Conference schedules can be brutal. So many main sessions and workshops as well as exhibits, concerts, networking, and more. Not to mention fitting in meals, often with long lines and the need to breath for a moment. And then there’s sleep. We go to conferences to get recharged, but we can walk away even more exhausted them when we began. We can gather an immense amount of information, yet return home on such an overload that we don’t have the focus to incorporate anything we learned.
So how can we take a different approach, taking advantage of the benefits a conference has to offer without experiencing an overwhelming exhaustion?
Choose well. You can’t go to everything offered. You might struggle with what workshop sessions to choose, because you want to go to all of them, but the more time you sit taking in information and the less time you leave for processing and “soaking,” the more you’ll forget soon after the conference. Take an entire session off. Use the time to soak in the notes from previous sessions. Grab ahold of the main word or phrase you seem to be hearing again and again and let God guide you to truths in his Word and convictions for your daily life. God wants you to live what he teaches out loud, but you’ll have to determine to let him do the sifting of everything you’re taking in. Discernment is key.
Rest well. Make space available to process the information you’re taking in. Take breaks by going for short walks, taking a nap, or touring a local attraction. Instead of focusing on what you’ll miss during the conference, focus on what you’ll gain by the varied experiences. “Pushing through” often leads to fatigue—physical, emotional, and spiritual. Clear the clutter as you go. Sort through nonessential paper included in your registration packet, so you’re not carrying it around. The key to getting overburdened is lessening the burden of what you’re carrying around, whether it’s physical, emotional, or spiritual. We often focus on the take-aways, yet attention to the leave-behinds are just as important.
Connect well. Be intentional about connecting with others. If you attend with others you know, let them choose what is best for them personally (there are benefits in staying together through some experiences yet going in different directions for other experiences), but set aside time to get together. Avoid filling all the together time with debriefing; view the time together as an opportunity to get to know each other and share life together. Also, reach out to others. Strike up a conversation with someone who sits or walks beside you. People who choose the same sessions already have common ground. As you discuss with others, you’ll remember what you’re experiencing and probably gather ideas. Connecting with others who share common ground with you can also provide long-lasting networking and support.
Retreat well. Take time to get away. It doesn’t have to be a completely quiet place, but find a park, walking path, or even your hotel room. Pray, read God’s Word, soak in his presence. God is much more concerned with who you’re becoming than the information you’re accumulating and skills you’re developing. Trust him to sift through what you’ll need to incorporate and what you need to set aside, what’s consistent with his truth and specific will for you and what’s useful but not essential for you personally in this season. He knows what he’s doing. Trust him. If you attend a conference without him, it will be a waste of time.
And if you can’t get away for a conference or retreat, click here for creative ways to get refreshes.
[Note: Stay aware of your motivation for determining when you should take breaks, connect with others, and so on. We can also use breaks to rationalize an avoidance of convicting teaching. When you hear yourself excusing or getting defensive about your preference to hang out by yourself or to escape with friends, you might be assuming you don’t need what the conference experience has to offer when, in reality, you don’t know what God has planned for you. Be sure you’re choosing God, which means you choose what he wants for you, not what you prefer for yourself.]