I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into my first Engage Summits. A few months leading up I was filled with anxiety about the unknown like so many other first-timers. But as I got closer and closer to my trip to NOLA my nerves started to dissipate, and excitement started to take over. I felt so fortunate to be surrounded by so many friends as we experienced New Orleans together. You do sort of feel like you are going in blind at your first Engage, but I wanted to share my honest experience and takeaways for others considering signing up.
Why I Decided to Attend
I decided to go to the 2022 New Orleans summit because I felt like my portfolio was in a pretty good place. I knew my brand “vibe” or the energy I was putting out was starting to attract the types of clients and vendors that mesh well with our overall aesthetic. I took time during Covid to step into my power as a creative and started owning who I was as a person with a take it or leave it attitude. I knew who I was, what I wanted, what my game plan was to make those things happen etc. The only thing I felt that was missing or lacking was the opportunity to connect with other like minded professionals who serve high tier clientele.
As a planner I stopped attending most networking events because I am usually inundated with people screaming “hire me, hire me” over and over without even trying to build a personal connection. We also specialize in destination weddings, so local events just weren’t cutting it anymore. The idea of being surrounded by industry professionals from all over the world who had similar goals, dreams & served a similar client was thrilling.
Honestly, I worked so hard on my mindset beforehand to not have any expectations. I went into this looking at it as an experience to enjoy. As planners we never really get to step back and experience our events like guests, so this was my opportunity to do just that. I had many friends approach me beforehand asking me what I wanted to get out of the event, or who I HAD to talk to. My response was always the same. I went into it with zero pressure on myself. I just wanted to survive my first go around while watching, learning & welcoming anything that was thrown my way.
I was given a lot of great, and not so great advice from people who have attended in the past. I learned very quickly that everyone has a different Engage experience, and thats the beauty of it. But there were a lot of really great take aways and myth busting moments I wanted to share with people considering signing up as first timers at future events.
Truths / Tips / Myths Debunked
- Go early & stay late. I was so glad I got there a few days before the festivities started to get myself in a good headspace with close friends. I’m glad I stayed a day after the Gala as well but I think that’s all thats needed. I added two days at the end of the trip as well and ended up leaving a day early so I could just get home and sleep in my own bed.
- The Schedule is INTENSE. Like actually way more intense than you think or expect. I mean you barely have time to get ready between the general sessions and evening events a few of the days but its all worth it. I had to build in some time for myself to recoup when I could here and there which wasn’t easy.
- Create a template for your outfits based on the mood boards & pack extras. I’m so glad I spent time planning out each outfit visually. But I also wish I would have invested more time in thinking through some extra outfits since we were invited to a few parties and meetings on the spot and I didn’t feel as prepared as I should have been for those moments.
- Food Can Be Hard To Come By. This might be controversial to some but I had to share my honesty here. This was really unexpected for me. Make sure you spend some time before you arrive going and buying some snacks & drinks for the room, and budget a bit for room service. I was so thankful that I had snacks and actually had to go back quite a few times to grab bites of things or order room service because I felt light headed or depleted. Looking back some of this was because I actually had Covid and didn’t know but this was a common thought among other attendees as well.
- Get to Registration as soon as it starts. I am so glad I got there as soon as registration started on the first day. I was going to wait until the mad dash was over but heard the lines were getting long from a friend so decided to head up early. Not only do you get the best picks in the gifting lounge but it’s so important to have a few hours before kickoff to go through “the bible” of attendees to make notes of who you want to meet and put faces to names. This REALLY helped me establish some note worthy connections by honing in on who I wanted to spend time with.
- Look at the day events / in between moments as time to make connections, look at evening events as time to solidify those relationships. I built a lot of great, personal connections while I was at Engage. Those connections were mostly built in the in between moments. In line at registration, between general sessions or breakouts, on buses, at the pool etc. The evening events are FUN don’t get me wrong but its really hard to chat with people over the music or entertainment at the parties. So I spent valuable time getting to know people during the day and then made it a point to find them on the dance floor to party together at night. Twerking with people for 3 days straight will easily help build a lasting friendship!
- It’s ok to spend time with your friends at Engage if you are working the room together. I heard quite a bit from others to make sure I wasn’t spending time with friends but I actually found this to be super valuable in my case. BUT you have to do so strategically. I think the way our friend group did it worked really well. We would spend time during the general sessions / in between moments separated which allowed for new connection and then we’d reconvene as a group with our new friends and introduce them to everyone else at the parties. Our group kept growing and growing in the best way. It was also so great facilitating new relationships for my friends and having them do the same for me. As a first timer too it kind of kept the edge off in conversation to have a few friends around who could contribute. Despite the amount of attendees I felt like I was still able to meet so many amazing contacts using this method.
- Everyone is friendly and it truly does feel like a family and community. Everyone I interacted with was really nice and welcoming. It wasn’t hard at all to build relationships.
Things That Came in Handy
- Create a QR code & lock screen schedule. I had my QR code as a widget on my home screen and created a template in Canva for my lock screen with the schedule. Although I would wait to do this until you register and get your assigned breakout sessions. I did mine before leaving home and had to quickly make adjustments after registration. But this was a life saver and helped me process the day one step at a time.
- Bring a personal fan. It was hot, and this was so handy. That is all.
- Bring cough drops. You will go horse and your throat might start hurting from all of the talking over music, yelling song lyrics etc.
- This blister prevention stick WORKS! I only got one blister the entire week and I wore heels everyday.
- Bring Covid tests & get your boosters right before going. These came in handy too since I started showing symptoms the night after the gala. the truth of the matter is a lot of people get Covid from Engage and I did too in the end. If I could go back I wish I would have gotten another booster a month before going. Its on my list for next time. I felt like I got it pretty bad because I got my booster 8 months before Engage and didn’t feel as protected as I should have been.
And it’s just like they say, as soon as you get home and recover you are ready to go back! Any other first timers or attendees have any other feed back? Feel free to leave any other notes in the comments.
Photography: Lance Nicoll