This weekend, we are thrilled to host our first-ever Faith, Life, and Work Conference. It’s not too late to come, so if you’re reasonably close by, we would love to have you join us!
Over the last 15 years or so, I’ve been to more conferences than I can remember. But some have certainly been more memorable than others! As I get more invitations to speak around the country, I’ve had the opportunity to observe what makes a conference experience worthwhile from the “other side,” from both an attending and production perspective.
A few years ago, I noticed that when I took college students to Jubilee, their experience varied widely. Most of them absolutely loved it, but there was usually a small number who couldn’t wait to get home. This wasn’t based on the actual quality of the conference, but nearly always depended on the attender’s mindset, before, during, and after the conference.
So I wrote up a post for my students on how to get the most out of a conference, which I’ve now adapted for a broader audience. Here are seven ways you can make the most of your conference:
- WORK AHEAD
If possible, work ahead so that you have less to do during the conference. One of the greatest gifts you can give to others (and yourself) is the gift of presence. But if your mind is elsewhere, and if you’re stressed and preoccupied with other work, you won’t be able to experience the conference—and all that money and time will be wasted. I know not everyone thinks this way, but I like to minimize my email contact during a conference, and I don’t try to keep up with other projects unless I absolutely have to. Consider leaving an autoresponder on your email like a vacation message instructing people that you can’t be reached unless its an emergency. Give yourself some space to process and rest during and after the conference.
- READ UP
The best conferences are not about telling you what to think. They are about helping you know how to think. They equip you to join the conversation. So come prepared! Before you even come to the conference, pick a speaker’s book to read and get to know him/her a little bit.
Many conferences will also make good resources available, so bring some money, and leave some extra space in your suitcase for the books you’ll buy.
- DON’T GO ALONE
Most experiences shouldn’t be had alone. If you’re going to your conference “alone,” make it your first priority to make some friends. It’s good to have a friend to process it with, or someone you’ve been meaning to get to know better but just haven’t made the time. You can strategically hit more breakout sessions and share what you learned. Your friend may catch something, hear something or think something that you don’t. At the end of the conference, you’ll be glad he/she was there.
- STAY OPEN-MINDED & ENGAGED
During the conference, you won’t agree with everyone and everything you hear. You may be exposed to things you don’t comprehend, things you dislike, things that make you uncomfortable, things you’ve never heard before. This is a good thing. Make sure you have an active (engaged) posture, not a passive (entertain me) one.
- MEET PEOPLE
You will be one of hundreds or thousands of people there. Add highly-touted speakers into the mix, and that’s a lot of people. Connect with some ministries and organizations. Start conversations. Make connections. Network. Line up a meeting, an interview, an internship, or a job! Don’t neglect the many booths and tables that other organizations have set up. The people you meet at this conference may be of great help to you during a critical juncture in your life—and you can do the same for them..
- PACE YOURSELF
Be fully present when you’re at the conference. Aim to go to all of the main sessions and breakout sessions, but it’s ok if you don’t. Definitely take notes—you won’t remember it all! Most conferences are highly packed with information and events. You may get overwhelmed or worn out. Take the time to process and refresh yourself. Don’t hesitate to pull someone else aside and talk through something you have heard.
- APPLY IMMEDIATELY
Don’t leave your experience in the conference center. Unpack what you’ve learned and share it with your friends when you get back home. This isn’t just an ordinary trip or event–it can be a turning point in your life.