Hundreds of presentations, panels and symposiums were offered each day and as I attended a fairly full schedule of my own, I could not help but to reminisce about how similar this was to high school. Here we are “attending classes” for an hour or two at a time, having 10 minutes to get to our next “class” while trying to catch up with all of our friends and colleagues, and repeating until the end of the day. It can be difficult to absorb all of this important information and, if you are like me, you might experience “conference brain” – that slight feeling of being disoriented, enlightened, excited and exhausted.
From previous conference experiences, I’ve adapted a couple methods to help me stay present and excited throughout a long day:
- Pace Yourself – While there are so many great workshops and presentations to go to, don’t forget to schedule appropriate breaks. Allow and plan for time to digest a presentation, discuss it with colleagues, and take notes before moving on to the next session.
- Fresh Air – Air conditioning can feel nice, especially on a warm D.C. summer day. However, dark or dimly lit presentation or workshop rooms can bring a sense of sleepiness, especially if it is your fifth workshop of the day. Try to take some time to walk outside and get some sunlight, breathe some fresh air and take in the sites that D.C. has to offer.
- Acceptance and Non-Judgment – When I was a graduate student attending conferences, I always felt the need to attend every session every hour that I was at the conference to ensure that made the most of my time and money. The truth is, I cannot remember half of those sessions and that was likely attributed to attending with conference brain. Notice that if there is self-judgment — i.e., “I should go” — and try to practice self-care and self-compassion. You can allow this convention to be both educational and enjoyable.
If you have additional tips or tricks that you’d like to share on how to reduce conference brain, I’d love to hear about it in a comment or in a tweet with #APA2014.