How to Avoid Conference Overload
TL:DR two words: self care
In exactly 1 week from today, we will be in the midst of day 2 of the Annual Meeting! The ASPB Annual Meeting is one of the highlights of my year! I look forward to being surrounded by amazing plant scientists, getting together with colleagues, and learning new information. It is a really exciting time. It is also incredibly busy. There are three solid 12 hour days (Sat, Sun, Mon), one closer to 16 hour day (Tues), and one 5 hour day (Wed). And this is only for those attending #PlantBio19, if you're also attending #PlantSynBio19 then repeat the schedule above again. Conferences are a place to bring your A game, there is so much to learn and so many people to meet that at some point you will hit information overload. And that is OK! No one can be 100% focused for 12 - 16 hours! Do not let FOMO get in the way of self-care at a conference. So how do you avoid conference overload?
With any self-care it is important that you understand you. What little things can you do throughout the days to relax and rejuvenate yourself? Personally, I find a corner where I can get on my phone and play my apps (Star Trek Timelines, Jurassic World Alive, and Fishdom). I complete a mission, capture a dinosaur or two, play some fishy match 3 boards... these are activities that let my brain shut down for a few minutes. By giving my brain small frequent, needed, breaks I can pay better attention in workshops, presentations, and networking times.
I am a planner and list maker. When I make my to-do list the first item is "make to-do list" so I have the satisfaction of crossing it off! The Plant Biology 2019 event in the CrowdCompass app is live. Use it! Identify the talks/workshops/events that are a must see, the talks/workshops/events that are like to see, and the talks/workshops/events that you will not see. I favorite events that I would like to see and allow the app access to my calendar so that I can see each day on my calendar. From there I can change the color of each event based on must see versus like to see. During the conference if I find I am in need of a longer break all I have to do is look at my calendar and pick the best time to disappear for a bit.
Here is what I consider the most important tip to avoid conference overload, do not feel guilty for taking time away from the meeting!! Skip a talk, a concurrent session, a major symposium here and there, this is a marathon not a sprint. In Montreal, I skipped the entire major symposium before the concurrent session I was speaking in to get a leisurely breakfast. A few years ago I would have had a tremendous amount of guilt associated with that. But I've realized that taking time to relax is just as important as every other part of attending a conference.
Take time away, breath, and enjoy the conference!