networking

Why Conferences Are Your Best Investment

I’ve been talking about the benefits and need for networking and going to conferences for some time. I’m a big fan of conferences and here’s why.

I am just back from spending time in Texas. I know. It’s not the most ideal time of year to leave Maine and head to a part of the globe that is experiencing temperatures in the 100s and humidity.

However, the second annual conference for the podcasting industry, Podcast Movement, was happening and I wasn’t going to miss it. The fact that I could also visit family while I was there sweetened the pot for me.

The Key Was the Attitude I Brought to Travelling

Prior to travelling a couple of the podcasts I listen to and blogs I read focused on the attitude and demeanor best adopted while travelling.

Both ShePodcasts and Kate’s Take stressed accepting that you are not in control, especially when flights and airports are involved, and it’s best to just be prepared with items to maintain your well-being (water, snacks, entertainment) and to just “go with it.”

Click to Tweet: When travelling to conferences, adopt a “go with the flow” attitude.

I knew this this advice took root because when I arrived at Logan airport and there was a humongous line to check bags at the Jet Blue terminal I got in line and merely felt curious about whether or not I was going to make my flight in time.

I got to the gate and had time to go to the bathroom and get a coffee before boarding.

If this had happened previously I would have been a sweaty bundle of nerves arriving at the gate and probably would have dealt with a stomach ache for most of the flight.

I was incredibly appreciative that I had gotten these reminders prior to travelling because what happened next blew my mind.

Plans are Merely an Intention and Not the Law

Even though I had an attitude of “go with the flow” for travelling, I had some definite plans for my time spent at conference.

I arrived a day early to give myself a buffer in case there were problems with flights. This also allowed me some time to get settled, get a workout in, get some work done and go to bed early so I was rested for the next day.

I won’t go into detail but suffice it to say nothing bad happened, things just didn’t work out that way.

After spending too long trying to find a market in downtown Fort Worth (there aren’t any open after business hours) I came back to the hotel hot, tired, and cranky that I had not accomplished all that I had intended to accomplish.

To add to the experience, the bar that was right off the marble lobby was very loud and I thought as I walked toward the elevators, “maybe I’ll have dinner in my room.”

But my room felt small and the idea of eating alone in my room was unappealing so I headed to the restaurant that was across from the lobby bar. Blessedly, the bar had settled down and lobby was peaceful once again.

As I was seated a woman approached and asked if I was attending the conference and if I would like to join her for dinner.

dining at conferences

Click to Tweet: Conference Tip: Don’t eat alone.

She was in black flowing clothing. She had a big red flower and a big blue flower in her hair and a feather that hung down, the tip touching her shoulder.

Being one who does not like to come off closed to new experiences and not wanting to be rude, I said yes and gathered my stuff to join her. My thought was I was about to have dinner with the most exotic and interesting person in the building or she was a cuckoo-bird.

These things have a way of sorting themselves out quickly so I didn’t worry too much about it.

She introduced herself as “Dr. E” (cuckoo-bird?) and asked me all about my podcast and the process of launching it. This lead to talking about online communities and the support you can get from them.

It turns out she is also a member of one of my communities and the conversation turned there.

I shared with her something truly great about online communities – how they can put you in contact with people you would never imaging having access to.

I ask her, “Do you want to hear something really crazy? One of my heroes is in our community. Twenty years ago, when I was in college, I read the book Women Who Run With the Wolves and it changed my life. It was written by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola-Estes. She is in our community. Have your read her book?”

This gentle woman responded, “Let me tell you about my podcast” and she turned to get something from her bag.

Suddenly it clicked. I felt my whole body start to vibrate and thought, “this is happening. This is happening. This is happening.”

She turned back and placed a postcard-sized flyer on the table in front of me. It had the image of an owl, the name of her upcoming podcast, and below it in beautiful scraw, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola-Estes.

Dr. E.

I looked in her eyes and said the only thing that was true for me in that moment. “It is an honor to meet you.”

The conference had yet to begin and a woman I have been in awe of for twenty years had asked me to join her for dinner.

I can’t even start to go into detail on the conversation that followed. That would take several more posts. Suffice it to say I went to bed and woke up with a new understanding of myself as a woman, a leader and a healer.

Disappointment Only Exists When You Can’t See the Big Picture

Podcasting conference

If I were to critic anything about the conference it was the time allotted for lunch – only one hour. Over 1000 attendees and limited dining options (the hotel didn’t know what hit them) had many people late for the first afternoon session.

The speaker of my session kept referring back to a story she told to open her session. I wasn’t there, didn’t know what she was talking about and became increasingly annoyed that I couldn’t follow along.

It occurred to me that the sessions were being videoed and I would have access to them later. I had work back in my room that kept coming to mind so I gave up the fight and started back to my room.

For years now I’ve had numerous people ask me if I’ve read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It makes sense. I speak and write often about happiness, dealing with stress, and living your best life.

But the answer had always been no…until last month. I came across a podcast called Happier, produced by Panoply and hosted by Gretchen Rubin and her sister, Elizabeth Craft, a Hollywood writer and producer.

I always look forward to a new episode and so downloaded the audio version of The Happiness Project and began listening to in on my walks and in the car. Now I know what everyone was talking about.

I enjoyed the Happier podcast so much I had reached out to Gretchen Rubin on Twitter to ask if she would be on my podcast but never got a response. My plan was to follow up some time mid-August.

Back at the conference…I’m headed back to my room slightly annoyed about coming back from lunch late and not being able to make the most of my session.

I see a familiar face standing in a small group but I can’t place her. I’m about to walk by when the woman next to her turns and looks at me. The two of them together cause my mind to make the connection and I’m stunned.

I did not imagine that Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft would be at Podcast Movement. Their podcast is highly produced and had sponsors from the get-go. In my mind they were interesting as hosts of a podcast but their podcast was just another outlet for their work. I was wrong.

They were here, wearing Happier branded t-shirts and standing in the hallway. I didn’t have time to think of what to say so it just gushed (it was slightly embarrassing but I wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass me by): “I love your show. I just finished your book, The Happiness Project…[insert crazy rambling here].”

I asked them to be on my podcast. They were super sweet (I mean, “fan girl”, as my twelve-year-old niece coined for me, was pouring out of me), they took my card and invited me to connect with them via the blog.

Lesson learned: there is value in hanging out in the hallways at a conference. Click to Tweet!

After meeting Gretchen and Elizabeth I was okay about coming back from lunch late causing me to decide not to stay in the session.

I Knew it Was True

I knew it was true but it still amazed me.

When I give up control and just allow things to unfold as they will, and not always according to my “sacred” plans, incredible things start to happen.

There was a part of me that accepted this as par for the course – naturally, when I give up trying to control everything and relax, new experiences come my way that enhance my life. It happens every time.

The other part of me was in a bit of a daze and kept repeating the words in my head, “this is happening,” or “that just happened.” Over and over again I found myself repeating those words trying to get the experience sink in.

It Only Gets Better…

The last day of the conference was the same deal. Only one hour for lunch, limited options for dining in establishments that don’t get my urgency.

On the morning of this day the keynote is Marc Maron. He might be unknown to you but in the podcasting world he has become a pretty big deal.

His latest claim to fame is President Barak Obama came to his garage and recorded an episode for Marc’s podcast, WTF.

WTF is an interview style podcast but Marc Maron is first and foremost a standup comic, making his show very real and funny.

His keynote was no different. Like Joan Rivers this man says what everyone is thinking but he was also very real and unapologetic about his life: past and present.

I giggled the entire time he was on stage and I saw new possibilities with what I can do with my podcast.

Walking out of the room I said to a friend, “I want to give that guy a hug.”

Long story short, while sitting in an outside area on the sidewalk of the restaurant my friends and I happened to stumble into, Marc came outside to say goodbye to a friend who had been dining with him at the restaurant.

When I spotted him I thought he was leaving and heading back to the conference hotel. But in a twist of fate, or at least it was for me, he headed back my way, as the restaurant door was right behind me.

I chuckle as I think of this because without much thought I stood up, moved my hands palm up and asked him if I could give him a hug.

Without a pause he smiled and said, “Sure!”

Mentors, Idols and Heroes, Oh My!

I have met my mentors, idols and heroes.

I have lined up guests to be on my podcast and others who have asked me to be on their podcast.

I have a collection of ideas, some of which I’ve already implemented with great success, and have built relationships with those who can guide me through the next stages of my business.

Conferences are an investment of time, money and energy but if you are open to it, and allow yourself to just go with the flow when things don’t go according to plan, you will walk away with tangible and intangible value that far outweighs your investment.

Will I be at Podcast Movement 2016? I already bought my ticket and reserved my hotel. When the answer is so clear, why wait?

By the way, if you’ve been thinking of starting a podcast check out my friend John’s Free Podcast Course (that’s John above speaking on stage at Podcast Movement). This course has a simple step-by-step process of what you need to think about and do as you create, grow and monetize your podcast.

planning for conferences

 

Have you ever been blown away by your experiences at a conference? Share them below!