The best thing I’ve ever done for my business is attend conferences and retreats that connect me with likeminded creatives. But even as a seasoned-conference-attending-extrovert, I still get pre-conference jitters and try to make excuses as to why I can’t attend.

Here are a few excuses I make as to why I can’t attend a conference or retreat:

  • I can’t afford it
  • I don’t want to go on a “vacation” without my family
  • I’m scared of navigating a new city by myself
  • I’m afraid to meet new people

If any of those sound familiar or resonate with you … well, let’s unpack it together and talk about why it’s silly to use any of these legitimate fears as an excuse to not grow your business.

“I can’t afford to attend a conference”

You should never go into debt or spread yourself thin by attending a conference or retreat. But there are things you can do:

  1. Find a conference that is within your budget – this might be picking one that is cheap to fly to or in your own city. Or maybe the conference itself is up-and-coming (read: small) and affordable to attend.
  2. Save for it! I attend the same retreats every year and know to budget accordingly. It’s a legitimate business expense just like a computer might be.
  3. Ask for a discount. Many conferences run early bird specials and discounts to loyal attendees. If you missed this window, you can always email the coordinator and ask for a discount or offer to volunteer for a price cut.
  4. Look at your return on investment. Every conference I’ve attended always pays for itself in the connections (and clients!) I’ve gotten from the experience. In some ways, I can’t afford NOT to attend conferences.

“I don’t want to go on ‘vacation’ without my family.”

This is definitely my biggest reason for saying no to most travel, but let me break it down:

  1. Conferences are not vacations. They are business travel. I’ve been to many conferences where I never even got the chance to explore the city because I was so busy learning and networking on-site.
  2. Okay, sometimes it is a bit of a vacation. But I’ve learned that taking a little time away from my family for myself recharges my batteries and makes me a better person when I return to them.

“I’m scared of navigating a new city by myself.”

I hate to admit that this is a legitimate fear of mine, but I used to hate flying and traveling alone. So here’s how I combat this fear:

  1. Most places conferences are held are set up for tourists and make it easy to navigate. Unless you don’t speak the language (and even then!) folks want to help you get to where you need to be.
  2. Once you make it to your destination, you can meet or make a new friend that you can travel or explore with while you’re there.
  3. Most conferences will have parties and events offsite that you can join in on.
  4. Think about how confident you’ll be once you do figure out some stuff on your own.

My biggest trick for getting over the fear of navigating a city by myself is by thinking about my mom. She’s always had a “we’ll figure it out” attitude that inspires me to be independent and unafraid. Think of the most courageous person you know and channel them! Also, after traveling alone a few times now I love it! It’s a great opportunity to people watch in the airport, get some work done, and indulge in a trashy magazine or good book.

“I’m afraid to meet new people.”

I was almost afraid this one might come across as sarcastic, but if you’re an introvert (many of our listeners identify this way), you might be feeling anxiety around the idea of meeting new people or being the new kid at school who has to eat lunch alone. Here are a few tips:

  1. Connect with attendees online before you go – many conferences and retreats are setting up Facebook groups or Slack channels for attendees where you can get to know each other and even make plans to meet up in advance.
  2. Have some goals for your experience that keep you positive and focused. For example, get specific about what you want to learn, see, or do at your conference.
  3. Have a script for what you do. Nothing will deflate your ego by not knowing how to say what you do for a living and may leave you sounding unemployed vs. self-employed. Have a quick script you can confidently refer to when explaining who you are and what you do.
  4. Wear your favorite outfits. It helps. (Listen to our episode with wardrobe stylist Tiffany Ima for inspiration!)
  5. Remember that everyone is there to meet new people. Sure, there may be a couple groups of people that already know each other, but for the most part, people attend conferences to make new connections. As Kristy Oustalet said in this week’s Being Boss episode, “Everyone is at a conference to meet other people. You’re not weird for saying hello.”

Kathleen is the co-host of Being Boss Podcast, helping creative entrepreneurs learn how to run their own creative business while being their most authentic selves. She also co-owns Braid Creative, a business visioning & branding agency for people- and purpose-driven businesses.