One Word to Increase Your Conference Enjoyment



The past couple of conferences I attended felt more relaxed. Of course, “relaxed” is a relative term in relation to conferences. I am so very grateful that people want to see me, talk to me, meet with me, dine with me. Don’t go away! Without you, I wouldn’t be blessed with this career. Thank you.

But I talked to a couple of people at ACFW who admitted to me that they had turned down one or two meetings and obligations so they could recharge. And though I didn’t intentionally do this, I found myself with a couple of unfilled time slots. I took a deep breath and used those times to recharge, too.

No one understands the urgency of the conference experience more than I do. We all only have one chance to meet and greet people who can be key to our careers. Five minutes can be lifechanging. But are we really doing ourselves a favor if we cram every moment for several days to the point we can hardly think? Will we be our best at key meetings — or any meetings — if we appeared disorganized and incoherent simply because we overscheduled?

Granted, we are all going to be tired, a bit bleary, overly excited, and inclined to misspeak or make other mistakes during any conference. I can’t recall a single conference where my hair did what it was supposed to every day, all my shoes felt great, and I gave the perfect answer to every question. But feeling a little less tired gives us all that much more confidence as we go out into the conference world. And for that matter, in our world any day.

I’ll speculate you have guessed the word. The word is “No.” Turn down the non-essentials so you can be at your best at the essentials. You’ll be healthier and happier for it!

Your turn:

What is the do-not-miss activity for you at conference?
What is the one obligation you may now consider saying “no” to?

31 Responses to One Word to Increase Your Conference Enjoyment

  1. Avatar
    Ron Estrada September 26, 2013 at 3:58 am #

    Funny you mention it. I was only registered for Saturday and attended Jim Bell’s all day class. It was an opportunity that rarely comes my way. However, I’d been scheduled with four agent meetings. I decided that learning from the master was more important than pitching to every agent I could. Since Karen Ball is my first choice, I met with her and one other, and I told him I wasn’t pitching but just seeking career advice. The other two, though wonderful agents, I cancelled. So I guess that’s the one thing I wouldn’t pass up. When I have an oppotunity to learn from the best, I’m not going to pass it up. Karen was awesome, by the way.

  2. Avatar
    Debby Mayne September 26, 2013 at 3:59 am #

    Wise words, Tamela. I took a few breathers at this last conference, and it made a big difference. It’s too easy to overload and overbook.

  3. Avatar
    Jackie Layton September 26, 2013 at 4:01 am #

    Because I don’t have an agent yet, I focused on agent appointments only. I was so excited to meet you after following you online the past year.

    I attended all of my classes because there is so much to learn. They were great, especially James Scott Bell.

    In working with the public, I’ve learned at the end of the day a little quiet time helps me recharge. At conference I tried to find a few minutes alone in the late afternoon before the next activity.

    This was only my second writing conference, and I’m so glad I went.

  4. Avatar
    Martha Rogers September 26, 2013 at 5:27 am #

    Good advice, Tamela. I met myself coming and going this year because I love volunteering and getting to see so many people. Even missed one appointment, but fortunately she had an empty slot and met with me. My favorite event is the Gala on Saturday night and seeing everyone all dressed up. The excitement is wonderful. The classes were great this year, but I did miss one to take time to refuel and recharge. Loved the time we had together although it wasn’t much, but I know you’re always there for me if I need you. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Avatar
      Jenny Leo September 26, 2013 at 8:52 am #

      I was so happy we were seated at the same table at the Gala, Martha. I enjoyed talking with you.

      I, on the other hand, did not schedule sufficient rest time and at moments felt as tightly strung as a violin. I let my fear of missing out on something override my common sense.Next time I’ll remember to leave some breathing room.

  5. Avatar
    Nancy B. Kennedy September 26, 2013 at 5:33 am #

    It’s ridiculously easy to relax (and hard to buckle down) when the conference is held someplace really nice. When CWG’s Writing for the Soul conference is held at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, I skip sessions to swim laps in the outdoor lap lane. The tricky part is running through the snow back to the locker room!

  6. Avatar
    Angie Dicken September 26, 2013 at 5:44 am #

    This is such great advice, Tamela. I really overdid it this conference. I am a night owl, but I should have known that I just wouldn’t get the same rest sleeping in a hotel bed and I should have gone to bed earlier. If I could say “no” to one thing, it would be the late nights. I was so exhausted one morning I left breakfast and went right back upstairs to lay down. I never nap, but at conference, I needed one!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray September 26, 2013 at 9:40 am #

      Angie, I think it’s always better to break down and admit you need a nap — and to take one — when you can!

  7. Avatar
    Jeanne Takenaka September 26, 2013 at 6:32 am #

    N-O is a word I find myself using more. At this past ACFW, I actually missed most of my classes. I was disappointed, but the timing of my appointments made it hard. I came into conference sleep deprivedโ€”which I don’t recommend to anyone. Before one of my agent appointments, I opted for a cat nap and having a friend pray over me rather than sitting in class, as much as I wanted to be there. I purchased the CD’s and plan to listen to them to learn from what I missed.

    There were other places where I said “No” at least to myself during conference too. I took the pressure off myself to do it all, which led to a more relaxing conference.

  8. Avatar
    Rachel Muller September 26, 2013 at 6:41 am #

    This is probably irrelevant to me since I have not attended a conference, but I can identify with the burnt out feeling.

    I’v never been a night owl and probably never will be, but some days never seem to allow for a few hours to sit down and just write–that means sitting down after all the kids are in bed and inserting tooth picks into the eyelids.

    Well, last week I couldn’t do it. My kids were sick with colds, the husband was working overtime, and the house was falling apart. I hated to do it, but I had to let writing go for a couple nights. What I learned from that was rest was more important at that time and when I sat back down at the computer Monday morning my mind was refreshed and I wrote several thousand more words than I would have during those nights of pure exhaustion.

    Thanks for your insight, Tamela. Great advice for me to remember in the future.

    • Avatar
      Laurean Brooks September 26, 2013 at 7:29 am #

      Hi Tamela,

      I overscheduled classes, but it was to learn more about crafting my writing. Though everything seemed rushed and my head is still spinning–in retrospect–I can’t think of a class or meeting that I would want to give up.

      If I’d known you were available, I would have filled one of those slots. (Two, if I thought I could get by with it.) LOL You were at the top of my “agent appointment” list. But, as my mom says, “You don’t always get what you want.”

      • Avatar
        Tamela Hancock Murray September 26, 2013 at 9:42 am #

        Laurean, I’m so sorry I didn’t have a slot left. Feel free to email me any time. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Avatar
    Patti Jo Moore September 26, 2013 at 7:47 am #

    Excellent advice, Tamela. At my very first ACFW conference in 2008, I pushed myself to do everything, and came home blessed but exhausted. Since then I’ve learned to cut back a little, and it’s helped me tremendously! ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s funny, because at ACFW this year, I heard more and more attendees saying they were heading back to their hotel rooms for a nap. Not a bad idea, imho. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. Avatar
    C.L. Dyck September 26, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    Appointments and casual professional conversations at mealtimes or in the hallway are most important to me, and putting in volunteer time was high on my to-do list.

    I was exhausted this year, I think partly due to a recent death in the family. I slept day and night the whole two days’ drive down from Canada, which isn’t normal for me, and I was still very tired throughout the conference. So I just focused on the most essential conversations.

    • Avatar
      Jenny Leo September 26, 2013 at 9:12 am #

      I’m so glad I was one of those conversations! I loved talking “all things Manitoban” with you at a meal. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Avatar
    Jennifer Zarifeh Major September 26, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    Going into ACFW I had my schedule written out and actually marked when and where I knew I’d need a break. I planned to work my breaks around my appointments. I know all about overload and I know how to fight it. But…what I did NOT expect was having an agent offer to represent me at 9am Sunday morning! Nope, I did not factor that in AT ALL.
    Talk about a sweet wrench in my plans!!
    But, I had to haul myself over to dear Casey Miller at 9:55am and say ‘no’ to Steve Laube.
    It was, for me, the BEST ‘no’ ever!

    I jokingly tell people I ‘dumped’ Steve Laube before he even had a chance. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube September 26, 2013 at 11:11 am #

      Jennifer, Now I know why you didn’t show for our scheduled appointment. :-0


      • Avatar
        Jennifer Zarifeh Major September 26, 2013 at 11:24 am #

        I was too busy freaking out. And since I’d already screamed “I met Frank Peretti in an elevator!”, umm, AT Frank Peretti, I figured I didn’t need to bust in at 10am and and say “HimrlaubeI’mjenniferandI’vealreadygotanagent!!” and run back out the door.
        So, I left the veritable Casey Miller to ruin your morning. ๐Ÿ˜‰
        BTW? The book takes place in Flagstaff, Arizona, just so you know I had already planned by which angle I’d spin my web.

      • Avatar
        Steve Laube September 26, 2013 at 11:33 am #

        No worries. The waiting list was rather lengthy so someone else gladly took the spot you vacated.

  12. Avatar
    Laurean Brooks September 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    Thanks, Tamela. I do plan to email you (if I can find your email addy), because I was asked to send a book proposal to one of the major publishing houses. I sent it a few days ago and am waiting to hear back.

    I’m just not sure how this works. Do I need a definite “We want your entire manuscript” BEFORE I contact and agent? I’d like to know everything is set in place properly, but I don’t want to attempt to read a confusing contract on my own, either–if I’m offered one.

  13. Avatar
    Laurean Brooks September 26, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    Hey Steve!

    Remember me? You sat down at my table Friday evening. I enjoyed chatting with you. I’m one with the name tag, “Infected with Humor.” You got a kick out of “Infected” and suggested “Saturated” might be a better word.

    “Infected” probably wasn’t the best word. I guess I think of humor as “infectious” or “contagious.” LOL.

    Whichever way, I was delighted when asked to send a book proposal to Bethany House.

  14. Avatar
    Hannah Currie September 27, 2013 at 3:47 am #

    I’m jealous! ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyone know of any conferences in Australia? Finding it hard to get my writing to anyone since I’m a looooong way away…. Loving all the discussions though. Makes me feel not so far away!

  15. Avatar
    Lee Carver September 27, 2013 at 9:45 am #

    The conference had no Spotlight on various publishers running until 10 pm this year and no Chocolate Party, both of which contributed to my stamina and good health. I arrived early and did it all! Early Bird to PS, and attended every class I’d registered for, plus registration duty and two reports for the Journal. I even picked up two extra interviews. Was it because my roomie was my husband and we had a couple of lovely date nights during the conference? Was it despite my 68th birthday as the conference ended? Whatever the reasons, I relaxed and enjoyed learning and catching up with friends.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray September 27, 2013 at 9:53 am #

      Lee, what fun! I’m glad I brought some life-sustaining chocolate to my appointment table. You should have taken more! ๐Ÿ™‚

      And happy belated birthday!

  16. Avatar
    Peter DeHaan September 27, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    I frequently say “no” to good ideas and opportunities, but that allows me to have room to say “yes” to the very best ones.


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