A Practical Guide To Attending Your First Workshop Or Conference
A few weekends ago, I attended Study Hall London’s Sustainability as a Culture event for Fashion Revolution Week. I was fortunate enough to spend the day learning from industry leaders from around the world, as well as hear about the shifts and changes happening in the fashion industry to reconcile with recent climate reports. This wasn’t the first event I’ve been to, and it definitely won’t be my last. I’ve found conferences, whether big or small, to be beneficial for a few reasons, and encourage everyone to attend at least one in their adult life.
First and foremost, events are excellent for learning and engaging with specific topics—in my most recent case, sustainability and fashion. They are also wonderful for fostering new community and introducing people to one another who may not have met otherwise. As online communication continues to be one of the primary ways we connect with others, there is something magical about gathering in-person over shared interests. As an adult, I’ve found this to be essential for my health and wellbeing.
If you haven’t attended an event or conference before, let me tell you—there is one happening for almost any topic you can think of. From social good events to hobby-based conferences to spiritual gatherings, there is something for everyone. Here are some tips for finding and attending your very first one.
How To Find A Conference That’s Right For You
Begin by setting your goals and expectations. What do you hope to learn? Who do you expect to meet? Are you searching for community with like-minded individuals? If so, you may want to seek local events with plenty of mingling opportunities and space for small group conversations. If you’d prefer to expand knowledge on specific topics, a regional or national event with industry leaders is probably a better fit. Whatever it is you hope to gain or learn, asking yourself these questions beforehand will help you in your search and ensure you have a meaningful and memorable experience.
There are a few places to search online for conferences, events, and gatherings. Facebook Events is my go-to place for finding local meet-ups and happenings; Eventbrite is another excellent search engine for both small and large events. Most often, I’ll simply Google the type of event I’m looking for, whether it be an Enneagram workshop in my city or a writing conference abroad. I also find that the more industry leaders I follow, the more often I learn about future gatherings from social media and email newsletters.
A Quick Word About Accessibility
Sometimes events and gatherings can be off-putting because of the cost—the reality is, most of these things can be incredibly expensive. If you’ve found an event you’d like to attend but can’t afford the ticket cost for one reason or another, it’s worth sending an email to the organizer. More often than not, conferences offer a handful of scholarships, as well as discounted rates for students and teachers. Some even provide a free ticket in exchange for volunteer hours.
What To Do Before The Event
Research the Speakers & Follow Them On Social Media
I like getting a feel for the itinerary before an event begins. It only takes a few minutes of online research to figure out who is who in the industry and who works for which brand or company, and this way I learn more about the speakers and facilitators. Going over the itinerary gives me an outline for what I’ll be learning so I can set my expectations. Rather than just showing up and taking a seat, I am mentally prepared to learn and engage with the messages. This mentality helps me to feel more grounded and present throughout the gathering.
Beforehand, I also love following the speakers on social media, as well as the event itself or the associated hashtag. It’s fun to see the posts leading up to the event, whether from facilitators and other attendees. I often find myself more excited and engaged on the day of when I’ve invested myself beforehand. Moreover, doing my research helps me to stay present and off my phone throughout the event. I’ll post photos and videos on my own social feed but, because I’ve done my research, I don’t need to do any Googling during the presentations. Instead, I can focus on listening and taking notes.
What To Do At The Event
Speaking of note-taking, ensure you pack a notebook and a few pens. While jotting things down on your phone will save on paper, you may not want to be staring at a screen throughout the event, and some speakers may even ask that you put electronics away. For me personally, I only retain information when I write it down. I like having material I can reference later on and I try to be intentional about going through my new notes at the end of each week. This practice helps me to remember and reflect on what I’ve learned and to further my longterm retention. Pen and paper are also excellent for scribbling down the names and phone numbers and social media handles. If you don’t already have a blank notebook on hand, here are a few of our favorite sustainable and give-back ones.
Socialize (If That’s Your Thing)
I will be the first to admit that I struggle to initiate conversations with strangers. I’m not naturally outgoing, and I prefer intimate gatherings to large events or conferences. The good news is (and this is what I have to remind myself a few hundred times throughout any event), these types of settings are perfect for making new friends. Why? Because you’re surrounded by like-minded individuals who share your interests. If you’re an introvert like me, it is no small feat to engage in small talk with others, but even saying hello to the person seated next to you can make for a more enjoyable and sociable time.
Prefer not to socialize? Totally okay! Some of us like to attend gatherings just to listen and learn, and I’ve attended a few events in which I’ve loved sitting alone and soaking up information. There is no shame in being introverted or extroverted. This is your own experience after all!
What To Do After the Event
Keep Learning, and Follow Up With New Friends
For me, the best part about attending an event is engaging with material post-conference. Because these types of gatherings are bound by time, speakers have to be concise and selective with the presented materials. I like to treat the day as an invitation to further learning. Books and podcasts are great for this, and speakers will often point attendees to recommended sources. Moreover, I like to follow up with new friends or even reach out to people I didn’t have the chance (or guts) to meet. As I mentioned, I’m an introvert, so sometimes it can be easier to reach out to someone over social media and set up a one-on-one friend date. If DMs are more your thing, check out Celeste’s article about making friends on the internet.
Share What You’ve Learned
Lastly, share what you learned with others. Write a blog or host a dinner conversation. Don’t just keep all that new wisdom to yourself. Pass it along and discuss it with your family and friends. You may even encourage them to attend their own social gathering in the future.
Kayti Christian, a staff writer for The Good Trade, is a storyteller, creator, activist, and avid traveler hailing from Colorado, now living in London. With 30+ stamps in her passport, she is passionate about responsible tourism and is always looking for new ways to be a more conscious traveler. She is currently pursuing her MA in Creative Nonfiction Writing at City, University of London.