Greek leaders, when I say the words, "weekend-long leadership conference," I know exactly what you're thinking. You're envisioning a long Friday and Saturday enduring boring speakers who are WAY too excited about their unexciting subjects. You're imagining massive convention centers full of nerdy type-A people who are nothing like you. I know this because that's exactly what I thought when I first heard about the "South-Eastern Panhellenic Conference". However, to my surprise, I had a relatively painless and even slightly enjoyable conference experience. If you're interested in finding out how I managed to actually have a little fun as I learned some new things, please refer to the following tips and tricks I came up with in the course of the weekend.
Survival Tip #1: Eat breakfast. As we all know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I know this better than most, as all my friends and family members will tell you that I am an absolute bear (no pun intended) until I get something in my belly in the mornings. Yet there I was, running downstairs on the first morning of the conference with my stomach rumbling louder than the thunder rolling across the cloudy Atlanta sky. In between sessions, I managed to scurry down to the hotel coffee shop and purchase a delicious (but absurdly expensive) fruit and yogurt cup. I scarfed it down in the ten minutes between sessions as some girls who were meeting up to discuss the previous session looked on in disgust, perhaps wondering when/if I would drop some of the pink yogurt onto my white blouse in the process of slinging it from the cup to my mouth via a flimsy plastic spoon. This moment (a real low point in the day) made me thoroughly regret those extra 10 minutes of sleep I had enjoyed only hours before.
Survival Tip #2: Be on time. Being on time at leadership events is everything. Not only do you run out of time getting ready in the mornings and forget important items (namely deodorant, not something you want to forget when you're sitting in stuffy rooms full of strangers all day), but you may miss something important the speaker says in the first few minutes of the session. What's more, people don't respect a person who looks frazzled and harried. The few extra moments before a session are time to sit down, collect your thoughts and prepare to listen to whatever is about to be said.
Survival Tip #3: Wear flats. Trust me on this one. No matter how many other people in the conference are wearing heels, no matter how good your legs look in them, no matter how much better they match your professionally polished business-casual outfit, DO NOT WEAR THE PUMPS. Put them down slowly and walk away. There is too much walking and chances are, there will be other uncomfortable aspects of your attire which will demand your attention for the day. Additionally, there is the danger of the heel getting stuck in the crack between the floor and the elevator, causing you to stop dead in your tracks and block people from coming on or off the elevator as you scramble to regain your shoe and your composure, both of which may as well have been knocked down the elevator shaft at this point for all the good they're doing you. Save those pumps for the banquet on the last night of the conference when you will be wearing a dress that will show off your legs and when you will only have to wear this attire for a couple of hours at the most.
Survival Tip #4 (the final and probably most imperative tip): Be friendly. Don't hesitate to say hello to whomever you may sit beside in a session. This is something we don't normally do for fear of being thought of as awkward or creepy. However they are feeling insecure, too, I promise. They will probably admire you for your boldness, and maybe even wish they could have been bold enough to extend the hand of friendship sooner than you. Also, some of the worst sessions are completely bearable with a new friend to exchange snarky comments with out of the corners of your mouths. Here are some examples of friends I made at SEPC:
- Katy: a really sweet girl from Virginia and my fashion icon for the remainder of the trip
- Mollie: a student at Delta State University who taught me that there is a college mascot called the Fighting Okra and consequently made my day
- The girl from Kentucky who was standing in line with me to pay for sorority merchandise set up at a booth. Whose name I can't remember but who was also a Chi Omega and who seemed like a genuinely good friend to those around her
To everyone heading to a Greek leadership conference sometime in the near future, I wish you the best of luck! Remember, don't take yourself too seriously. We all need a couple of mornings like mine to remind us that woman does not live on parfaits alone, but on embarrassing shoe moments and frazzled tardy mornings and making new friends as well. You may even learn something about Greek life along the way.
Photo courtesy of 123rf.com/profile_dolgachov.