Thursday, June 6, 2013

Conferences - Educational, Fun, but Tiring.

Have you ever gone out of town to a business-related conference? I'm at one right now if you're reading this on the posting date. I'm in Toronto, Ontario for MagNet 2013, meeting together with fellow member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) and others in the writing, editing and publishing field.

This is my third writing-related conference (and last) this year. For some reason, the associations I belong to all have their conferences within the first six month of the year, starting in March and ending in the beginning of June. It's exciting, invigorating, educational, and fun. But it's also very tiring and can lead to you being run down and becoming ill.

So, what to do?

Be prepared. If you are traveling to attend the conference, take into account that this can tire you out. Air travel is very drying, so you have to stay hydrated. Sitting for long periods on trains, planes, or in cars can be hard on your back and your circulation. On planes and trains, try to get up and walk around. In cars, try to make regular stops to get out and stretch. 

Bring healthy snacks

While many conference organizers provide snacks of some kind, not all do and if they do, they're not always the healthy kind. There have been many conference I've attended where the only offerings were sticky buns, donuts, or muffins. So I make sure to pack some granola bars or and/some fruit. If I'm traveling into the US (can't bring fruit across the border), I find a local grocery store to buy some to keep in my room.

Drink water, lots of it

I'm not sure why, but the convention centers and hotels I've been to are always very dry. There is usually a never ending supply of coffee handy and water - choose the water as much as possible. While the coffee may be good and satisfying at the time, you may not feel so happy when you try to sleep later if you've had too much caffeine.

Watch the alcohol intake

It's so tempting. You're gathering with like-minded people and you're enjoying yourself over a few drinks. Don't forget, you may be working with or for some of these people later so you really should be on your best behaviour. Don't overdo the alcohol. Plus, you don't want to be hung over for the next day's sessions.

Get your sleep

I bring earplugs with me whenever I travel. Hotels are NOISY. Even when other guests are being respectful and aren't running up and down the halls, shouting out at each other, doors slam, people do talk, and noise happens. For me, I can't stand the sound of the fan in the room, from the AC or heat. Since I started bringing ear plugs with me, I've been sleeping much, much better, allowing me to benefit from the next day's events.

Wash your hands, wash  your hands, wash your hands....

There's a lot of handshaking going on, elevator buttons pushed, and lots and lots of contact that you may not have every day in your usual life. Keep a small container of hand cleanser nearby and wash your hands. You don't want to catch a cold or pick up some other virus either here or on your way home. 

Take time for yourself

It's easy to become overwhelmed being with so many people all day long for a few days in a row. You're meeting new people, learning new things, and your routine is out of whack. You need to take some time to yourself. If that means waking up a half hour earlier to go for a walk or pop into the hotel gym, do it. Perhaps you can skip one of the sessions and get outside to get some fresh air or go to your room to be by yourself. 

Sure, it's tempting to accept all invitations to go out for drinks or meet up for lunch - and isn't that why you're attending this in the first place? But stop and think if you really need to accept all of the invites. If you overdo it, if you become overwhelmed, you may end up getting sick or just not being able absorb everything around you. That happened to me last year. During my third conference, I was hit by a migraine. They're not fun at home. They're even less so in a hotel room hundreds of miles from home.

Do you have any tips for conference goers?

No comments: