If you’ve ever attended a conference or summit, you may be familiar with Conference Fatigue.
Whether it’s a single or multi-day event, in person or online, the great wealth of networking and new information that you encounter in a short period of time, while incredibly inspiring, can also be quite draining.
What is Conference Fatigue?
Recently I was at the ISPAD (International Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetes) conference. It was wonderful – full of meetings, presentations, networking and more.
At the end of the 4-day event, during her presentation on the final day, Global Policy & Advocacy Manager for Life For A Child Emma Klatman said it best: “Many may be suffering from ‘Conference Fatigue’.”
That was such a great way to explain it. After attending every day from early morning until late night for 4 days, I was so happy to be there, and was consistently having positive, high-vibration exchanges, yet I honestly felt so tired.
I didn’t even have to travel to go to this conference, but afterwards I felt like I had jet lag, for lack of a better term.
So yes, this could be Conference Fatigue.
The Science of Taking Breaks for Increased Productivity, Enhanced Learning and Recall
Research into the benefits of rest and recovery shows clear improvements in focus, and protection against stress and fatigue. Taking breaks can also have benefits for learning, both in terms of cognition and memory/recall.
Sleep also has inarguable benefits for learning and retaining new information.
So even though it’s kinda tempting to plough your way through a densely scheduled conference, cramming in as much as you can, you might find it more productive to choose the seminars and sessions where you really want to put your focus, and maybe skip a few so you can take a little time out in between.
The sleep you get is vital too, if your conference is multi-day, so see the tips below on sleeping well at night.
I’ll be better prepared to take my next conference a little more slowly!
5 Tips for Managing Conference Fatigue
Whether it’s a large-scale event, a single info-packed day, or a week full of online seminars, we can all feel a little tired from information overload, regardless of how productive and positive the experience is.
Consider these 5 tips for reducing the impact of information overload, so that you can retain what you learn and prevent post-conference burnout:
1. Take a Day Off Afterwards.
Like, a real day off. I gave my team two days off after the conference, but I did not follow my own advice! I love what I do, so I happily continued to catch up on all things, but I know I still need a day off to rest and come back refreshed.
Our days off should be spent doing non-work activities like spending time with family, non-digital hobbies, getting out in nature, reading and resting. NOTE: Avoid using a device or social media as a way to take a break. Research shows it doesn’t work.
2. Stay Hydrated.
Good hydration benefits ALL bodily functions, including brain function. The reverse of this is that if you aren’t drinking enough water, your cognitive performance just won’t be as good as it could. This will make it harder for you to focus, retain information and engage with others during the conference. You will also feel tired more easily.
You may find you need a little more water than usual, particularly if you’re traveling to and from the conference venue. If your event is indoors with air conditioning, this will further dry you out.
When I talk about hydration, I am talking about water. Not sports drinks or any other kind of beverage. Just good old H2O.
And if you have diabetes, hydration is especially important.
Invest in a good-quality water flask that is easy to carry with you and refill. If it’s a child-friendly event, be prepared with water bottles for kids too.
3. Choose Healthy Food.
Fortunately, we were well-fed at the ISPAD conference, but not every conference has great food.
Sometimes the food options may not be great, or other times they may be so great that we overeat.
Follow the healthy eating plate guidelines and try to make 50% of your plate fresh fruits and vegetables. (We should be doing this when we aren’t at conferences!)
Below is the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate. If the conference itself isn’t supplying many healthy, balanced food options to fuel you, consider bringing your own meals and snacks:
4. Sleep Well.
Conferences can be demanding. Often, they begin early in the mornings and then involve evening networking events. These are great, but again, long days plus frequent exchanges of high, positive energy can leave us feeling fatigued.
During the event, aim to retire each evening as early as you can, and allow time to chill out before sleep. Do something restorative that is unrelated to the subject of your conference – soak in a bath, do some slow yoga, or create a mini relaxing meditation practice before bed.
When you are back home, get your sleep back on track as quickly as possible.
Just like hydration, good sleep supports so many bodily functions. It’s vital for both performance AND recovery, so go the extra mile to be your sleep cycle’s caretaker both during and after a demanding event.
5. Move Your Body.
Go for a walk between sessions, schedule time for exercise.. move!
Depending on the conference, chances are that you’ll be in a seated position for long periods. This itself can lead to physical fatigue, as well as body aches, low mood and stagnant energy.
See if you can incorporate some quick stretches whenever you find yourself with the freedom to do so. Stand up whenever possible. Whenever you can, go for a brisk walk. If your schedule is jam-packed, commit to some movement before the day begins or when it ends (or both!) to keep your energy moving and your mood elevated.
Enjoy Your Conference!
Conferences and summits can be such exciting, fulfilling experiences. The sharing of knowledge and wisdom when people come together and unite around a particular subject is very special.
With some conscious commitment and perhaps a little planning, you can get the most out of your event.
And if you do happen to return with a little Conference Fatigue like I did, treat yourself with compassion and grace. Take note of what you might do differently next time, and let yourself recharge.