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Four Ways to Stay Focused at a Conference

focusWhen you speak at a conference, it’s always interesting to see how people in the audience are actually paying attention…and I mean paying complete attention.

Many people are checking email, doing work, updating social media profiles, writing blog posts or chatting with the person beside them. There’s no rule about doing something other than listening intently but you wonder how much value people are really getting from the different sessions.

So how can people focus at a conference such as meshmarketing? Here are some ideas:

1. Email: Let’s face it, we’re slaves to email. No matter the approach being used, the inbox is a seductive, irresistible beast. It is the ultimate attention-killer.

The solution: One, give yourself three windows to check email: before the sessions start, during lunch and after the last session (but before the after-party). Two, check email during the three or four breaks between sessions. Both approaches offer a balance between keeping on top of email, while still carving out time to digest what the people on stage are saying.

2. Social media: This is also a huge threat to staying focused at a conference; the need to offer updates to the people not at the conference about what’s happening at the conference. It’s like people feel the duty to deliver a public service by providing continual updates on interesting comments and opinions. But at what cost to really focusing on what’s being said?

The solution: Take notes during a session, and fire off updates afterward. Using tools such as Buffer, HootSuite or TweetDeck, you can provide plenty of social media ground cover in a small amount of time.

3. Working: It is a challenge for some people to escape the office to attend a conference because there’s always work to be done (and, sadly, there always will be). It means many people do work at a conference so they can, theoretically, eat their cake and have it too. The question is whether the work or the speakers get the attention they deserve.

The solution: Go through the conference schedule to identify the sessions that offer the most value. It could be only two or three, but be focused when attending. For the sessions that aren’t interesting or relevant, make them work time by either going to a session and paying little attention or, even better, sitting outside a session where there few distractions.

4. Networking: One of the biggest reasons people attend a conference is connecting with new people and friends/colleagues. It’s a great place to catch up personally and professionally, especially at a time when people have a tough time getting out of the office. But networking during a session can be distracting and annoying to the people around you.

Solution: This is where healthy breaks throughout the day are so valuable because they give people time to really connect. Whether it’s a 15-minute break for coffee or a long lunch break, it’s where networking can thrive.

As we talked about in a previous blog post, conferences are a great opportunity to meet new people, be inspired and explore ideas. To get the most out of a conference, it means giving yourself the luxury and time to embrace the moment as opposed to trying to multi-task to meet different masters.

For people attending meshmarketing on Nov. 7, I hope the suggestions above are food for thought as you spend the day listening to a great line-up of digital marketers.