Following my own Advice

Here’s how I did following my own advice for navigating the spectacle of ASAE in Nashville last week.


Nashville showed us a great time!

Nashville showed us a great time!

1. Take time for silence and be mindful. Grade: C

On the positive side, I noticed the wonderful music and thoroughly enjoyed the delicious food and drink of Nashville.  Staying fully present in each session allowed me to experience ASAE in a new way.  It’s amazing what you can notice when you’re paying attention.  The C is because I did not accomplish my full 20-30 minutes of meditation each day. I managed only about 10 in my room and occasional snippets throughout the day. The biggest challenge was the sheer discombobulation of traveling and having to look fully professional before leaving my room.  Getting to sessions early was a nice way to find pockets of peace, even if only for a minute or two.

2. Use what comes naturally to help engage with others.  Grade: B+

Meaningful conversations started before I even got to the airport.  I shared a cab with a young woman from Seoul, South Korea, participating in the Bowdoin International Music Festival and visiting Maine for the first time. She’s a pianist and loved our verdant scenery and fresh air. We talked about classical music, following a passion and tea.  She ate 10 lobster rolls during her visit and says she’ll never think of lobster the same way again. I’d probably feel the same way about kim chi after visiting Seoul.

Asking people how they came to work in association management was a wonderful conversation starter and got straight to interesting stories.  Many people fall into association management and stay. The breadth of educational and professional backgrounds at the meeting was incredible- talk about interdisciplinary! And, every day I met someone else who works at a distance from their official place of employment.  How encouraging!

3. Reflect on what you see and hear. Grade: I (Incomplete)

I did a fair bit of reflecting on what I learned each day while I was at the conference.   The afternoon I got home was taken up by a nap. I was understandably exhausted from being up at 3am for 5:30am departure from Nashville.  Posts about what I learned are in development and I’ve done some research to answer questions that popped up during the week. I have at least 3 new posts based on different facets of the meeting.

4. Take fewer pictures and use the ones you take. Grade: B+

I took only 56 pictures at ASAE and used two of them in the previous post. One I tweeted to a friend during the meeting and I will use the other good ones.  The downside of taking fewer pictures was that  I missed some shots inside the conference center. I didn’t have my phone out as much and forgot.   It’s OK.  I noticed and appreciated the art while I was there and can remember without the photos.

5. Do mini-missions.  Grade: A-

I’m working on an entire post about my adventures in mini-missions. This turned out to be a fun way to focus on the parts of the conference that were meaningful to me.  I had fun following the event on Twitter and engaging with new colleagues that way.  I won’t tweet during a learning session because that, for me, is against suggestion #1 (be mindful and present).   I found authenticity everywhere, from the music permeating the streets, to the the woman caring for the rest room, to presenters and award winners.

6.  Do things just because they make you happy. Grade: A

I did visit Canada (well, the Canadians) and it did make me happy. I also visited the beer garden.  It made me happy to say “no” to some things like forcing myself to find a new session when the one I wanted was over full.  The Green Bay Packers were in town for a pre-season game and were staying at my hotel.  Had I not been up at 4:45 am that day, I would have stayed up to see them come back from the game, no question.  Instead, I called it a night.  It made me happy to say, “Go Pack, go!” to the Packer gear-wearing people I saw in Nashville during my visit, though. Getting a silly picture taken with my colleagues on the expo floor made us all happy.  The hamburger hat was my personal favorite.  We also went to Husk for dinner.  Happiness all around, even in the pouring rain.

Tootsies Orchid Lounge

Tootsies Orchid Lounge

I would also amend this advice for the next trip.

Do some things just because it makes someone else happy.

My colleague and her friend are big country music fans.  It was fun to see them enjoying the music and simply being in Nashville.  We had a drink in the famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge on Sunday and they got me out on the floor to “learn” line dancing during the closing celebration at the Wildhorse Saloon.  I wouldn’t have done these things on my own and it was fun.

All in all, I did pretty well.  We’ll see if I can improve at the next conference.



Six ways to be more intentional and have more fun at a conference

Have you ever come home from a conference exhausted and wondering what the heck just happened?

This happens to me, especially at large conferences like the American Society of Association Executives annual meeting and expo.  ASAE is large (5,000 people here, I think) and has more going on than one simple person like me can follow. I am a dust bunny and it’s Spring Cleaning.  The glitz factor alone fills me with awe. The meeting in Los Angeles  was book ended by private concerts with Melissa Etheridge and Cyndy Lauper.    Country music is not my thing, so I can’t be as enthusiastic about the big name musicians here this year.  My country loving colleague says they’re amazing.  The speakers are top-notch too.  We’re hearing from Adam Grant, professor at Penn’s Wharton School about his book, “Give and Take” for the opening session. I’m chuffed!  ( I picked up a few of British expressions living in Canada.  I love this word and will not give it up.)

ASAE 2014 Annual Meeting

ASAE 2014 Annual Meeting

There is a certain echelon for whom all this would not be entirely unusual. To me, it is another universe. I prefer to sparkle quietly, and in a small group.   These are the strategies I’ve developed  for giving my best and having a great time at this big, bold, bodacious meeting.

1. Take time for silence and be mindful.

My meditation and mindfulness practices help keep me grounded and bring me back when I get swept away. Every meeting has spaces  away from the swirling energy of the crowd. Find them and use them during breaks, even if it’s only 5 minutes.  You can also practice mindfulness by simply noticing what you eat, how it tastes, and how it smells.  It’s a good way to avoid overeating and proves especially useful when trying to find the appetizer line in a crowded hallway like we had last night.

2. Use what comes naturally to help engage with others.

My intentions for this conference are to deepen my connection to my colleagues, to collect and share useful nuggets of information, and to have more meaningful conversations, even if it means having fewer of them.  My evaluator question-asking skills can help here.   “Where do you work?” can beecome “What’s the most rewarding part of your work?” Job titles reveal nothing.  Stories get to what matters.

3. Reflect on what you see and hear.

Too often conference wisdom stays in our notebooks. This year I’m writing an abstract about each session and sharing it with my colleagues. I’ll post the best stuff here and tell you why I think it matters.

4. Take fewer pictures and use the ones you take.

Snapping pictures takes me out of the moment and I usually do nothing with the photos. This year, if I’m taking pictures I intend to use them. Here’s a picture of the delicious Goo Goo Cluster the fine folks from Nashville had waiting for us at the airport.  Chewy, chocolate perfection!

Nashville treat, the Goo Goo cluster.  Yum yum!

Nashville treat, the Goo Goo cluster. Yum yum!

5. Do mini-missions.

What’s a mini-mission?  It’s a small, fun, self-imposed activity that you think will improve the conference experience for you or someone else.  This year I’m stretching  how I use social media.  Not just tweeting and snapping pictures but trying to add value.   I’m also on the lookout for  expressions of authenticity to balance the high production factor of the meeting.  Last, I’m hunting for pithy phrases and quotes.

6. Do a few things for no other reason than you know they will make you happy.

I’m going to visit Canada  in Nashville!  Why? Because Canada and Canadians make me happy, like heart filled with joy, can I please come home with you happy.  Business Events Canada is in booth 1517. Visit them. They’ll make you happy too. If my recommendation is not enough, they have a beer garden.

How do you bring your best to conferences?