Staying Well at Conferences & Events
by Daniel Parsons
Health is a priority concern in the world right now. Pretty much every major conference across the globe has been closed thanks to COVID-19, but remaining healthy at conferences has been a constant issue long before the coronavirus broke out and it will continue to be one when everything goes back to normal.
Indeed, many writers admit that they don’t attend conferences as much as they want to because they get sick during or directly after events. It makes sense – events can be stressful, particularly if you’re a natural introvert. On top of that, the conference experience is characterised by a lack of sleep, unsanitary public transport and drinking too much at the complimentary bar.
Losing your heath is an omnipresent concern, and the effects seem worse when you’re working and want to be on your A-game. Thankfully, there are things you can do year-round to protect yourself, regardless of whether we are living in the shadow of a pandemic.
MAINTAIN A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
If you insist your body is a temple then you should give it strong enough foundations to weather any storm. The best way to start is by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. That way, your immune system will be tough enough to fight off illnesses without much trouble. Staying fit and sticking to a balanced diet are key in your daily life. However, you should also consider maintaining that lifestyle when travelling or at a conference.
I know it isn’t easy. Healthy travel snacks aren’t commonplace and exercising in hotel rooms isn’t always practical. Don’t worry. Nobody’s expecting you to be perfect. You just need to make sure you do a little walking and avoid binging on junk food at every opportunity.
When travelling, it’s tempting to add cream to your hot chocolate or grab a cupcake with lunch. Likewise, taking a taxi from your hotel to the conference sounds more fun than a 20-minute walk. However, choosing the wiser option will keep you feeling energised for longer.
GO EASY ON THE DRINKS
Companies of every type like to be seen as the focal point of their industry and publishing is no different. One common thing they do to achieve this effect is provide a free bar at social hotspots. That way, other industry professionals get to know their brand and view them favourably. Of course, when you’re having fun and talking shop with other writers, it can be easy to overindulge. Free prosecco leads to beers and beers evolve into shots. Before you know it, you’re waking up in your hotel room nursing a queasy stomach and a sore head.
Drinking to enjoy the night is fine but slowing your pace mid-party is an effective way to ensure you wake up the next morning with energy, willpower and the positive attitude you need to uphold your healthy standards. Plus, it means you won’t be left trying to shake a hangover with greasy or sugary foods that will ultimately make you feel worse.
Rest is vital for humans to operate efficiently. Studies suggest that adults need a minimum of seven hours a night to stay healthy unless you’re a genetic outlier, which is extremely rare. In most cases, even those who believe they have trained their brain to run on much less aren’t really fine; their brains have just forgotten what it feels like to operate on a healthy amount of sleep and so have reasoned that their current state is standard. It’s like someone with a visual impairment who never gets glasses. They don’t know what they’re missing unless they see the world the way it’s meant to be experienced.
Cramming as many waking hours as possible into your day is appealing, especially during long conferences. It’s understandable, too. You want to be up early for seminars and you want to be included in late-night afterparties, but finding a balance is critical. If you skip the odd early morning or late night, your body will benefit. High-quality sleep encourages weight loss, optimises memory, nurtures creativity and makes you feel more alert. So, if you want to feel revitalised, remember more names and spit ball your best ideas at meetings, allowing yourself to sleep more might be your answer.
Technology is so ingrained in our lives that it’s almost impossible to do anything without it. Want to get in touch with a friend or associate? There are hundreds of apps you can use to reach them. What about relaxing in your spare time? Switch on your tablet or phone and you can access millions of books, movies, TV shows and games. What about joining an exercise class? There are thousands of free alternatives on YouTube.
The internet is a blessing for networking activities, too. You can organise meetups and contact anyone who’s attending the same conference as you, even if you don’t know them personally. However, this hyper-connectivity is also a curse because it’s addictive. Social media sites are designed to keep you hooked, which isn’t great for your productivity or wellbeing. Add on top the overwhelming visual demand your brain experiences at conferences and you can see why taking a break from your screen at them is more important than ever.
Not only does the blue light keep you wired and disrupt your sleep but social media’s effects lead to comparisonitis and FOMO. If you don’t disconnect at some point, you run out of mental bandwidth and are left feeling frazzled.
When packing for networking events, consider what you could take to fill your alone time that doesn’t involve screens. That way, you can stay fresh and healthy. Perhaps an adult colouring book would help, or a paperback novel, or some running shoes so you can go for a jog to clear your head rather than watching Netflix in your hotel room.
Possibly the most poignant point on this list is the focus on hygiene. Still, people often forget this element when they’re not bombarded with news of a pandemic. We all do it, touching door handles and shaking hands with people every day. Meeting so many creative professionals is thrilling but it does open you up to viruses which can have a detrimental effect on your performance.
You can minimise the risks of catching something unsavoury, however, with simple and effective steps. Carrying a small bottle of hand sanitiser and using it regularly will minimise your risk of getting a bug but so will only eating from restaurants you know and trust. One pro tip many people overlook is washing any appliances in your hotel room before you use them to ensure no germs are left over from previous guests. That one trick can help you circumvent a tripwire that catches far too many travelling writers.
ADD A BUFFER
Humans are naturally inclined to think optimistically, particularly when it comes to estimating how much they can get done. However, that optimism doesn’t usually account for lapses in motivation and freak factors they can’t control. As a result, optimism can lead to a lot of stress. In his hit documentary I Am Not Your Guru, the successful lifestyle and business strategist Toby Robbins says, “Most people overestimate what they can do in a year and they underestimate what they can do in two or three decades.” And this effect is even more apparent when it comes to estimating how much you can achieve in a day.
High-performing writers rely on routines, plans and habits to write huge wordcounts every month without burning out, but they’re less meticulous when planning their travel. They underestimate how long things take, leave too much to chance, and end up worrying because they don’t allow themselves any buffer time.
Preparing your networking experience in advance and adding contingency time into your plans can help you overcome this problem. Whether you’re calculating how long it takes to walk between meetings or how early you should start packing before your hotel departure deadline, giving yourself a few extra minutes than you think you’ll need is sure to leave you feeling more organised and less anxious, which will reduce your odds of falling ill.
Follow all of the guidelines in this blog post and your conference experiences should be happier, healthier and more effective, allowing you to engage with everyone you meet to the best of your ability and keep going for longer without getting sick and missing vital writing days.
Grab Your SPF Freebies!
Sign up to receive your SPF starter package, which includes a free 3 part video series on getting started with FB ads, and inspirational and educational weekly emails.