Today begins the 2014 ACFW conference, a day many have waited for with both excitement and near-panic. :) As the conference begins, I want to give you all some quick tips I've learned over the years about making the most of your conference experience.
First, let's take a stroll down memory lane, shall we?
Here I am last conference:
Yep, that's me, all right, with a broken foot and two precious friends pushing me around Indianapolis!
Let's just say, not exactly how I'd planned to spend the conference.
If you're ever had a broken foot/ankle/leg, you know getting around is no small challenge. Even though my foot wasn't in a lot of pain at that point (thank goodness), I was soooooo overwhelmed trying to manage basics, like washing my hair. Add in the need to find food, and you've got a potential recipe for disaster!
Every. single. thing. last year was exhausting for me because of that broken foot. Getting around was, quite honestly, a real challenge, and took twice the physical strength/energy it normally would. Breezing over to Starbucks was not so simple as walking down there. It generally involved me texting my dear friend Angie Dicken and asking her to deliver my tea. ;)
As a result of this, I found myself worn down both physically and emotionally. It was hard to remember my pitch, maneuver independently from point A to point B, AND allow myself to feel refreshed by this special time with mentors and friends. Thankfully, my pitches went fairly well, and I didn't fall flat on my face, literally or figuratively. But by the end of the conference last year, I was drained as drained could be emotionally. Because every little movement from one floor to the next or from one classroom to an appointment session, took all the strength I could muster. And let me tell you, that really takes it out of a girl after a few days! I came away from the conference having learned a lot, and having had a fun time, but also feeling completely and utterly exhausted.
Even if you don't have a broken bone, let me tell you, this exhaustion is a real danger for all conference go-ers. You add "one more thing" into your schedule, then another, and before you know it, you're booked from 6 AM until 1 in the morning. You're not getting any sleep or any down time. And you can't even remember your name anymore, let alone your story.
So here's my advice. Keep your priorities in perspective. If your prioritize is to learn from the classes, great. Focus on those. If your priority is to relationship-build, spend time networking. If your priority is pitching... don't get your hopes up. HA! No, I kid. But seriously, be open to the unexpected opportunities God has for you.
If you run yourself ragged, you may become so exhausted that you miss out on God moments. You may be too tired to interact with the editor He puts you in the elevator with, the author whose book you just read and loved, or the new conference attendee who's sitting in the corner, alone and overwhelmed.
It's oh-so-important we allow ourselves time to recharge so that we can be on the lookout for these God-moments both for ourselves and for those who need our encouragement. If you're only focusing on your own conference experience, you're going to miss a big blessing in reaching out to others and encouraging them. Be intentional about encouraging and praying with people before they pitch, be on the lookout for people who look discouraged or lonely, and just smile at people when they seem frustrated or down. Keep the good vibes going. :)
So here are some ways you can recharge, and I hope they help you to prioritize your own mental and emotional wellness while at the conference!
- Minimize sleep deprivation. Fact is, we all sleep too little at the conference. But six hours versus one hour are a different story. Prioritize rest, whether you're a night owl, an early bird, or even if you take some naps.
- Go back to the room/Starbucks/the lobby to recharge. Many people (myself included) need a few minutes of alone time to feel like themselves. I'm a total extrovert, but if I don't have a least a few minutes alone per day, I go crazy, like I can't make sense of my own thoughts.
- Be intentional about prayer. Go to the prayer room, your own room, or even just a quiet spot in the lobby and have an ongoing conversation with God. Ask Him to help you see the opportunities He's placed before you, to help you be faithful, and to give you peace.
- EAT! If you're too nervous to eat at lunch because you're sitting by your dream editor, then by all means, skip the first part of the next workshop and order yourself a sandwich. Skipping meals does not make for goodness whenever you're already keyed up with excitement and tired.
- Don't feel guilty about skipping breakfast, sessions, or workshops if you need to rest, eat, or even just relax your mind for an hour. Yes, you want to get the most out of the conference, but in order to do that, you have to feel well. Your health, physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional, needs to be a priority so you can express yourself well to others.
- Don't forget the cereal bars! It's always a good idea to have a few snacks on hand just in case your flight is delayed or you miss a meal. Be prepared with vitamins, medications, etc. just in case.
- When all else fails, drink caffeine. :)
Your turn! What do you do to keep from getting overly exhausted at conferences? Any tips or advice to share?
Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.