar homey feeling. They let you know it’s ok to unwind a little and be casual. At Harpole’s Heartland Lodge, everyone wears slippers…and I love it. If you aren’t lucky enough to be at Heartland for your event, bring slippers just for your room. Even if you don’t ordinarily wear them at home, you’ll enjoy this little luxury while you are in your hotel room.
3) Make time for yourself. This is the hardest tip but by far the one that is most important to me. When you staff or attend an event you begin to feel like your time is not your own. Generally at a conference someone else has created a schedule for you. They have selected your events, your meal time, and your entertainment. There is nothing wrong with this, but the loss of control can sometimes be frustrating. That’s why, even when I’m staffing an event, I strive to do something for myself each evening. Usually, this just means spending 45 minutes reading a book and drinking a fancy hot chocolate. Sometimes it means ordering a steak for dinner instead of a salad…but more on that in #4.
4) This is not the time to over or under-indulge. I have seen it go both ways. Sometimes conference goers or organizers are so intent on having a good time that they overdo it with everything. They eat too much. They drink too much. They push their limits and find themselves miserable the next day. It’s simply not worth it. There is nothing worse than having to get up early in the morning to staff an event with a headache or upset stomach. Know your limits.
The flip side is those people who decide to deprive themselves of everything. There is nothing wrong with treating yourself and savoring something every once in a while. I worked an event once where one lady was starting her new diet on the first day of the conference. Not only was she working up an appetite through hard work, she was under constant assault from all the yummy foods served at the event. On the final night, we attended a banquet where delicious food and wine were featured. Rather than partake, she spent the entire evening sitting by herself begrudging everyone else. An out of town event where you are working from 6:30 AM-10:00 PM and surrounded by food is no time to start depriving yourself.
5) Go outside. Ok, I once worked a 4-day conference where I did not get to go outside the entire time. Not even once. It was one of those beautiful fall weeks we have in Illinois and I missed the whole thing! I instead spent the entire time in my hotel room, the lobby, or the conference center. There is something weird that happens to you when you spend all of your time indoors. Your perception of time gets skewed. You get listless. It just seems to sap your energy and inspiration. At an event, I do all I can to get outside as much as I can. During breaks, early in the morning, even if I’m just going out to the car… Get out there. It feels good.
I’m sure everyone has their own little tips and tricks for how to make a conference more comfortable, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it helps you have a more enjoyable time!