9 Tips to Maximize Your Conference Experience: Lessons from WDS 2013

Maximizing Your Conference Experience

World Domination Summit (WDS) 2013

World Domination Summit

I just got back from the World Domination Summit (WDS).  This ain’t your ordinary conference.  Not by a long shot.

Maximizing a conference experience

Donald Miller, closing speaker at WDS

Founded by best-selling author, world traveler, and thought leader Chris Guillebeau, WDS 2013 attracted over 2,800 amazing, creative people (mostly entrepreneurs) from all over the world for a weekend centered around community, adventure, and service.  No corporate sponsorship, just amazing individuals answering the question of how to live a remarkable life in a conventional world.

Speakers included Nancy Duarte, Darren Rowse, Bob Moore, Jia Jiang, Chase Jarvis, Gretchen Rubin, Tess Vigeland, Steve Schalchin, and Donald Miller.  Look them up.  They’re all well-worth knowing.  We had meet-ups and parties all over Portland.  For the closing party, an entire city block downtown was closed to dance Bollywood-style with DJ Prashant.

What WDS Meant to Me

I have to actively resist the impulse to stab people in the neck when they describe every minute detail of some adventure I missed.  Because I like my jugular intact and couldn’t capture the magic anyway, I won’t event attempt to describe the WDS magic.

Maximizing a conference experience

With Mike and Brandi at the After Party, WDS 2013

I will say it was one of the best experiences of my life.

I felt alive, engaged, and connected.

I was inspired by attendees as much as by the speakers.

I received priceless career and personal advice.

I made some terrific friends.

And I danced my ass off (not literally – it’s still present and accounted for).

Rocking a Conference

As I left, I thought about why this experience was so fan-freaking-tastic.  Nine reasons emerged.  Next time you’re at an event, try a few (or all) of these – and let me know how it goes.

WDS 2013 After Party, with DJ Prashant

WDS 2013 After Party, with DJ Prashant

  1.  Go full immersion.  Say yes to everything you can.  Don’t hide out in your room, take care of other business, or opt to go home when your feet are tired.  Plan some downtime when you leave if you need it, but engage full-force – isn’t that why you’re there?
  2.  Connect with as many people as possible.  Be open, have a thought-out introduction, and meet, meet, meet.  Ask friends to connect you.  If you don’t know anyone, try to introduce yourself virtually beforehand to a few people so you’re already introduced and just meeting in person.  (If you’re an introvert, rest up and take timeouts to recharge.)
  3.  Ask questions and get help.  Being a WDS virgin, I was a little overwhelmed with all the possible events, meet-ups, etc.  By copping to my ignorance and asking a lot of questions, I found fantastic things to do and even got on a few very closed guest lists.
  4. Gently deal with feeling intimidated.  Spending time in crowds of impressive strangers you’d like to be friends can be tough, so take breaks to stay grounded.  Although I’m mostly an extrovert, I need micro-timeouts to breathe and calm my negative head chatter so I can be fully present.
  5. Swap introductions with friends.  Tell a new person all about your awesome friend – and have them do the same for you.  My friend Mike and I did this – it was a fun!  It gets a bunch of interesting info out about you right away so folks have a sense of who you are and how you can connect – without sounding like an asshat.
  6. Bring the experience home.  Instead of staying alone in a hotel, get roommates so you can bond, brainstorm, and recap 24/7.  If you’re an event newbie, you have a built-in posse.  Your pad can also be a gathering place.  Eight of us rented a house, and it felt like family.
  7.  Be a host with the most.  Even if you just invite one person to coffee, it’s a nice gesture.  Hosting makes you memorable, hones your Connector skills, and feels damn good.  The value often comes from outside the officialconference – I got as much from connecting with people at our barbeque and other meet-ups than I did at the official WDS.

    Maximizing a conference experience

    Shaking it down at the After-After Party

  8.  Be yourself.  I’m pretty much always me, but I still sometimes make myself a bit smaller or dim down when I’m in anew situation or feel intimidated.  If you want your people to find you, however, they have to see you.  Notice when you’re dimming (or however you hide who you are), breathe and get centered, and show yourself.  It’s like beaming a homing signal to your peeps.
  9. Remember you’re never too old to rock it.  While I still get insecure about getting older (and was at the higher end of the WDS age range), I’m getting much better about it.  In some ways, it’s a source of pride that I have the energy and courage (most of the time) to dare to do something different in my 40’s.  I lasted a lot longer than most on that dance floor, and it made me feel fantastically, deliciously alive.

I hope you experience your next event in a whole new way, and I’d love to connect with you at WDS 2014 or somewhere else!  In the meantime, share your event-rocking tips in the comments.

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9 Responses to “9 Tips to Maximize Your Conference Experience: Lessons from WDS 2013”

  1. Jessica Scheer July 15, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    Love these takeaways Mary Beth!

    So glad we got to connect and be roomies at WDS!!


    • Mary Beth Leisen July 15, 2013 at 10:47 am #

      Thanks, Jessica! Having time with you was a HUGE highlight! Oh, the memories… :-)

  2. Mindy Crary July 15, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    Wow, maybe I should make you be MY roommate for 2014 :o) You sound like you would be a perfect companion for me, an introvert who made several mistakes from your list :o) Seriously though, this is a great list and peeps in their 40s are the awesomest!!

    • Mary Beth Leisen July 15, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

      Hahaha – love it! Having roommates makes it such a good experience – I loved having the safety of numbers. It makes it so much easier to deal with the fear and anxiety that comes up in new situations.

      Thanks so much for writing – it made my day. And here’s to people in their 40’s – hooray!!

  3. Caelan Huntress July 16, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    Full immersion is the only way to go with a conference like this. I went in as a sponge, soaking up every experience I could, and it’s going to be months of introspection before I’m done processing it all!

    You’re right about hosting events, too. Even if it’s just to show yourself as a leader, hosting is the surest way to augment your reputation.

    • Mary Beth Leisen July 16, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

      Caelan, I love the sponge analogy. And I agree – it’ll be months before it all soaks in. Between the content and the connections, it’ll be the gift that keeps on giving. Hosting is great – I have friends who do meet-ups in every city they go to. I haven’t done that yet but intend to start. Make sure to invite me to your events! :-)

  4. Melissa Maris July 19, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    I can’t wait for the fullblown recap. I want to take you with me to the next event I attend so you can whisper these 9 things in my ear the whole time.


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