This was my third year attending the TEDxGR conference. As the attendees are invite only and curated, it’s a good feeling to be considered an important piece in the growth and creative fabric of the Grand Rapids community. My community.
But I suppose that’s why I chose to settle here. Because perhaps unlike Chicago (which I tried on after college), Los Angeles, or New York, I can make a true, creative impact here in Grand Rapids. Plus, its city leaders are understanding and supportive of small business and the creative class. And you see that in TEDx. As far as the “X” conferences go, this is truly one of the best.
So! Here are my TEDxGR Takeaways:
1. Get there early.
Something I didn’t do this year. 131, the main highway into GR was nearly shut down. And what normally takes me less than 15 minutes took nearly 40. So I missed some important networking time before the curtain rise, and in some ways, that set the tone for the whole day.
2. If you can, go with a friend.
I’m an introvert. I know; shocker. Truth be told, it’s incredibly exhausting for me to talk to more than 3 people at a time. And conferences wear me out like nothing else. After this year’s, I needed a full day and a half to reboot. That’s why I’m really happy I didn’t have to go alone this year. Having a planned buddy to digest and decompress with, someone who knows you well enough that you don’t feel like you need to be “on” at all times is a recharge in itself. Especially, if they’re an extrovert.
3. Networking is relative. But have really great questions to ask the people you meet.
Most people go to these things for the possibility to say their elevator pitch. Me? Not so much. Some would say that I’m doing it wrong. (Actually, a few have.) But I don’t feel I have to be a room worker. I am a relationship builder. If I meet one or two really great people I’m satisfied. I’m not there to impress people I’m there to learn from and be inspired by people. So I spend far more time listening than I do talking.
4. My body language does not mean what you think it does.
Some body language expert reading me at TEDxGR this year would have thought I hated everyone. I don’t. I actually quite like everyone. For example: My constantly crossed and closed off arms = I’m FREEZING and even though I’m wearing a jacket, I’m wishing I were wearing a parka. My shifting posture and feet = I’m really regretting my shoe choice and this floor is really, really hard. Also, I probably need a nap.
5. Don’t set your phone down.
Two years in a row, I lost my phone. No joke. Last year, I left it in the bathroom; this year, I set it on a table while I scooped out food. Thankfully both years I got it back shortly after I discovered it missing. And hey: Security at the GRAM, thanks for keeping my and the other 5 black iPhones in black Belkin cases safe.
6. This one’s for the ladies: Don’t bring a laptop bag.
Bring one of those giant purses you can fit diapers in. You know the kid of purses that if you buy at Target they’ll think you’re preggers. Because, you don’t want to carry a heavy laptop. You want a tablet and a charger. You also might want a sweater, change of shoes, lipstick, water bottle, coffee travel mug, and who knows what else. This year, above all else, I really wanted a thick sweater, warmer shoes, hand sanitizer.
7. Embrace the awkward moments.
And find the humor in them. Because, there will be plenty of these.