Work conferences are intense events that cram a lot of valuable information, networking, and socializing into a short amount of time. Being healthy isn’t necessarily high on the priority list. Attending the Military Influencer Conference in Washington D.C. was a wonderful opportunity for our remote team to see each other in person and we came home with notebooks full of good ideas to incorporate into our operations. Since we are passionate about military spouse wellness, we were also mindful about our healthy habits and had our eyes open for pitfalls that could suck anybody in while attending work conferences, us included.
WELLNESS PITFALLS AT WORK CONFERENCES
Full agenda – When you go to a work conference there’s the meat of the program and there are optional activities. You could easily schedule yourself for fourteen or more hours of programming so you might not get enough sleep.
Fear of missing out – Part of the reason why you’re there is to network and socialize so FOMO is a real thing. You might stay out later than you wanted to and eat or drink more than you intended.
Things get loud – Fun music, lots of conversations in an enclosed space, or both can contribute to high decibel levels.
No time to eat/limited healthy options – You might find yourself having to choose between eating poorly, not eating, or missing out on programming.
WAYS TO BE HEALTHY AT WORK CONFERENCES
Choose your accommodations wisely – Are you an introvert needing some downtime at some point during the day? You might choose to stay in a hotel room by yourself or share a vacation rental with roommates, but retreat to your own room. Are you an extrovert that gets energized by the buzz of the conference? You might want to stay at the conference-recommended hotel so you can easily meet up with people in the lobby or hotel restaurants. Whichever you choose, staying within walking distance of the conference will save you precious time during full days.
Plan for healthy drinking habits – Carry a water bottle with you all the time to make sure you’re hydrating. Decide ahead of time how many alcoholic drinks, if any, is healthy for you and allows you to get up early in the morning. Stick to that limit. Have a non-alcoholic drink in mind that you can order if you’re not drinking or you’ve reached your limit. Soda water with lemon or lime or both is a fun, sparkly choice that you can drink all night long. Another strategy is to alternate non-alcoholic drinks to stay hydrated between alcoholic drinks. And remember, drinking is optional and you should never feel like you have to drink alcohol for a social crutch or to feel accepted. Here are some more ideas for what to drink when you don’t drink.
Plan your meals – Decide when, where, and with whom you’re going to eat. Check the menus of the restaurants on site, research healthy restaurants within walking distance, and see which restaurants deliver. You don’t want to have an hour or less to eat and start the decision-making process with a group of people when that hour has already started. If you get caught up talking to somebody and it’s mealtime, invite them to come eat with you. And as a backup, carry some healthy snacks in your bag that could serve as a meal in a pinch. We have a trail mix recipe that is perfect!
Get enough sleep/rest – You might not get your ideal seven to nine hours of sleep at a conference because you might want to sacrifice that sleep time to spend with people you don’t get to see often because of the distance military life puts between you. Decide on your minimum amount needed and stick to it. If there’s a lull between programming and evening activities, maybe close your eyes or enjoy a quiet space before you go out for the evening. You can also try an easy five-minute meditation. Never done meditation before? Learn our seven tips for beginners.
Choose your clothing carefully – You’ll see a wide range of attire at conferences, even if the dress code is business casual—anywhere from people in jeans and their company-branded tees to suits. Choose something that makes you feel confident and comfortable and reflects your position well. If in doubt, step it up a notch. It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed. Choose shoes you can wear for a long day or carry a more comfortable pair that you can slip on for a quick dash to lunch or for a break after a long standing stint.
Maximize your networking time – Choose four to five people that you really want to network with ahead of time, make an appointment with them, and prioritize that time. Otherwise, you might find yourself scrambling trying to meet up with everyone who requests a meetup and missing out on meals or rest time.
Do the workouts – If your conference offers workouts, put them on your schedule. That’s a way to prepare yourself for a day of sitting and get some extra networking in. You can also plan to take a walk to dinner or start your day with a run or a yoga practice. That can be solo or with company, depending on what you need most.
Respect your hearing – If you have to shout to be heard, chances are the room has reached an iffy decibel level. Consider slipping out to an outdoor seating area or a quiet corner if you’re trying to have a conversation. You’ll save your voice and your ears and you’ll end find it easier to connect.
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