How many of you have ever gone to a convention and taken a picture like this?

PowerPoint slide

And how many of you have come back after the convention and gone, “Yeah, I have no idea what this is about.”

If you raised your hand, then you’ve suffered from convention brain. Convention brain happens when you get sucked up into a vortex of expo hall swag, free t-shirts, stacks of business cards from people you barely remember, and back-to-back-to-back-to-back bad PowerPoint presentations where people speak only in jargon.

“If you want to optimize your content strategy to increase KPIs, you should use these empathy hacks to achieve a customer-centric approach.”

Everyone in the room nods. No one in the room knows what it means.

Going to a convention is like going to Vegas. You lose all sense of chronological time, drink exorbitantly on weekdays, and brush elbows with celebrities who are paid buttloads to show up and talk about things they have no experience with. What does Mark Hamill know about content marketing? It doesn’t matter. Let’s talk to Mark Hamill about Star Wars for an hour.

Mark Hamill
Mark Hamill!

The first step for shaking convention brain is tending to your aching feet. Since you knew there’d be a lot of “networking,” (which in my case was awkwardly stepping into a group of people and joining in on their laughter, even when I didn’t hear the joke), you probably didn’t wear sensible shoes.

Every one of your sessions was a half mile away from your next session, and you had to travel up and down 20 escalators, through a sea of lost marketers, over the legs of smarter convention-goers who decided to skip out on the next session in favor of charging their iPhone at one of the two outlets in the entire convention center, and you had less than 15 minutes to get there. So soak those feet and wear some orthopedic slip-ons for the next few days.

The next step is going through your obligatory expo hall swag bag, tossing most of the garbage you collected, and adding it to your obligatory expo hall swag bag collection.

Since your sessions were punctuated by strolls through said expo hall, you avoided eye contact at all costs, otherwise suffer the stilted pitch of a booth junkie hating himself just a liiiiiiittttle bit for having to give away free mints to convention zombies in order to get leads. But you didn’t get away scott free.

There was that one company who spent at least a million dollars on their booth because it looked like the set of I, Robot and had more than five comfortable couches. You hung out on one of those couches and pretended to be interested in whatever the company was offering. You have a call with them later today. You’ll have your company spend $5,000 on their services because you don’t have the guts to say, “So yeah, I just wanted to hang out on your couch.”

If you’re lucky, you come away from a convention with a few golden nuggets of useful information. A couple of your sessions offered practical, actionable information. You may have even been inspired by an unexpected speaker. Pro tip: Always go see the comedian. If your convention hired a comedian, forgo the session on Five Ways to Unlock Creative Genius by Using Account-Based Demand Generation Content Syndication Customer Decision Journey B2B Advanced Marketing and go see him or her speak.

When you get back from the convention, it’s important that you go through your notes immediately. Otherwise your buzzing brain will leak out any of the good, useful nuggets (and the comedic inspiration), and you’ll be left with a bad PowerPoint presentation where you speak only in jargon to kick up to the bosses. Don’t let the cycle repeat itself. Find a convention mantra and repeat it over and over. Mine is “Why?” Can be applied to every life scenario. You’re welcome, bosses. That was $7,000 of convention dollars well spent.

The last and most important step for shaking convention brain is to remember your humanity. Yes, you got 20 more Twitter followers and added a few more connections on LinkedIn. Yes, you have 35 emails in your inbox from eager marketing vendors hoping you’ll partner with them for services. Yes, you just rubbed elbows with Mark Hamill. (Okay, he was at least 50 rows away, but still.) You are not a superstar. You went to Cleveland for a convention.

When you come back down to Earth, don’t be disappointed by the reality that no one gives a shit about you. No one discovered your God-given content marketing talents and plucked you from obscurity. But if you’re smart, you’ll play your convention cards right and take your tucked away piece of knowledge to heart. Buried in there, underneath all the swag, there was a lesson. Own it, be a little better for it, and then laugh at it. Why? Because you just got rid of convention brain.

green of skin, black of heart

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