Attending Conferences 101: When You're Full You're Full

By: Sara Urquhart  Photo by: Justin Hackworth

Each Alt Summit is a similar, but distinct event, and each offers me new lessons and insights about planning and executing events, about how our Alt community works, and about human nature. Since September’s Alt for Everyone, I’ve been thinking a lot about those lessons, and I’ll be sharing them in a series of posts over the next few weeks.

Whether you’re going to a conference online or in person, a fundamental reality applies: you can only absorb so much. Though it may seem counterintuitive, accepting this reality will bring you peace of mind and make your experience more effective.

I learned this during my first trip to the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. With two full days to explore the museum, I devoured all I could the first day. When I went back the next day, I didn’t have the same stamina. Even though there were still entire wings of the museum to visit, after a few hours I had seen all I could see. My older and wiser sister-in-law helped me see the lesson: I was full, and even though I wanted more, I didn’t have room.  

So, you may want to attend every event at the conference, listen to every presentation, meet every person and gather every business card. But the truth is, at any conference, you can only have so many conversations, make so many introductions, and learn so many new things before you’re full. Our capacity to receive and digest inspiration has limits. When we’re full, we’re full.

Meeting more people and hearing more content doesn’t translate to more knowledge, so relax and enjoy yourself. When conference-goers become focused on experiencing more, they often miss out on experiencing the opportunities that are right in front of them. Having thoughtful conversations to build solid connections is more valuable than a conveyer belt approach of shaking as many hands as possible. You can’t experience everything at any conference. Accept this, and then set out to enjoy what you can to the fullest. If you do, you won’t have time worry about what you might be missing.