10 Lessons I Learned Hosting A Conference
So putting together The E-Design Experience -- the community, the conference, all of it -- was not something I took lightly when I decided to move forward with it.
It was a beta launch, yes, but for something more robust & long term — you gotta start somewhere right?
I knew I wanted this to lead to bigger, better, and more beautiful opportunities & so I jumped all in!
Now that day 1 is in the books, I can truly say I’ve learned a lot up to this point:
lesson #1 — be ready to ditch your plans when they ditch you!
Despite all the planning, prep, and caffeine that went into pulling all of this together, the day of it still managed to go completely south!
I was devastated (I can’t even hide it) when I realized things were unraveling & a big part of that came from having “a plan” that I was committed to; so committed I was almost too paralyzed to move forward.
Even though I eventually got myself together, I now know that I need to work on that.
lesson #2 — you don’t know what you don’t know...
And this is something I’ve always known! Lol.
Despite all the walkthroughs & planning, I couldn’t have anticipated some of the tech difficulties we encountered. To be honest, I still don't know what went wrong...but what I do know now is that I shouldn’t get too comfortable in what I already know because there’s still a lot that I don’t.
lesson #3 — even your backups need a backup...
Especially when it comes to technology!
While we had back up speakers, moderators, topics, and even tech solutions, sometimes even that isn’t enough; but that’s the case in life — sourcing for a client or picking your next summer destination, you have a good, better, best lined up because things can change at a moments notice!
lesson #4 — all skills are transferable!
I don’t know if you know this about me but my formal education was in Advertising & Public Relations. After graduating, I struggled with finding a job (2008, fun times!) so I dove into freelancing. With that, I taught myself code & Dreamweaver & Flash & all these website building skills.
By the way, do people still use Dreamweaver?
In any case, If not for my self-taught skills & ability to take things apart to see how they work (I was that kid) who knows if I would’ve been able to even plan a conference in 60 days much less recover from all the malfunctions!
lesson #5 — my years of retail customer service were not for naught.
I’ve had to field A LOT of emails. Help or no help, those emails cross my eyeballs before ever getting replied to, so imagine had I not known how to talk to people!
I’d spent a lot of time resentful of all those years of in-person & phone customer service, only to now in my adult years realize at the bedrock of any business is customer service. Period.
lesson #6 — taking a leap of faith to follow a passion is an accomplishment in itself.
So many people want to do things but never do because of fear... but I did it! I wasn’t crippled by insecurity or fear.
I’m not the first conference creator ever — not even close — but what I am is someone who saw a void, even if only a small one (although I think it’s a pretty big one) and decided to do something about it versus daydreaming ad nauseum about “what if...”.
lesson #7 — people are nicer than you think!
I’ll be honest with ya — when things started to go array, I expected to find an inbox full of angry guests, with digital pitchforks & torches. Instead what I found was a community of gracious individuals who were [rightfully] confused & simply looking for solutions — not demanding answers.
P.S. I appreciate y’all!
lesson #8 is that no one should go at anything alone, even if you can!
Did I have help organizing this conference? For sure!
Did I have friends & family cheering me on? You betcha!
But at the end of the day, I was doing it ALL — setting up sites, mapping out sequences, creating graphics...you name it & it was ultimately coming down to me!
And then I had a literal panic attack mid-conference!
With that said, I’m currently seeking an ongoing VA as we speak. Or a full-time sitter. Or both. Whatevs!
lesson #9 is that not everyone will celebrate with because not everyone can handle your success — and that’s okay.
This one was a tough one for me, I’ll admit, because I genuinely want everyone to be great — I celebrate when people flourish! So when someone doesn’t exactly have that same enthusiasm for my own greatness, it hits hard — I let it sit with me for much longer than a probably should, to be honest.
But a very real life lesson and I think this one explains itself, but the biggest lesson within the lesson is that it’s okay.
Press on in your greatness!
So after 12 hours of laughs, tears, panic, excitement, and just about any other emotion you can think of, what’s the last thing I learned?
lesson #10 — one monkey don’t stop no show!
That is how the saying goes right?
Despite all the things that could go wrong actually going wrong, the show went on because it must go on!
There was no pulling the plug or walking away (although I seriously considered deactivating all my accounts & hiding in shame) because I started this for a reason!
But more importantly than that, people paid their hard earned dollars for a reason.
People took time out of their schedules for a reason.
There were lessons to teach & conversations to be had, so hell or high water, it was going down!
Because I know full & very well I have lots to learn about lots of things, I’m not above admitting when I just don’t know something. This experience, however, truthfully didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know, as much as it reaffirmed lessons I’d maybe tucked away & gave me a swift (and necessary) kick in the rear.
I’d grown complacent in what I’d known despite my love for learning. These lessons coming back to the surface were needed for my current season of life, and I hope that they inspire you for your next season.