5 Tips On Conferencing
I had the pleasure of attending Creative Works, a seriously great design conference in Memphis. As we all know, attending conferences is a luxury— they’re expensive, often require some amount of travel, and an opening in your schedule. That’s all to say, they’re so incredibly worth it if you’re able to go. At a conference you open yourself up to the community on a larger scale, you meet designers from cities that are perhaps much unlike your own. You humble yourself in a major way, taking in all of the amazing people around you and their accomplishments. You leave asking yourself, “Okay self, what are we going to do? How are we going to make ourselves proud?”
Here are some tips on attending conferences should you find yourself heading to one soon:
- Consume inspiration without beating yourself up
At conferences you’re surrounded by people who are go-getting, revered, and knees deep in cool stuff they’re making/doing/leading. Does it even seem rational that you wouldn’t at some point berate yourself for not being where they are? Of course this is going to happen. Thinking critically about your work and your decisions is necessary, but it’s very possible to let the criticism go too far. I know what it’s like to let self consciousness hold you back from progress; it’s crippling. You’ve heard it before, but these people were where you’re standing at some point. It may seem like some people come out swinging, hitting every mark they set for themselves all of the time. Everyone’s path is different. Don’t take for granted the opportunity you have to intake all of these informational gems that people are giving out to you—consume it with optimism! Your time to shine is coming too.
- Talk to your internet/industry heroes
This one is hard! Before your internet / industry heroes become friends (which they do sometimes!) they seem to exist on another planet. Part of transitioning from someone’s fan to friend (although you can always remain a fan) is talking to them face-to-face. There’s a good reason why their work resonates with you, which is a great place to start the conversation. Imagine if someone approached you and explained how your work moved them, YOU WOULD BE STOKED. They will feel the same. If you come across the rare sour grape, don’t internalize their negativity. I feel the need to mention this because it wouldn’t be honest to say everyone is going to be thrilled to talk to you. But it’s them, not you. The minute someone stops being gracious about people admiring them is the minute they stop deserving admiration.
- Take a workshop
If the conference offers the opportunity to get your hands dirty, definitely do it. While hearing people speak can be inspirational, it doesn’t hurt to break up the monotony of being an audience member.
- Write stuff down
Most likely the conference is being recorded and you can revisit these lectures. However, you won’t be able to recover your visceral initial reactions from a recording. If someone says something that elicits a strong reaction, positive or negative, don’t let that go. Revisit these things and contemplate where your reactions came from. This opportunity seems unique to conferences. Sometimes being in a room full of energy evokes emotions that are impossible to find when you watch or listen secondhand.
- Follow up with your conference friends
This applies to everything, doesn’t it? Job interviews, romantic engagements, conferences too! You meet so many people who you relate to, who made your brain light up in some way. My suggestion is to send them an email. Tell them about what you’re working on, maybe even inquire about the potential of collaborating?!