5 Tips to Navigate a Conference Successfully

Back to school also means the kick-off of conference season. Whether you will be attending your first or your tenth, here are five tips I’ve picked up through the years, which I hope will help ensure that you get the most from your conference attendance.

Review the program. I’m old school and take a highlighter to the conference book after I check-in. I highlight the workshops I would like to attend. I review the presenter bios to see if there are individuals with whom I would like to connect. I also look for opportunities in the conference schedule for down time or time to connect with other attendees. Most conferences publish much of the details on their website so you can do some prep work from your office.

20170307_084141Bring the right tools. If you are old school, bring a fresh notebook, some pens (in case one runs out of ink) and a highlighter to mark key take-aways. I also bring an envelope or pouch, which I find handy for storing receipts, business cards and other relevant conference materials.

If you are all digital, be sure you bring the right power cords. If you are a heavy note taker, your device might run out of juice during the day so be prepared to find an outlet for charging or bring a back-up power supply. I also bring a mini multi-prong adapter for the room. I can plug in two devices and two USB cables. That way I can keep my mobile, Fitbit and laptop charged and not scramble for plugs.

Leverage social media. If there is a conference hashtag, follow the tweets to learn what others think about the speakers and topics. If a speaker mentions a resource, someone likely will tweet the resource and how to find it, which is always helpful. You can share your take-aways on Twitter or LinkedIn. You can also acknowledge great speakers, conference staff and hotel staff.

Take a nap. Conferences can be exhausting. Not to mention that most of us also are keeping up with our offices. Given that, sometimes it’s worth it to skip one session or a networking event to take a siesta. The downtime is the perfect way to recharge.

Network successfully. I am not talking about walking around and collecting business cards. I am talking about introducing yourself to a few people, and then asking them questions about what they do. If you make a connection, continue the conversation and find out if there is a way you might assist them. Sometimes, it’s as simple as sending them a link for a resource. Be sure to follow up.

6 Tips to Make Traveling a Breeze

I’ll soon be headed to the NFPW conference. I always look forward to it. This year, I’m also one of the speakers so I have a few extra items to bring. Because I travel frequently (now mainly for recreation), I am often asked about packing. When I was traveling a lot for work and pleasure, I developed a few shortcuts that I continue to use.

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With a bit of effort, you can travel with ease. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

The most important thing is to have a list. You can search Google and you’ll get 820M results! One list that I like is Dorie Clark’s business travel checklist, which is here.

I’ve refined my list further and have some shortcuts. Here they are in no particular order:

  1. I’ve put an umbrella in each piece of luggage that I own. That way I never have to wonder if I have packed it. And you know you have umbrellas all over the house. Instead of having them collecting dust in a closet, put them to good use in your luggage.
  2. I have two sets of chargers for every device. I keep one set in a to-go back (cosmetic bags that you get for free when you buy makeup are great for this purpose). When I grab that bag for a trip, I know that all of my chargers are in one place. I also keep a remote clicker (and batteries) for presentations in the bag and an extra thumb drive.
  3. I have one list of household chores that I need to do before I depart. That includes leaving the check for the pet sitter and taking out the trash. At one time, it included leaving the key for the pet sitter. Unfortunately, once, I didn’t follow my list and I failed to leave the key. Imagine my panic knowing I would be gone for a week. I overnighted the key to my sitter and asked her to keep it. One less thing to worry about.
  4. Minimize what you take. I almost always travel with only a carry-on bag. You have to be willing to forgo multiple pairs of shoes and be willing to accessorize. Wear the same top but with a different scarf and no one will know the difference.
  5. While I love my technology, I’ve found it good to have a folder with printed copies of my airline, hotel and car reservations. I also always carry a hard copy of my talking points for a presentation.
  6. Speaking of technology, I have one screen on my phone where all of my travel apps are located. I like having keyless entry at a hotel, and I like to check-in for my airline reservation to avoid getting bumped.

 

 

 

Explore Your Creativity with National Coloring Book Day

I’ve been coloring for years. I’ve always found it relaxing. Usually I buy my coloring books at a dollar store. When I’m coloring within the lines (and sometimes not), I forget about everything.

coloring book

Coloring can be meditative.  (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Now coloring is a hot trend. In 2015, 12 million coloring books for adults were sold, up from 1 million in 2014, according to an AARP The Magazine article in the December 2016/January 2017 issue. I was delighted when a friend gave me a Cityscape coloring book. It’s given me hours of relaxation.

The article confirms what I had already discovered: “Coloring puts you into a flowlike state – which can help you focus and relax – and can lower your blood pressure.”

If you want to try coloring, Aug. 2, is the perfect day as it is National Coloring Book Day, a day to relax and color.

“For me, coloring is meditative – it taps a certain part of my brain and requires a repetitive motion to fill in the colors, and I find it relaxing and allows me to tune out other things and focus on one,” says Aliza Sherman, a speaker, author and web pioneer who has championed women in tech since the 1990s. “There is a nostalgia to coloring – it is something we do as children then give up as we grow up. We all crave the comfort and ease of childhood so there is something almost therapeutic for me when I color.”

At the 2015 NFPW conference Aliza spoke about how coloring can help a person disconnect from being too digital. I followed up with her and asked her to tell me more.

“Coloring is something tangible and tactile – two things that are often missing from our digital and online activities and experiences,” Aliza says. “The mental activity of selecting colors and determining where to place the colors can leads to physical activities like picking up crayons or pencils or pens and inspecting them, testing them out, holding them this way and that. Moving the color across the page is a gradual process that builds over time. There is a satisfying feel of color tool to paper or coloring surface. There is satisfaction as the coloring progresses and is completed.”

Coloring and its slowness is the “antithesis of the rapid-fire pace of digital technology,” Aliza notes. “Coloring taps a different part of your brain than technology, lights it up in different ways and calms parts that are jangled from overusing tech and being way too connected online.”

Why not spend Aug. 2 relaxing with a coloring book?

I Survived Michael Smart’s 30-day Detox

I’ve never been good at following instructions. I often don’t think the rules apply to me. Sometimes, I make the rules up (just ask my sister about playing Monopoly with me as a child!).

So I confess that while completing a 30-day digital detox under the guidance of Michael Smart, I may not have followed all of the rules exactly. However, in some instances, I was actually ahead in terms of my detox.

One rule I broke was not deleting my social media apps from my phone. I had a perfect excuse (as I’m sure many others did). Mine was that I use them for work. I’m often at events where I post using my phone and not a laptop. I didn’t want the extra step of logging in via a browser. I expect my devices to work for me.

The point of deleting the app was to keep me from looking at the sites throughout the day. Fortunately, I don’t do that. And through the detox I’ve been even more focused on not checking. My personal phone now stays in my handbag, and I check it at lunch only.

My work phone is off to the side and I only check it when I receive a text message or phone call as only a few people have the number. The rest of my day is focused on my priorities, which ultimately is the point Michael was making.

One tip that greatly benefited me was “ruthlessly unsubscribe from every mass email that doesn’t bring you massive value.” This has been a game changer for me. I subscribed to some emails thinking I would glean nuggets of information. Instead all I did was hit delete. Before long, I had about 20 such emails, and while a nano second to delete doesn’t seem like much. It was adding up. I unsubscribed and my mailbox is not nearly so cumbersome.

Despite working in a profession in which I have to be 24/7 accessible to handle a crisis, I am not tethered to my mobile. Yes, it’s with me. But I don’t check it constantly. I’ve told everyone that if I am needed to respond, I should be called. That prevents me from looking at my phone and checking emails all weekend. The problem with checking is that it becomes too easy to respond to emails.

So when Michael proposed that we create a digital “sabbath” one day of the weekend, I realized that for the most part I was doing it. What would help, though, is his suggestion of setting an auto responder. By setting an auto responder asking people to phone me if they need me during the weekend, I reinforce my message about calling me if I am needed.

He had many other great tips, and I’m working to incorporate them into my habits. It’s not easy to do but I’m making a good start. Would you share in the comments field one of your tips for managing your digital presence?

4 Steps to Help Disconnect for Vacation

SAMSUNGI recently returned from a week’s vacation where I did not check in with the office or read work emails (much). I suspect most people won’t believe that, but it’s true. I knew I needed a vacation to recharge. And that’s just what I did.

To ensure that I would be able to disconnect, I took some steps that might be helpful to you. Here are the four steps I took –

Plan ahead: I scheduled no new meetings the three days before I left for vacation. This ensured that I did not get new assignments. I also spent those last three days wrapping up projects.

Identify who can help: I let my boss and others with whom I frequently interact know who would be my back-up. I also set my out-of-office on my email and voice mail. Nothing is more frustrating to someone who is trying to reach you and they don’t know you are out of the office.

Set parameters: I told key people that if they needed me to mark URGENT in the subject line. Those would be the only emails I would read. Fortunately, I never received any. It helped that I planned my time away during a slow week.

Schedule your return: I kept my out-of-office on for the first Monday back. I blocked the entire day to connect with colleagues to see what I needed to immediately address. Once I handled those tasks, I responded to emails, many of which at this point could simply be deleted.

By day’s end, I was caught up and ready for the next big project. I still have plenty of energy from the vacation, too.

Inspiration From Space

The other week I was in need of some inspiration. I couldn’t pinpoint what was keeping me from zooming ahead. Maybe it was the pollen in the air clouding my judgment and slowing me down. Whatever it was, I was struggling.

20170413_130907_001Then I looked to space — specifically to astronaut Leland Melvin, who was speaking to a group of scholar athletes being honored at the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholars awards luncheon.

Within a few short paragraphs, I was ready to soar. He opened with “whatever you do, you can always reinvent yourself if you are a life-long learner.”

He talked about pulling from those things that inspire you. For him it was books such as “Curious George” and “The Little Engine That Could.” Later it was tennis, a chemistry set and even an old bread truck that he and his father converted to a camper.

From those inspirations, Leland became the only person drafted into the National Football League to have flown in space. He served as a mission specialist operating the robotic arm on two space shuttle missions to the International Space Station: STS-122 in 2008 and STS-129 in 2009.

These all became part of his story and journey. He shared, “Life is not about the destination, but about the journey.” While on the journey, he said it’s important to also help others find their way.

In the end, he urged the audience to “Keep rising.”

I may not serve on a mission to space, but I’m inspired to meet my deadlines!

Accountability Meeting Didn’t Go Well – Or Did It?

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My writing chair has been empty but thanks to my accountability partner, I have a writing schedule once again. 

My last accountability meeting did not go well.

It was all my fault as I was not accountable. At the prior meeting I said what I was going to do and then I didn’t.

I seriously contemplated calling my accountability partner and asking for a pass on the meeting. But that defeats the purpose of the meetings.

We met, and my partner wasn’t mean about my lack of progress. Just the opposite – she was encouraging. We discussed why I had not met my goals. It wasn’t about making excuses, but rather about finding a way to get me back on track.

I explained that I had had a productive few weeks in other areas. I organized a statewide conference, coordinated a national board meeting and hosted friends. Of course, sometimes we deliberately get busy to avoid what we need to do. Fortunately, that was not the case. These were long-term commitments and I was more than willing to honor them. I did, however, miscalculate how much time I would have for other endeavors.

As part of my conversation with my accountability partner, I scheduled my future writing days. Setting aside specific days and times works best for me. If I simply say that I am going to write three times before our next meeting it seldom happens. When I block the time, it always happens, in part, because I have a set time and so I will say no to any requests made of me made during that time.

In actuality, my meeting did go well. My partner and I discussed what didn’t work and how to address those areas moving forward. I’m looking forward to sharing my progress at our next meeting.