Me, Myself, and I: The Power of Alone Time at Meetings

All the learning, networking, and receptions that occur at association meetings can leave even the most extroverted attendees exhausted. That’s why taking some “me time” can be quite beneficial.

Sometimes it can be 12-plus hours from when conference attendees head out of their hotel-room doors to when they return. And the time in between could easily be described as busy. After all, there’s education sessions to attend, tradeshow vendors to connect with, attendees to network with, and contacts to be made. But all this learning and networking comes with consequences: Attendees may often feel exhausted and disconnected from themselves at the end of the day.

What if conferences created enclaves where it was socially acceptable to be alone?

“What if conferences set up small spaces designed for individuals to be away from the crowd? What if they created enclaves where it was socially acceptable to be alone?” asked John Spencer in a post on Quiet Revolution. (Worth mentioning: Quiet Revolution is a company founded by Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and former ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo speaker.)

Good news: Over the past few years, meeting planners have started deliberately creating spaces and carving time into schedules that allow attendees to spend time alone and re-energize. (And, as I’ve previously blogged about, a focus on attendee’s mental well-being in the form of yoga, meditation, etc.)

One of the most recent examples is from this month’s TED Conference, which took place in Vancouver. Steelcase, one of the conference’s partners, provided a number of seating options throughout the convention center, according to BizBash. One of them was personal cubicles, which gave attendees a semiprivate environment where they could watch the conference’s simulcast alone—or even while catching up on email or talking to friends or family.

Association meetings also have realized the benefit of giving their attendees some “me time.” For example, the Critical Ethnic Studies Association’s 2015 Conference offered a quiet room. “This room will provide a quiet and accessible space away from traffic and noise,” CESA said on its website. “This space is intended to provide a getaway for conference attendees to relax, stretch, lie down, reflect, or engage in mindfulness practice.” The room also provided attendees with pillows, chairs, and yoga mats.

The American Anthropological Association offers the same. “Quiet rooms are intended to provide a quiet, calm space where convention attendees can spend time away from noise, lights, and other stimuli of conference spaces,” AAA said on its website.

Another interesting take on quiet space is giving attendees a place to catch some shuteye. At the National Automobile Dealer Association’s 2015 Conference and Expo, it offered attendees four nap pods on the show floor as part of its “Lifestyle Experience” retreat and will do so again in 2016. “People loved them,” Christine Marshall, NADA’s manager of convention operations, told Convene magazine about its 2015 meeting. “They were in constant use.”

In addition, creating quiet spaces at your conference does not just benefit your attendees. It can also be a plus for your speakers. In a 2015 post, Melody Kramer wrote about intentionality and conferences based on her experience speaking at 11 conferences during the previous year.

“I really appreciate when conferences have a quiet space or quiet spaces. As an introvert, conferences drain me quickly and I frequently need to recharge. If I go and sit by myself, it’s usually because I’m happy just observing for a bit,” she said.

How do you encourage attendees to take some personal time during your conferences? Please share in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!