This guide specifically references my own personal experiences straight out of college at a certain January healthcare conference in San Francisco, but it’s applicable for any fresh-faced yuppie trying to navigate their first conference, meeting, symposium or interstellar peace summit.
First, you must give a shit. I’m sorry to drop mild profanity in the first sentence, but it’s true. You must want to succeed for reasons beyond your bonus, review, paycheck or business card collection. Otherwise you’re in the wrong business and you should stop right here and go read a self-help book. Or a coming-of-age novel. Or just listen to some Bon Iver and look smug. You must really give a shit about what you’re doing because you want to learn and grown.
Second, prepare. If you’re part of the planning team re-read every single thing you’ve created at least two, nay, three dozen times. Write down what you need to do and where you need to be. Write down what other people need to do and where other people need to be. Cross-reference. Repeat. Make lists. Lots of lists. Store them in Dropbox. Put Dropbox on your phone and your iPad (you should get an iPad). Read your lists again. Check your documents. Proof read your documents. Then do it all again.
Third, get smart on things that aren’t your job. Know things about your industry that you don’t technically need to know. Read blogs from last year’s event. Read a history of the industry. Google stalk anyone you might meet. Yelp the area restaurants and bars. Get an Uber account. Now forget it all. You don’t need to go around town dropping knowledge bombs. Timing is everything. Keep just enough information in your brain to be interesting, informed and prepared in case of emergencies. And keep lists. Keep your lists close to the vest. Check them frequently.
Fourth, listen up. Don’t excuse yourself until you’re asked to leave and don’t try to interject. Just listen. You’ll learn a lot and then you can go drop those knowledge bombs somewhere appropriate.
Fifth, it’s an oft quoted and parodied phrase but I think that’s because it’s such an important mantra. Keep Calm, my friends. Keep Calm and Carry On. And by all means, smile. Make it a real smile. Think of a funny joke if you must. Here’s one: What did the fish say when he swam into a wall?
Finally, try to remember that there is always more alcohol. I’m sure whoever you are you would never, ever allow yourself to be over-served in a professional situation. Ever. But when you’re making just enough to cover rent and suddenly you have seven open bars and an after party in a row, it’s hard to remember that you don’t need to hoard alcohol in your stomach. But you don’t. I promise. Nor should you try to store extra drinks in your purse or backpack. It’s bad for your electronics. Speaking of which, bring extra chargers.
That’s all I’ve got. Good luck. If you get really strung out call (719) 26-OATES. Press 2 for Rich Girl.
Oh, the answer was, “Dam.”
Mad props to a one @chriserdman. Who taught me most of what I know.