Conferences are great, I really enjoy going to them. But also, I find conferences can be difficult to be at.
I suffer from anxiety, and from time to time it can be difficult to deal with. Things that I struggle with are being in a place with lots of people (especially people I don’t know), being in places where there’s a lot of chatter or a loud noise from a microphone, and learning difficult or new things. So, basically things that by design you get at conferences.
Sometimes, it isn’t a problem at all. I can usually cope for a while if it is a problem. But often I just need to get away from it all for a few moments.
So, I have a suggestion for all conference organisers. Can we have some kind of “quiet space” for people to escape to? Somewhere away from the usual hustle and bustle of the conference where I can just sit down with a cup of tea1, perhaps catching up on twitter. Being by myself where my brain can recover.
It doesn’t need to be a separate room. Just some space away from the main break area (ie. away from the sponsor hall), that’s clearly defined as “I need to take five minutes” space.
Because often, as much as I’m enjoying the talks and meeting old and new friends, all my brain wants to do is run away. And my brain will thank you for providing somewhere I can run to.
Which brings me to another suggestion, this one for conference caterers: please don’t take away refreshments just because the talks are on. Not everybody goes to every talk. And no, jugs of water and small glasses don’t count as refreshments. ↩