You fly in for a conference. You're jet lagged. You immediately have a dozen events, meetings and parties to attend. It can be overwhelming and burnout could very well be on your imminent horizon.
Over the years, I've attended dozens of conferences and as they conclude I've often felt exhausted and ready for a two day nap. Here are three tips to avoiding burning out at your next event.
1. Keep tunnel focus on your goal and learn to say "no".
At the conferences I attended last week, there were dozens of events and parties happening pre- and post-conference. While it can be easy to get swept up in the excitement of fun parties, it's crucial to remember why you were attending the conference in the first place.
It's okay to say no to parties and meetings that you don't feel are relevant to your agenda and future goals. By keeping your focus on your business goals, you'll be much more successful than running in a million directions. Before the conference, make a list of your business goals and think about what a successful engagement looks like. If a party, event or meeting invitation doesn't help you get there, kindly turn it down in favor of an opportunity that will.
2. Limit the libations.
Many conferences have alcohol flowing like waterfalls - it can be hard to say no, especially when pressured by industry peers. But alcohol consumption is the quickest way to burn yourself out, decrease your productivity and have you reaching for aspirin the second day of the event. It's okay to have a drink or two - but try to keep your consumption to a minimum to keep your energy levels high.
Though I've used invented excuses including "I'm on antibiotics" or "I have to be up early tomorrow", over the years I've learned it's often easier to pretend that you're drinking than to resist industry pressure. The next time you hear "C'mon one more drink won't hurt!" grab a drink that could pass for a cocktail like a seltzer and lemon and toast your inebriated colleague who's performance will be hurting the next day.
3. Schedule downtime to recharge.
Many conferences start in the morning and go until the late afternoon - you'll often then find yourself at a industry dinner or post-conference event. It can be exhausting. It's okay to skip a panel, go for a walk, and regroup solo to recharge.
When I find myself with a heavy load that week, I tend to skip the early morning coffees and panels knowing that I'll perform at my best heading in a few hours later than other attendees. Plan scheduled breaks ever so often to regroup your thoughts, send follow-up mails to the colleagues you just meet and recharge.
4. Plan travel accordingly.
Many conference attendees I spoke with this week said they had flown from overseas the day of the conference and were planning to fly out the day the event ended. If your schedule permits, it can be helpful to fly in a day early and leave a day later to give yourself a chance to recover.
You know yourself better than anyone, take on a schedule that feels right to you. If you know you won't perform well without sleep, don't book a red-eye. If you are not an earlier riser, don't book a flight at 6am. Plan a schedule that feels manageable and will optimize your productivity.
Conferences can be a great way to expand your business and network within an industry. By taking care of yourself and keeping your focus, you'll walk away from your next conference ready to do it again!