Book donation at the Give1Project offices in Dakar, March 2014.

Book donation at the Give1Project offices in Dakar, March 2014.

Next week, the 5th Anniversary Conference of the Give1Project will convene in Washington, DC. I like to describe Give1 as a think tank for global leadership. Founded by Thione Niang, the organization engages global leaders, equips young entrepreneurs, empowers women, promotes international travel, and inspires young people to change their world by building healthy and strong communities. I connected with this group when I attended their women’s empowerment summit in Dakar, Senegal and am really excited about the conference.

Next week is an exciting week for movers and shakers all over Chocolate City. It’s also the annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Legislative Conference week. In conjunction with the Caucus, local social, fraternal, civic, and political organizations will host parallel events since so many people will be in town. There are panel discussions and parties scheduled in every nook of the city! 

In the past, when I prepared to attend events like this, I spent lots of time and money packaging myself, polishing and prepping, trying to fit a certain mold that would make my presence palatable. I made sure my wardrobe was pristine and worked up an unhealthy amount of anxiety wondering how I’d be perceived. The weight of the anxiety prevented me from fully participating in the event. My body would be present but my thoughts would be entangled. Inevitably, I walked away with lighter pockets and a lesser experience.

canstockphoto7782725The funny thing about packaging in environments like this is that packaging makes you blend in when it would be more advantageous to stand out. So, how do you
stand out from the crowd and posture yourself to reap the most benefit from the opportunity to rub elbows with the
up and coming? These 5 tips will help you make the most out of your experience.

  1. There may be several people in the room who do what you do but what makes you unique is why you do what you do. Don’t be afraid to share your why. The same motivation that drives your passion can draw support for your programs, projects, and causes. If you haven’t developed an elevator speech articulating your why, take a look at Simon Sinek’s TED talk based on his popular book Start with Why.
  2. Don’t be afraid to not be the smartest (or most advanced) person in the room. Being a novice in a room with advanced practitioners is called apprenticeship. Ask questions, take notes, and build a bibliography. If concepts escape you, research them. Google is your friend! It’s not okay to appear ignorant, but it is perfectly fine to appear green. Everyone in the room had a beginning.
  3. Network, network, network. If you’re an introvert like me, this can be the most painful part of these types of events. What’s more painful is returning home after investing hundreds of dollars in an experience and none of the attendees knows your name. Here is a helpful list of networking tips that I will be putting into practice next week.
  4. Be fully present. You’ve made the investment to be in the room. So, bring all of your energy and attention to focus on the moment at hand. Observe and engage. Process and participate. Being present is a sign of gratitude to God and to the universe for gifting you an opportunity that many others may never have. You were chosen and appointed to be there. So, be there! It is your obligation.
  5. Do your homework. When you receive the agenda, study the session topics. Is there new legislation in this area? Are there recent publications or current events on the topic? Who are the subject matter experts on this topic? Having this background information will help tether you to the conversation.
  6. Follow up with the people with whom you made a genuine connection. I know that we live in the age of technology and email correspondence is perfectly acceptable, but I’m old school. I love sending and receiving handwritten notes. (I just have to schedule time to write AND MAIL them.)
  7. Have fun! Lighten up! Enjoy the moments. Appreciate this place on your journey. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Be blessed by your own becoming.

Now that you’ve been armed with your best self, grow forth!

Happy Conferencing!

NaShieka