There are over 80 program sessions to attend and over a thousand attendees at this event. As a frequent attendee of conferences I have learned to practice the 3 P’s:
Patience – With so many people attending a conference get ready to wait a lot. From check-in at the hotel to registration for the conference there will be lines. It is unavoidable, so instead of allowing the negative feelings of anger, frustration and the anxiety of being amongst so many strangers creep into your mind use the time to do something positive – like pray!
Prioritize your time – There is a limited amount of time for you to do everything that you’ve planned to do during the conference, so I always use my digital calendar to help keep me on track with making contacts, attending sessions and social time.
The other thing that I do is to actually Google the speakers who will be presenting the sessions that I’m attending. Many of these speakers will have social media pages that you can review to find additional resources to help you implement what they share in a session. Finding the social assets for one of the keynote speakers Dr. Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, was very valuable to me as a social media strategist.
A review of her Google search results revealed she had a LinkedIn profile and I sent her a connection request immediately, with a personal note about my excitement about hearing her speak at ICSC. Additionally, she has a website that helped me to learn more about her and review other presentations she’d done and a link to buy her book “Connected Toward Communion: The Church and Social Communication in the Digital Age”.
Sharing tips, quotes and pictures from a conference boosts your social media engagement and influence. I couldn’t find an official hashtag for ICSC so I created one #ICSC2016 to share what I’m learning at the conference on my social media pages. For my followers who couldn’t come it’s great to share these little nuggets of information to help them with their learning, for the speakers it’s free publicity and in the world of social media it boosts their “Social Cred” [translation credibility of the speakers knowledge in the social media world] and lastly, it just might boost attendance at next year’s conference when people see what they missed.
Connections are so key for you to really feel as though you’re getting the best bang for the bucks you are spending and time away from the parish work you do. Be strategic about the contacts you wish to make during a conference. That means doing your homework before the conference starts to ensure you make the connections you came to make. In the old days I would collect business cards with the full intention of reaching out to all the contacts I made – sound familiar?
Now I use technology to help me really connect with the people I meet. Instead of physically taking their card, take a picture of it with your smartphone then send an email to yourself with the card attached and a note about what to do with the connection.
An example might be after attending Session 5 “Using Smartphone Technology to Reach All of Your Parishioners”, you meet the speaker Peggy O’Flaherty from One Parish App she hands you a card – then you take a picture of her card then attach it to an email to yourself to drop by the One Parish App booth to ask them about some aspect of the presentation she shared. Let’s say something happens and you don’t make it to the booth, now you have an email to remind you to email her about the question or call her after the conference is over to follow-up. I know genius – right!
Be comfortable! As a woman thankfully the days of having to be so buttoned up have passed and heels and hose are not required – for the male readers translation for you would be suits and ties. Dress for comfort, bring healthy snacks to boost brain power and energy and don’t forget to drink water – “gotta hydrate to operate”.
Another helpful practice during a conference is to take a hotel room break during the day. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m really an “introvert” masquerading as an “extrovert” – which requires a lot of ENERGY! The amount of energy it takes to interact with hordes of people can really be exhausting for your mental and physical health, so plan your escapes during the conference so you can recharge to have the energy you need to turn on the charm or chase down that must meet contact. If you exert all your energy in advance of when it’s needed, then it limits your opportunity for getting the best out of the conference experience.
Usually, I’m attending a secular conference, so I have to research the Catholic churches in the area to find one to attend on a Sunday away from my home parish. It is always so nice for me to visit other parishes. You learn a lot about the parish culture and diversity of how others celebrate mass. Although mass won’t be offered on Sunday, we are so fortunate because this conference is providing mass each evening and access to a chapel on conference days. This creates a wonderful spiritual opportunity for you to be in communal prayer for a common need in your individual parishes that the global church will benefit from. Personally, you can have the Eucharist more than just one day of this week and get some much needed meditation time without the distractions of our daily lives.
I hope these tips help you to get the best out of #ICSC and if your parish is looking for ideas to implement using social media stop by the Church Social Tips Booth #709 or just come by and tell me in person if you like this blog.
Peace of Christ be with YOU!