If you’ve ever attended a conference, are heading to a conference, or think you might have a conference in your future and are feeling twinges of anxiety, this blog is for you.

“Be here now. Be there later.” These are the words of the Western born yogi and spiritual teacher Ram Dass. Turns out Ram’s advice inspired the perfect themes for me as I attended, INFLUENCE 2016, the summer convention of the National Speakers Association. The event was last week and I’m still reflecting on the rich experience I enjoyed.

What I did to prepare. I took the time prior to the conference to set my vision, intentions, and goals for what I wanted to learn, accomplish, and experience at this year’s convention. I do this process before every event, meeting, speaking engagement, or other adventure.

I also came up with two basic themes or mantras for the event.

  1. Be myself and celebrate my uniqueness. (In other words, learn from and be inspired by – but don’t get too hung up on comparing myself to – other professional speakers.)
  2. Wherever I am, it’s exactly where I’m supposed to be.

What it was like and how it felt. These philosophies and ways of “being” gave me a relieving sense of confidence, peace, and trust throughout the experience– three feelings not often associated with attending a large professional event where it’s easy to fall into the traps of social anxiety, awkwardness, overwhelm, confusion, regret, guilt, exhaustion, feeling “less than”, and a host of other negative and draining emotions. I was able to relax, enjoy, and be present, gracious, and comfortable. I never felt the need to push, rush, force, or reconsider anything. I also didn’t end up overscheduled, overcommitted, or otherwise overtaken by the feeling that I should be anywhere other than where I was in any moment.

The happy results.  Because I was fully present in every moment I found myself enjoying numerous benefits, some of which seem quite miraculous as I look back on them. For example:

  • I was able to reconnect with most of my current friends and peers: have a visit, get a hug, discuss some great ideas, and get caught up.
  • I met and had more delightful “connecting conversations” with new people who I see as potential mentors, advisors, collaborators, referral sources, and all around valued friends, peers, and connections. Lucky me!
  • Many of these meetings happened via other wonderful people I already know. (Hint: When you know good people, chances are they know more good people. So be open, willing, and eager to have your best friends and connections introduce you to their best friends and connections.)
  • I also enjoyed many rich and enjoyable conversations that seemed to come out of pure happenstance. This happened, for example, when fetching my 6 a.m. skinny vanilla latte at the Starbucks in the hotel each morning (yes, even with no makeup, hair sticking out everywhere and wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops); when taking a moment to sit in the lobby or out on the patio to people-watch or just relax; when walking the hallways to and from my room or from session to session; while enjoying a relaxing beverage in the bar; and even when in sharing a ride to the airport.
  • Every breakout session I selected was perfect for me and what I was trying to learn or change for the benefit of my business. How did I choose them? Partly through intuition, but also based on what I saw as bottlenecks or areas I wanted to improve in my business. (Eureka! This is a first. I usually end up selecting at least one or two breakouts that I affectionately refer to as “stinkers” or maybe just not right for me. That didn’t happen this year!)
  • I honored that I am an ambivert – someone who enjoys socializing, but also needs alone time to recharge.  If I felt overwhelmed or uncomfortable in a social situation, I graciously excused myself.  I also found time for daily naps after lunch. Delicious!
  • I got plenty of rest, ate well, and didn’t exhaust myself or overdo it on any front. (I think you know what I’m referring to there.)
  • I came home with a very full brain – and full heart – but didn’t collapse in a heap upon arriving back home.

Bottom line: wherever I was, whatever choices I made, they ended up being perfect for me in that moment. I can now say that I’ve cracked my own Conference Code and look forward to the next opportunity to do it again.