Friends, it’s happening. Relativity Fest is in less than two weeks! This year’s conference is a milestone for me: it’s my tenth Fest.
With a decade of experience comes a decade of memories and a handful of lessons learned. But even for us old pros, heading to a big conference can be … a tad bit overwhelming. So much to see! So much to do! So little time!
So today I’m sharing some lessons I’ve learned over the past 10 years. Hopefully, one of these tips can make your Fest even better.
#1: Write down your goals beforehand. And be specific.
Last week, Sam Bock shared five tips for building your agenda. As you’re going through that exercise, ask yourself, “What does a successful Relativity Fest look like for me?”
Maybe there are certain people you want to catch up with or meet for the first time. Or maybe you’d like to make three new connections. Is there a particular problem your firm or organization is facing? And if so, what session might help you through it? Having a clear idea of what you want to learn beforehand can help you make the most of the content.
As you’re adding sessions to your agenda, jot down specific objectives you’re hoping to learn. If those topics aren’t covered, you have a question ready to fire during Q&A—or better yet, you can always catch up with the speaker afterwards.
#2: Record actions instead of notes.
If you ever see me at a session in Relativity Fest, you’ll likely hear the tip-tapping of my keyboard from the moment the session starts until it ends. My neurotic typing is for two reasons: 1) I like to pretend I’m a court stenographer; and 2) my notes are for future articles on The Relativity Blog and I like to be thorough.
As an attendee who’s presumably not blogging as you go, you don’t need to take copious notes—but you also want to have some good answers when you return home and your team asks you what you learned.
My advice: write down actions—those little nuggets that you can implement when you’re back at the office. If you have the time, review these actions in the evening to make sure they’re coherent and relevant to you and your team. That way, you’ll have less to decipher and recall when you return home.
#3: Remember: 1 new friend > 100 new LinkedIn contacts.
Community is the cornerstone of Relativity Fest—it’s honestly the whole point of the conference. Our team has created a space where networking is seamless and everyone can feel comfortable mingling, diving into conversations, and building new, lasting relationships.
But networking is not Pokémon—you don’t gotta catch ‘em all. In my experience, making fewer, higher-quality connections is more helpful than 50 handshakes and 100 observations about the weather. Instead, use your time at Fest as an opportunity to build new relationships, not just contacts.
I like to go into the conference with a few open-ended ice-breakers ready to go. These questions can be related to the industry (“What did you think of XYZ in the keynote?”) or about the real important stuff in life (“What did you think of the Barbie movie?”).
#4: Feel entitled to be exactly who you are.
As an introvert with a splash of social anxiety, I find making small talk with new faces in a loud, crowded space to be my personal hell. In the early days of my Relativity Fest career, I felt compelled to attend everything I was “supposed” to attend, even if it made me uncomfortable. Now, a decade wiser, I know that Relativity Fest is a flexible, unique experience for everyone. You have the agency to attend—and not attend—anything you want.
For example, maybe, like me, you find the larger networking parties to be overwhelming. That’s okay! There are smaller networking events that you can pop into, like the Lakefront Run with Ari Kaplan. Browse the session catalog to figure out which events fit you best.
Likewise, maybe you find going from one session to the next too draining. Skip a session time during the day if you need to. Find a quiet corner to rest and relax, or hit up the Community Pavilion to chat with fellow conference-goers.
In short: Relativity Fest is what you make of it, and your #BestFest looks however you want it to look.
#5: Slow down and experience Fest.
Last month, my husband and I took our two kids to Disney World. Anyone who’s been to Disney knows it’s not a go-with-the-flow type of vacation. I spent nine months—the amount of time it takes to grow a full human—tediously planning this darn trip.
On paper, my planning and research paid off. We went on more rides than I ever expected, we hardly waited in line, and the kids had only one or two—okay, maybe three—meltdowns the whole trip (despite Orlando’s offensive August heat).
But through all the hustle and bustle and dashing from one place to the next, I never truly felt the “Magic of Disney.” I was so caught up filling our day with ride after ride, I forgot to savor the moments in between.
Don’t make this mistake at Fest. Slow down. Carve out intentional time to enjoy the experience and all the festivities between the sessions and meetings. Things like the Relativity Experience, Fest Desk, the Tech Stage, Learning Labs—these are all great chances to dive deeper into solutions and connect with the community.
#6: Relax and have fun.
You’ve set your goals, you’ve planned your agenda, and you have high hopes for how you think Relativity Fest should go. Now, push those expectations aside.
With big events and trips, we often put a ton of pressure on ourselves and the situation. When we have big expectations for how an event should go, it can feel especially bad when not everything goes perfectly to plan.
Take the pressure off yourself. Go to Relativity Fest to have fun. Anything else is a cherry on top.
Graphics for this article were created by Kael Rose.