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Well, I can safely admit that I did most of this incorrectly and wrong when attending a recent conference & networking event. You’d think I’d know better at this stage, and I do.
Life happened, Covid hit the house, kids all got sick, my partner had a hip replacement, selling a house, refurbing another house…needless to say my headspace was stretched. And with that, I hadn’t had a chance to plan ahead as I would normally do and I suffered the consequences.
So I thought I’d share these unplanned consequences of attending a real life event in a post pandemic world with you – warts and all. Because you know what? I’m hearing so many people whose confidence has dropped in the past couple of years, who have put on weight and are simply not feeling at their best right now.
My recent experience, then follows with some tips on what you can do to put your best foot forward when you go to your first ‘in real life’ event in the coming weeks or months. You’ll find these tips in Part 2 of this article here.
A Fresh Experience
The experience is fresh in my mind, so I thought I’d put it out there in the hope that it would help others avoid the errors I made and make your re entrance or launch into real life networking a little easier than I made it for myself.
So here’s my synopsis of what I learned, reminded myself of and what I would do differently. I hope it helps…often it’s the small things that catch us out!
To start with, I was putting on a dress two minutes before having to leave the house. Now Covid and menopause haven’t been particularly kind to me, so I’ve put on weight. I started sweating while trying to put on the dress and I think I pulled an intercostal muscle while trying to close the zip.
You get my drift. Not pretty. I got stressed and was distracted, which only added to not feeling particularly good in myself.
I’ve spent the past couple of years in runners, pumps, flat boots or flip flops…not a heel in sight! I had to pull out the heels which was moderately daunting. At least they still fit though!
Tights, right…into my tights box. Couldn’t find a good colour, so had to settle on something that I wasn’t happy with. I simply hadn’t thought about it in advance. AND then, I put them on and straight away, put a hole in them. No time to change so grabbed another pair and put them into my handbag just in case the ladder became visible – again a needless distraction!
I was giving a lift to a couple of people. Car pooling, company – all good I hear you think. Well normally I would say yes, but here’s the thing. Great company. Lots of chat. Still not seeing a problem?
Well I’m an introvert. I just don’t have a permanently on button. I can’t talk that much altogether. So a two hour drive to the event and two hours back, I was talked out…and I hadn’t even got to the event at that stage.
Generally speaking, I tend to travel alone to events, as I can have time with me, myself and I. I ponder life, family, work, next holiday…all the usual.
We got to the conference venue bang on time which meant that the foyer was buzzing with lots of people. I immediately became overwhelmed. I hadn’t conserved my energy, so I was starting from a back foot from the get go. Back to the heels…well I was regretting them about 30 seconds after putting them on. And that’s coming from someone who used to live in vertiginous heels. I was uncomfortable in my dress and heels…so I was distracted and overwhelmed. I just didn’t feel good in my own skin.
Not Photo Ready
I forgot about photos, so what I say to you is be photograph ready! These are the first in person events in a couple of years. Photographers are going to be present and capturing every moment so they have fresh photo stock for future promotions and marketing. If you have the chance to get a wash and blow dry, a pedicure or a beard trim…something appropriate that makes you feel better in yourself, then go all out to give yourself that boost. Confidence is priceless.
The Actual Event
After the brief cocktail session, where I was completely flustered, feeling like a proverbial duck paddling furiously to keep it together, we then moved to the conference room for lunch. I ended up having my back to the stage, which was awkward as I had to keep turning around for the speeches.
Conversation flowed at an ok pace for me. But I was struggling, as I’d done so much talking on the car journey down that I didn’t have a lot left. There was so much noise, talking, people, bright lights, moving parts…it was just too much for me on an empty battery.
This can often happen for introverts, so I had to exit for the bathroom. And of course, the bathroom was crowded, so I felt my gaze going towards the floor as I didn’t have the energy or desire to talk to anyone.
Not Getting the Desired Outcome I’d Have Planned For
It was when I got home and my mind settled that I realised I had missed great opportunities to connect with certain people I had wanted to talk to and had I planned my day better, I would have achieved my goals. Instead, through the inability to plan, I was constantly distracted and my energy was low. I didn’t make the salient connections I should have when I had the chance.
I was a shell of myself at the end of the event. My feet were sore, I was feeling terrible and then I had a two hour journey drive home. By the time I got home, I was empty. I had nothing to give anyone, and faced my three beautiful kids and my partner. All I wanted to do was go to bed. But that wasn’t fair on them, so I think we just did a movie night.
It was a day to remember for all the wrong reasons. And not one that I want to repeat any time soon. As an introvert, I absolutely have to plan for allowing my batteries to recharge. When I don’t and I’ve used up my energy resources, this then flows into the next day, so I’m not much use the day after either.
In part 2 of this blog post, I share my top tips for attending in person events in a post pandemic world.
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