ADHD and Conferences- My Top Ten Survival Tips

Stocking Stuffers for certain friends. You know who you are.

I spent last weekend attending Chicago North- RWA’s Spring Fling 2014.  If you are a fiction writer and ever consider going to a conference, I highly recommend that you mark your calendar for the 2016 conference. The conference was well organized, information packed, and fun.  I saw old friends, made new friends, and won a basket raffle.

Beth Kery Books and Bath Basket. Beth Kery and her books rock!

 I came home energized, and in possession of new information and ideas that I will be able to incorporate into my writing and my career.  This conference is outstanding for the way it strikes a balance between business of writing sessions, and craft of writing sessions.  As a writer it is so wonderful to be with people who understand the drive and desire to write. They understand your need to write stories about your imaginary friends.  I had the opportunity to meet and interact with successful multi-published authors who could not have been more open, friendly, helpful, and inspiring.

Attending conferences as an individual with ADHD can be overwhelming, like locked in a Christmas Shop kind of overwhelming.  Several factors contribute to this:

1) Adrenalin. A new place with new people, unfamiliar surroundings, and many new things to look
at / do / interact with.

2) Information overload. Attending sessions packed full of information can make your head feel like it is about to explode ala Scanners. ( If you have never seen Scanners, I only recommend it for the exploding heads.)

3) People overload. It can be overwhelming to meet new people.  Trying to pay attention/ sort out/ keep track of new faces and names can make your already over-full brain, shut down and refuse to process any more new information. This is why you meet someone, and when you run into them an hour later at a different session you can not remember their name. This is the time to take advantage of the name tags everyone wears!

As a professional I have attended many conferences. Many times I would come home exhausted and frustrated rather than full and energized. My frustration would stem from knowing I had the opportunity to learn valuable information, and the potential to meet really great people, but having been overwhelmed, my brain would shut down. I would come home with a bunch of scribbled notes, and the feeling I had missed something.  Over the years, I have developed a set of strategies that help me enjoy and get the most out of a conference.

Top Ten Tips for Thriving in a Conference Environment.

1) Don’t forget to eat. It is so easy to get caught up  in everything that you forget to eat. Your brain and your body need food.  Make good food choices. It is fine to have some fun eating away from home but do not go crazy eating nothing but sweet sugary treats and drinking your caffeinated beverage of choice. No matter how fun it is. This goes for visits to the bar too.

Pace yourself!

2) Hydrate! Your brain is made up of water, a minor level of dehydration impairs brain function, sugary drinks, sweets, and alcohol all work to dehydrate your brain.

3) Sit up front in panels and presentations. Not having a lot of people around you is less distracting. Take notes, or doodle if the information is preprinted.  Giving your hands something to do will help you retain the information presented.

4) If you take electronic notes I recommend using the Evernote app.  I discuss using the Evernote app in this post (My Brain is Full Post ).   Evernote provides me with something I have never had before, legible, organized notes. It is so easy to let conference notes in a half filled notebook languish in some bottom drawer.  Evernote is an easy way to ensure that your notes are organized, and useful.

5) Plan your day with alternatives.  If you get to a session that is too full, have a back up session or activity planned. I have issues with small spaces and too many people,  so I always have a back up plan.

6) Plan for breaks to walk outside and get some fresh air.  It doesn’t have to be long, but it helps to clear your head and wake up your brain. Being in nature also gives your adrenals a rest.

7) Expect to not sleep.  The combination of a new place, seeing people you only get to see at conferences, and adrenalin surges from the Christmas shop effect will hamper your sleep. Do the best you can. Plan a power nap if you know you are going to be at a late session.

8) Try to take a mental break before bed.  No screens (computer, phone, TV) for at least one hour before bed.

9) Make it a goal to stretch yourself. Meet new people. Try to make at least one new acquaintance.

10) Have fun!  
My wonderful in-laws came to help with the kids while I was gone.

These are just gratuitous pictures of my adorable kids.