I love to learn and jump at every chance I have to attend a conference, especially one in a location that I have never been to before. I joined CanSPEP only a few months before attending the conference in PEI. I knew no one and had no idea what to expect. I was a little nervous but excited all at the same time.
Like most, I hate networking. Usually when I attend a conference I attend all the educational sessions, avoid all the networking opportunities and hang out in the gym or in my room. But not this time! I headed to Charlottetown with the intention of stepping out of my comfort zone and forcing myself to mingle and to get to know this group I was told I needed to be a part of.
On night one I made my way down to the Hospitality Suite. Not knowing anyone my stomach was in my throat and I literally had to talk myself into walking into the room. The room was small and full. Full of little groups of people who all knew each other, or at least that’s how it felt. I made my way over to the bar and grabbed a drink. I turned around and assessed the room, which group looked least threatening. I walked over and introduced myself to a group of women who were huddled up on a couch and some chairs, “Hi, my name is Julia, I am an introvert and am totally outside my comfort zone approaching you. Is it ok if I join you?” And that was that. The rest of the week I was known as “the introvert” and often challenged on that nickname as I came out of my shell and people saw my competitive side during the Amazing Race.
The educational sessions that stood out to me were “The Art of Negotiation”, “Entrepreneurial Success” and “ Understanding and Establishing Your Business Goals”. What did I love about them? I loved that they were relevant and engaging. All three presenters were dynamic in their delivery and delivered subjects that related to me, my business and my mindset.
Heading to this conference my expectations were high, event planners planning an event for event planners. Of course this event has to be over the top and perfect, right? Well, the week as a whole makes me smile when I think about it, even several months later. I loved (seriously loved) that we did not spend 3 days sitting in a boardroom staring at Powerpoint presentations and being talked at. Instead we took a bus ride with the best tour guide I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. We gave a standing ovation to a presenter who brought the room to tears while we sat overlooking his beautiful hospice gardens. We ate the freshest lobster I have ever had, in my bare feet, on the beach where the owner of the Anne of Green Gables enterprise spoke with each of us like he’s known us forever followed by him dancing around the camp fire while the band played. I bowled a strike, threw a chicken while wearing “drunk glasses” and killed it at a virtual reality.
The people I met were amazing. Yes, all my competition yet they welcomed me with open arms. Planners sat and spoke openly about their businesses, their successes and their challenges. They respect and learn from each other in a way I have never experienced before.
Usually I leave a conference with a wealth of knowledge and am excited to get back to the office and implement everything I learned. This conference was different. What I came home with was business contacts that I will actually be able to use and experiences that not only will I never forget but also experiences I hope to be able to implement with our clients.