10 Things I Learned by Going to a Conference Solo

I know you’ve heard me say it… but attending conferences and networking is what changes things.

Last year, I went with my client Wendy Batten to Stu McLaren’s Tribe Live conference in Toronto. It changed the future of my business seeing how many business owners needed help building and branding online. And I couldn’t say YES to everyone who wanted to work with me and needed a VA. So I told myself, I WILL TEACH THEM! …. Even better…

“I WILL MAKE AN ARMY OF VAS WHO CAN HELP THESE TRIBE PEOPLE!!!”

But at this conference I totally went as Wendy’s sidekick to support her and learn with her. I wasn’t going to the conference alone. I wasn’t there to get clients. We had a blast and bonded in our client-VA relationship. It made me super excited to help her grow her business and got us on the same mindset.

It was also so nice to know at least 1 person at the conference because the wallflower in me totally comes out. I had someone to sit with. Network with. Discuss with. Brainstorm with. Lunch with. Learn with. Hang out with. Party with.

It was just FUN!

I told myself I’d go to a conference each year. I didn’t have a plan, but it was such a game changer for my business brain.

Then I got the opportunity to attend Kajabi’s first ever live event: Impact Summit.

I was on board.

I invested in the Kajabi platform for my my Digital Media VA Crash Course in November 2018, launched my beta course in January (right before a minor surgery because I like to jump into things!! lol). I’d made enough off the quick no-list launch to cover the platform cost for the year. I was thrilled.

Note: If you are considering purchasing for yourself or a client, or just want to learn more about Kajabi, please please use my affiliate link: https://app.kajabi.com/r/fg7R3Y8i/t/dghq3tu2. THANK YOU!

And Kajabi gave me a ticket to attend their event this April in Los Angeles. I said yes! I wasn’t going to know a single soul. And as an introvert at heart that was super scary. But saying YES is my story and my success. (Read that blog posts here.)

So I made it happen. (Thank you, Mom & Dad for the childcare help!)

I went to a conference totally solo….

Yes, I awkwardly sat in the back most of the time, or overanalyzed which seat I would take or who I would sit by or eat lunch with. I summoned the courage to introduce myself to complete strangers and sometimes I could not. Clutched my drink and sipped from my straw and nervously walked into the hotel bar not knowing anyone. It felt like high school all over again.

But it was so worth it…. because everyone there was awesome and all of that crap was just going on inside my head….

Going to a Conference Solo-networking-Emily Reagan PR&M, LLC.
1 Tennis Club Owner, 1 Fitness Lifestyle Brand, 1 Gardener Book Deal , 1 Podcaster and ….ME!!! (Not smiling fast enough, not trying to do duck lips)

These were my people!!!

Really, I gained so much by putting myself out there. So here’s my quick advice for going to a conference solo … to help you do the things you know you need to do.

What I learned by Going Alone:

1. Going by myself forced me to meet people.

Sure, I met a lot of business owners at last year’s Tribe Live conference with my client. But going alone really made me push myself to network and not waste my time and effort for being there in the first place. It can be so easy to link up with those you already know, form a clique and not be welcoming to new people. Branching out is easier alone.

2. Change Seats Often.

It’s kind of like speed dating. It forced me to talk to new people and then I could easily change my seat and meet new people. I wasn’t stuck sitting in the same place each time. Is this uncomfortable at times? YES. Especially when there aren’t a lot of seats. I noticed most people “saving” their seat between sessions by marking it with their personal items. They sat in the same seat all day or all weekend. I guarantee you, I met more people bouncing around in the back. Trust me, other business owners are just as excited to meet you.

3. Work on that Elevator Pitch.

Definitely my weakness. How should I say I’m “more than just a VA”? If I have to explain it at length, then I don’t have a understandable message. Meeting new people forced me to get my pitch out over and over and over. Sometimes my brain was just fried and I totally botched it. Other times I noticed the pitch came out of my mouth so eloquently and simple!!! I tried to note the different ways my brain would say it. It forced me not to think too much and try different ways on the fly. I got better at it. (Until I met Amy Porterfield in the ACTUAL elevator and I bumbled the crap out of my pitch. I am not making this up!!!!)

4. Don’t be afraid to Talk to the Big Wigs.

If you have a legit question that will help others too… ask it during the speakers’ Q&A. OR better yet, stalk them out during the restroom breaks and after sessions, the good speakers will hang out and take pics. You just gotta find out WHERE, like a total groupie! And have something ready to ask them, helps with the awkwardness and you might as well pick their brain and benefit. And tag them later with a thank you because #instagrammanners

5. Go to the Hotel Bar at Night.

This helped me achieve #4. I met people. I admit, I had a little bit of liquid courage. I would never ever go to a bar alone at home, I promise. But the hotel is where everyone is hanging out after hours. I made some fun connections and inadvertently met some VIPs.

6. Me FIRST.

I went to this conference with MY BUSINESS IN MIND. I went thinking I could help a few clients and make connections, and I realized very quickly that if that client isn’t paying me a retainer or funding the trip… every single connection I make I need to keep for myself. That sounds awful. But honestly, I am such a giver that sometimes I need to pull in the reigns … it’s kind of the nature of my work, wanting to connect people to help each other. But I need to pull in those reigns and make that effort for ME FIRST.

7. Don’t Forget the Business Cards.

Oops. I did this. And paid for them to be printed locally. I had learned my lesson at Tribe last year. But then …. people don’t use business cards. LOL There are apps for that! Seriously. If you forget them, it’s not a big deal. There are apps to scan business cards, add contacts to your phone. You could also just get out your social media platform and connect right away. I do like having the cards for afterward though. I just have been out of the conference/networking loop and didn’t know this app option existed!

Going to a Conference Solo-Yellow Shoes-Emily Reagan PR&M, LLC
Yellow is my Power Color

8. Wear Something Memorable.

There are so many people at these events. Dress well. Those are the people who stood out. They dress well. Be colorful and look put together (but still approachable). I tried to wear yellow every day. Not a huge fashion WOW but hey, I tried to be memorable!!!

9. Plan an Extra Day.

I planned an extra day at the front end of my trip. It gave me time to get out of a windowless conference room, see the area, do something for my soul (#momoffour) meet up with my brother for dinner and powwow with my assistant Deb for a biz planning meeting. I kind of wish I had stayed 1 extra day at the end to digest the information and have a non-rushed dinner, instead of hopping on a red-eye, but I just couldn’t wait to get home to my babies! No regrets!

10. Network Ahead of Time

I was fortunate enough to meet up with some fellow students from a course that I’m in. We had created our own private Facebook group to communicate. Genius!!! I didn’t get to meet everyone, but I was able to connect with a few of my peers at meals. One lady and I even connected via Instagram! I felt like I was blind dating… “Hey I’m the one in the back corner charging my phone, wearing stripes and holding a red rose…” So funny but I made a quick connection and can’t wait to see what she does with her business. I love that she was bold enough to walk across the room and talk to me during a break. She is going to go far!!! (I will tell you about her business later..)

BONUS INSIGHT: Sometimes the VIP ticket may be worth it… in perks, extra social activities, lounge areas and seat locations.. Consider it! Or sometimes just hanging out with the VIPs can help you take advantage of the perks… LOL. I’m guilty!

Going to a Conference Solo-Emily-Emily Reagan PR&M, LLC #kajabisummit

So to sum it up: try. Get around your people. Even if it means going to a conference solo. Buy that ticket. Make that commitment. Expense that cost. Go and when you show up be BOLDER than I was in high school. It will pay off.

-Emily, Digital Media Consultant (and Virtual Assistant …)

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Further Reading

6 Things I Learned from the Speakers at Kajabi’s Impact Conference

4 Things You Need to start a Digital Marketing VA Biz

How to Hire the Right Virtual Assistant

How I became a VA {Virtual Assistant & Social Media Sidekick}

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Meet Emily

Emily Reagan is a jill-of-all trades when it comes to digital marketing and techie skills. She’s worked as a behind-the-scenes digital marketing implementor and strategist for a decade for online biz owner clients.

She’s a mom of four, Air Force wife, and founder of the Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School, where she teaches smart women the in-demand, highly-coveted digital marketing skills to get flexible, online work.

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