Into the lions den? 5 mindset strategies that will have you walking into conferences feeling like you can take on the world!
Next week, I’m attending a PR event called Soulful PR Live with around 50 other small business owners and entrepreneurs. Run by the UK’s leading PR expert Jan Murray we will get the chance to hear from, and speak to, 8 national journalists from a spectrum that takes in The Sunday Mirror right through to Women’s Hour to find out exactly what sparks their interest.
Want to know more about the event? Find out more here: www.soulfulprlive.com
I should be looking forward to it right? I want to create as much buzz around my coaching business as I can and this is a massive opportunity. I know my business has serious potential, I’m a good coach, my clients and testimonials tell me so. I also feel as though there’s still a huge amount we need to do to change the conversation about how women can build stellar careers alongside motherhood and other priorities. The hype that’s being created around the event is enormous, as you’d expect from a PR event, and I’m starting to feel the pressure to get involved in a way I never have before. I’ve always just turned up at conferences with a ‘just get through it’ attitude, but I get the feeling this is going to be different. I’m learning about PR before I even get there!
On pretty much every personality profiling questionnaire I’ve ever done, I’m a bona fide extrovert. The thing is, for some reason, events like this make me feel anything but, and as I start to get closer to the date, I even start to hope that some sort of divine intervention will mean that I’m saved from going. As an executive coach, I often feel as though I shouldn’t be feeling these sorts of things. That my clients wouldn’t hire me if they knew I had such flaws and negative feelings. As ever though, creating the right mindset isn’t about creating a wildly positive pain in the ass attitude to everything, it’s about recognising the things that are holding you back quickly and being able to deploy tactics and strategies to, not only, deal with them but also to harness the energy they create and use it to spur you on.
So here are the 5 mindset strategies that I will be using to make sure I get the most out of the 2 days:
Understand your feelings
It’s no secret that walking into a large room filled with people you don’t know can be mildly terrifying. However, if you know the reasons why you feel that fear, you can start to break it down and overcome it. There is a part of our brain that controls the release of adrenaline that lets us know we’re afraid, it’s called the amygdala, it’s the part that developed first and manages the fight or flight reflex and it’s there to keep us safe in the event of danger or threat. In this situation the amygdala is sensing risk and sending out those exact signals. Allow this part of your brain to take control and it can become overwhelming, it’s called an amygdala hijack and it can be very disabling.
How do we manage this? In the first place, understanding that that part of the brain is primal and cannot distinguish a pack of lions from a group of conference delegates is pretty powerful in itself. To take this one step further, I find that some of best way to deal with anxiety inducing unknowns is to make them into knowns - find out as much as you can about the other delegates and speakers in advance and they will quickly become far more real and far less threatening. Not lions, just other people like you, who most probably have exactly the same feelings as you and also want to meet people like you!
Create specific goals
Remember that ‘get through it’ attitude I mentioned above. It’s not helpful and it’s a huge waste of time. For me, I think it comes from having been ‘sent’ to conferences in my early career when directors deemed them too large a time commitment to attend themselves. Invariably I wasn’t the guest of choice and the event wouldn’t be something I’d have chosen to go to either. Multiply that by the fact that the subject matter was usually warehouses and new developments in on shelf packaging (sorry if that’s your thing, it wasn’t mine!) and I developed a pretty dysfunctional relationship with events as a whole.
I’ve found the best way to get around this is to create very specific goals for the events I’m going to. With a fairly new business, sometimes my goal has been something as simple as trying my new elevator pitch out on 5 people or finding 3 people in that fit my target market to quiz on what they’ve got going on. I find that by being very specific it allows you to view the event with a very different perspective than the usual ‘just going along’ and that starts to move you past any nerves or anxiety. I also remind myself just how lucky I am to be able to go to events that I’ve chosen to help me in what is still an enormously exciting journey to building my own business.
Break it down
Thinking about anything as a whole can make it seem far bigger and scarier than it really needs to be. That’s true of many things and I always get my clients to start by breaking things down to understand where their real anxieties and opportunities lie. It’s the same with something like an event. Spend some time in a quiet environment visualising the event and see if you can identify exactly what it is that’s creating your uncertainty and anxiety. Sometimes it can be as small as not knowing where to go when you get to the venue - yes that was me!
My best advice for this one? Research as much as you can about everything that’s causing you anxiety. Debunking your own myths is a sure fire way to, at the very least, release some of their power over you.
Think about how you feel when you go to event, maybe a family wedding, where there are old friends and family, you know everyone and you’re comfortable. It’s a way better event than one where you’re sat on the periphery waiting until it’s a polite time to go home, right? Well thanks to the power of social media you can create some of this ‘old friend’ magic by making connections and getting involved ahead of time. Get involved, research the other delegates, research the speakers and find out as much as you can about their stories. Note down anything you find interesting and would like to know more about. Tap into your natural curiosity and start to think about how you could form connections with people ahead of time. If you want to wait for the event itself, think about what questions you’d like to ask them when you meet.
Take the opportunity to research events from previous years and see if you can find out what some of the themes were and what the delegates got out of it. Think about how you can get involved on the day. Are there any specific questions you’d like to ask any of the speakers? Which ones would be good for the rest of the audience to hear and which ones would you rather ask 1:1? Be realistic about this point, have a list of maximum 5 questions per day that you’d like to get specific answers to. Any more and you might be disappointed.
Plan & Prepare
Remember those conferences I told you about earlier that I didn’t want to go to? When I went to those I invariably arrived late, got lost, messed up the public transport or forgot to take a pen! Why was that? It’s because my subconscious was aligned to what I thought – it didn’t want to go either and so it created what is known as self-sabotage. If you’ve followed the above points you’re hopefully already some way to feeling better about the event but if you are still feeling anxious and uncertain there’s a chance your subconscious may still try to save you from this and attempt to stand in the way of you going. The best way to ensure a smooth day with no disorganisation distractions is to plan and prepare as much as you possibly can. Make sure you know what you’re wearing, what your travel arrangements need to be, where the venue is relative to your hotel or arrival station, whether you’ll need any cash and so on. Make sure your phone is charged, you have something to take notes with and you have business cards a plenty. Pack your bag the night before and set an alarm that gives you contingency. There’s no better way to waste the first couple of hours of a conference calming down from a rushed sprint finish to the venue.
I’ve mentioned research several times but I really recommend putting some time aside to research and understand as much as possible. The fewer unknowns you have the better prepared you are and the fewer anxieties you will have.
And one last mindset trick from me that works every time – picture yourself stepping out of that heavy coat that’s woven out of anxiety and uncertainty and leaving it in a giant dustbin somewhere! Then put your shoulders back, lift your head up high, and walk in smiling, ready for a productive day.
That's it from me. If there's anything in here you'd like support with or to know more drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great week!
Want to know more about the event and future events from Jan Murray Soulful PR? Find out more here: www.soulfulprlive.com
Enjoyed reading... sign up below to receive my weekly newsletter.