While I don’t have the pleasure of attending the Orange Conference in Atlanta this year, I did get to go 2 years ago (see what I learned here) and I went to Orange Tour last fall. (top Orange Tour Quotes here). If you can’t go this year either, check out the live stream– that is what I am doing!
Whether it is your first time, or you are returning, the sheer size of the conference may be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are 3 tips that I would give you based on my past experiences.
#1 Don’t feel like you need to attend everything
It’s true, there are a ton of choices- it could be very easy to become overwhelmed looking at the schedule of sessions and breakout sessions. Look through and plan ahead. I have always made my breakout choices based on the speaker, or the content of the session. Sometimes there were more than one option that I would have enjoyed hearing (in which case I attended one and ordered audio of the other). Other times there was nothing that stood out to me, so I did the unthinkable- I skipped that session! Remember, as much as this is a time to learn and grow, it is also a time to get away from the every day routine. Don’t be afraid to skip a session and take some time for yourself. Take a walk, find a place to sit and think, or even go back to your room to find some time to process. Just as you will learn a bunch in all of your sessions, God can use your time alone to speak to you.
#2 Interaction over information
By this I mean networking. Look around and you will see hundreds of like minded people. You will have an opportunity to hear the sessions at a later time (order the audio) but you may not have a chance to have coffee with that leader you have watched from a distance. That guy you met at lunch may be able to help you implement your next big idea. The people you sit next to could become your biggest encourages, Don’t get me wrong, the speakers are speaking for a reason. It is because they have something to say that can help those who hear. And you should attend the sessions. But, like I mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t feel like you need to attend everything. As Jim Wideman once said, if you walk away from a conference without someone’s phone number or email, if you walk away without new friends you can talk to later, you missed the boat. (paraphrased from CM+ leadership training on networking).
#3 Use social media
More than once I have been in a conference setting and used social media to connect with people I had met virtually, but never in person. It is awesome to physically meet someone I had know virtually for a while. More than once, the social media acquaintance turned into a real friend after meeting. I have phone numbers and friendships have extended well beyond the virtual level. Twitter is a fantastic tool. Not only will you be able to share 140 characters of inspiration with the rest of the world by using appropriate hashtags, you will also be able to see who is at the conference with you. See someone you want to say hi to in person? Send them a tweet and more than likely you will have your chance to meet in person before the day is over.
If you have a blog, post your notes. There are lots of people that will attend the conference vicariously through you(like me). I would suggest posting live while at the conference. Not only will it help you remember what you are learning, it will also help you connect and network with others as they read your notes. If you don’t have a blog, find somewhere to guest post (just ask! I would love you to post here if you are interested).
I am not a conference expert, but I do think that if you take some of the advice above you will improve your conference experience.
Are you attending the Orange Conference this year? What do you hope to learn? Be sure to share your experiences so we can learn through you!