Recently I attended a conference as both a content leader and attendee.  It was a gigantic conference with over 6500 of my closest friends in attendance – HA!  It’s been several years since I’ve put myself out there like that and I experienced a lot of new lessons and reminders.  Here are my #20Things.

1.     I am an extrovert by profession, not by personality.

2.     Scroll through the list of attendees! I found an old pal from my Western Illinois University undergraduate days and we had a wonderful two-hour lunch and got caught up on our last 35 years.

3.     A long drive to a conference location (three hours) is more fun with a friend – it makes the time go by faster and you get quality time to think and talk, uninterrupted by a smartphone or other people.

4.     Wear comfortable shoes. Bigger conferences=bigger venues=more walking to sessions.

5.     Download all of the handouts as soon as you can – you’re paying for this content!

6.     It’s not cliquey to go to receptions and dinners with friends; the learning continues because they attend different sessions and share what they learned.

7.     Take advantage of the conference hotels – the conference organizers coordinated shuttles leaving every 15 minutes and gave me quiet time on the way to the venue without having to think about traffic…or parking.

8.     Though I was born in Chicago, it’s amazing to see it from a conference attendee lens.

9.     Some session descriptions are boring, but the programs were fun and interactive!

10.  Some session descriptions were better than the programs.

11.  Create a to-do list of actionable items inspired by the program that you want to instigate right away as well as your learning notes.

12.  People love their exhibit hall tchotchkes. I do not.

13.  Kentucky bourbon and Milwaukee Bloody Marys are very popular in this exhibit hall experience. And I learned some people can actually handle those at 10 a.m. 

14.  Using I-Pass transponders from Indy to Chicago instead of stopping to pay tolls saves about 20 minutes and about $10.

15.  Don’t brag about bringing your own transponder in a rental car and then leave it in the car upon return.

16.  Don’t snub your nose at short 30-minute sessions in an exhibit hall.  They can be better sources of content and ideas than the 90-minute sessions.

17.  The best vendor giveaways are memorable experiences and give you a chance to actually talk with the sales people. See the photo of the on-site painting from the Reno Tahoe convention and visitors’ bureau.

18.  It’s okay to leave a session before it ends if your educational needs are not being met.

19.  It’s worth the extra time to go through the “hug line” to pay respect and thank awesome speakers for sharing their expertise with you and your colleagues.

20.  Use the quiet downtime each morning to review your workshop notes and decipher your bad handwriting.