It’s Saturday night, BlogHer 2017’s final hurrah. Some valuable final content may be getting slung. The crowd could be gathered in the giant keynote hall for the wrap-up session, where it’s possible Serena Williams is passing out diamond tennis bracelets and hugs, a panel of publishing houses are handing out book contracts, and everyone’s raising a glass of champagne.
I’m pretty sure not.
But I don’t actually know. This newbie hit the wall about 4:30 p.m. Right now, all I want is a stiff drink, some fatty food, and peace and quiet. Oh, and a foot rub.
You’d think I’d just run my first marathon. In fact, I feel a lot like I did then. All that’s lacking are some salt streaks on the cheeks, a whiff of stale BodyGlide, and that crinkly Mylar blanket wrapped around my shoulders.
I pretty much pooped out at that event, too. Started strong, set a personal record (PR) for the first half, and then pow! Somewhere after mile 15, the wheels came off in spectacular fashion. I limped into that Marine Corps Marathon finish, sad, mad, and sunburned, almost two hours off my anticipated completion time.
Unlike that first epic 26.2 mile race, BlogHer 2017 saw no tears. (Wait–I did cry at those “Voices of the Year” readings. Damn.)
With 30+ marathons under my belt, I know a thing or two. I know not to make those same racing mistakes of 17 years ago. What’s surprising is that having been to multiple mega-events, I still made classic conference blunders. It’s like I’d never slipped on a lanyard before.
So think of this as a race report. While my BlogHer performance is still painfully fresh, I’m sharing a few observations in hopes they’ll trigger success for future conference athletes.
5 Tips To PR Your Next Big Conference
Eat and Drink Responsibly
Running an endurance race is all about proper calorie and fluid intake. When doing a marathon or an ultra, I practice exactly how many (and what kind of) calories and ounces to ingest every hour. That strict schedule isn’t guesswork; it’s science.
BlogHer Day 1 was completely derailed by insufficient nutrition. Would you believe I missed Chelsea Clinton and Margaret Cho (sob!) because I hadn’t eaten all day? Now, I did have a wonderful conversation with a fellow attendee over sushi at one of the hotel’s restaurants (and some happy-hour priced wine–huzzah!) but I was crushed to realize what I’d missed while I ate.
BlogHer Day 2: I forgot to put a water bottle in my bag. Dinner? An after thought, eaten around 9:30 p.m. (when what I really wanted was sleep, not to snarf down some room service fries and salad). While I managed better on Day 3, I still crashed. No wonder; insufficient and irregular intake combined with some poor quality nutrients isn’t filling anyone’s tank.
Tip 1: High energy events require proper fuel.
Pack the Right Stuff
Many a marathon has been derailed by poor apparel: chafing, blisters, cold/heat–all caused by bad clothing and mostly avoidable.
I’m in Orlando, right? It’s summer, so almost everything I brought was sleeveless.
Well, it’s Orlando on the OUTSIDE; INSIDE, it’s Antartica.
People practically built bonfires; one slight presenter even apologized for shivering. Thank goodness I’d added a denim jacket and linen scarf to my suitcase at the last minute. In the mornings, I scrambled to coordinate warm outfits without repeating components. I should’ve packed a variety of shirt types, and booties and jeans would’ve been better options than open-toed sandals and skirts.
Tip 2: When dressed appropriately, you feel good and perform well.
Do Your Homework
The scene: my first 15K. I knew the neighborhood course…or so I thought. Imagine my horrified surprise to round the last corner and discover the final 1,200 meters involved an intensely, unpleasantly steep uphill path to the finish. I practically puked. That experience taught me to ALWAYS preview EVERY race course.
And yet I sauntered out of the Orlando airport and into the muggy ground transportation area without any knowledge of possible options. Expensive! Crowded! Confusing! Where was I going? Taking a shuttle to the hotel saved money but cost time–and me seeing Clinton and Cho. Add to that bonehead move: I hadn’t fully investigated extracurricular activities. I could’ve done more brand research.
As a result, I missed stuff. I even forgot to double-check that those business cards I’d made sure to reorder just for BlogHer 2017 were packed.
Tip 3: Mental preparation helps everything go smoothly.
Set Good Goals
My friend Danny Spoonts gave me the best piece of racing advice ever.
“At your first marathon, your goal should be to finish. That way, you won’t quit. Then, you can set some time goals.”
That hot fall day in Washington D.C. so many years ago, I was thankful for Danny’s advice. Even though I failed to meet a single time goal (including “beat Oprah’s time”), I still finished. I’m not sure I wouldn’t have DNFed without that stated commitment to complete the course.
At BlogHer, I’d no clear goals and so skipping the last hours was easy to justify. That failure to close goes back to lacking mental preparation. Was my BlogHer intent to fangirl over famous speakers (like these amazing women, below), inflate my social media numbers, make business connections, gain best practice tips, or develop brand associations?
Lack of adequate consideration meant vague objectives and assessments. I think I had some conference successes. I think my money was well spent.
I have, however, a nagging suspicion that I missed a few great opportunities.
Tip 4: A tier of clear, realistic goals guarantees some level of satisfaction with your effort.
Run Your Own Race
Ever seen the start of a big marathon? Tens of thousands massed, the sharp sound of a starting gun, and then the surging tide of runners floods the street. Epic.
The biggest rookie mistake, the one sure to bring sorrow, is going with that starting flow. Oh, those first sweet miles fly by and feel like fleet-footed heaven; veterans learn that giving in to the siren’s lure of balls-to-the-wall-I’m-running-fast-now-not-the-pace-I’d-trained-at means a slow, sinking what-have-I-done shuffle to the bitter end.
At BlogHer, I let the schedule run me. Too afraid I’d miss anything and stubbornly determined to wring every last experience from the event, I failed to pick and choose, to discern, according to my needs.
Tip 5: Know yourself and trust your training.
Will I be back for another BlogHer?
Marathon results are immediate; you know how that beast played out when you cross the finish. But I need a bit of space to fully assess BlogHer 2017. Time will tell if these four days were well spent–will I gain work, develop quality partnerships, improve my blog significantly, attract more followers, and create worthwhile content from this conference?
It’s a universal truth that everybody PRs their second marathon. I have no doubt that should I return, my next time around the BlogHer track would be a definite improvement.
Read More Here
While I don’t have a race report posted for that first marathon (say, that reminds me…), you’ll get some background info from “Mental Tips for That First Marathon”