The song above, Airports by Something Corporate, is my unofficial soundtrack to conference season. Since I fly so often, it gives me a song to “set my life to” (and yes, I would love to score my life more often!)
Earlier this year, I was offered the opportunity to write for the Student Affairs Feature, and composed a piece called “The Introvert’s Guide to Conference Season.” In it, I prescribed a series of actions to make success at a conference easier for the “easily overstimulated”. My inner assessment professional is inspired to look over the recommendations I made, see if I held myself to them, and do some reflection on my conference season all at once. Hope you’ll follow along!
Be Prepared, but Flexible
This year, I had the opportunity to attend both the Dalton Institute on College Student Values and the NACA National Conference. The burden to be prepared was heightened in both cases by my status as a presenter. And for the latter, the presentation was as part of a group, including my former graduate assistant. The impulse to wing it needed to be ignored! So I made a conscious effort to make plans in advance and ensure that as many details were taken care of as possible.
But there were admittedly some moments of faltering. At NACA, I volunteered to bring the laptop and projector connection- only to promptly forget it in my frenzy to prepare for a move upon my return. Given my issues with anxiety, this could have gone badly! But the second part of the statement- “but be flexible”- came into play for me. I used the opportunity to meet new people, ask questions, and ultimately got the issue taken care of.
I deem this point…achieved!
Organize Yourself Before You Leave
This one needed some work. I will lay the blame for that on my shoulders alone. I’ve been in the process of orchestrating and preparing for a move, and that got in my way. Travel arrangements were made at the last minute, edits to presentations were done on the fly, and I did way more work near the wire than I like to. But I have my whole life to get that right. So- acknowledge it, shake it off, and move forward!
I deem this point…as needing improvement! But mark it, I’ll get there 🙂
Make Connections in Advance
I consider this to be the most successful aspect of my conference season. I have a hard time going into rooms, meetings, or situations when I don’t know anyone. And with conferences, that can be difficult. Socials or receptions are common, and that sort of apprehension makes interacting in those situations.
But between connecting with former colleagues and friends, and committing to turn online connections into face to face ones (I prefer that term to “in real life”- the Internet isn’t the Matrix!), I was able to feel at home in places I could have otherwise been uncomfortable. This was particularly pronounced at Dalton, which was hosted on a campus that I was already acquainted with. At Dalton, the challenge was to branch out and make sure I wasn’t restricting my interactions to people I already knew. But I came away from both conferences with new connections, inspirations, and friendships.
I deem this point…achieved!
Schedule Yourself Carefully
I’ll sum this one up quickly: yup. I get tired easily when bouncing from session to session, social to social, conversation to conversation. But I made sure to allow for time to wander on my own, read and decompress, or even to sleep.
When I got to the airport this afternoon after NACA, I didn’t come anywhere near the uncontrollable exhaustion that marked my first NACA experience. Thus, I deem this point…achieved.
Bring an Accountability Buddy
I didn’t really bring one in either case, but I knew that I had ones available to me at both locations. I am so thankful for, and lucky to have, friends who understand me and my overall constitution enough to allow for breaks in the action. I never pushed myself beyond my comfort zone because I was never pressured to. I’m pleased about that. This goal was achieved– with help 🙂
What’s more, I had the opportunity to sit in on a NACA session for introverted students in programming, and voiced this point as a suggestion to them. One student asked how to make time to decompress without worrying if people will be offended or see you as standoffish. The presenter, Katie Winstead, made a great point of saying that it’s okay to opt out, because people are excited on those occasions that you do opt in! She was wonderful in helping these students understand what introversion really is and how to deal with it, and I am so happy that she addressed this issue at the conference. Check her out!
Decompression Can Come on the Go
While I didn’t use any of these methods, I will say that I took advantage of some alone time to do something that helps me decompress but I haven’t gotten the chance to do much lately- sing. Particularly in the shower. I rate my overall singing ability at a B, perhaps a B-. But I give myself an A+ for passion. And being able to pour that passion into some tunes alongside Ron Pope and the cast of Glee helped me release any tension that may have built up over the course of the day. Again, a point achieved!
All told, my goal was to create a set of guidelines that allowed for success for fellow introverts and people with similar constitutions to me. But making these guidelines mean very little if you can’t follow them yourself. I feel as though I was fairly successful, and I hope that these things do work!
But I’d love to hear from you all! Have you tested these tips? Did they work for you? What changes did you make, to ensure your own success?