Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Drink Up! The Importance of Staying Hydrated while at a Conference

Most people are aware of the basic facts about water consumption – the human body is approximately 75% water, you lose water throughout the day through normal activities and you need to take in a certain amount each day to replace what is lost, etc., etc. [Dehydration occurs when you take in less water than you lose, creating an imbalance.] However, many people are not aware of just how much even a little dehydration can reduce your effectiveness.

We all know that being thirsty is a sign of dehydration but did you know that even mild to moderate levels of dehydration can result in headaches, sleepiness, physical weakness, or dizziness? Higher levels of dehydration can become dangerous: irritability and confusion, low blood pressure, fever, and even loss of consciousness (Sources: Mayo Clinic and Medicine Net). Since we need to remain healthy and productive while managing an event, hydration is a key component that we cannot ignore.

Of course, you’d never let yourself become so dehydrated that you lose consciousness, right? You’d recognize it right away and drink more water, right? Maybe – but are you even aware of the symptoms and that dehydration is the reason you feel “off”? It is surprisingly easy to reach high levels of dehydration without realizing it – especially at a conference, and especially if you are the one “in charge” of the event. Why is that? I chalk it up to self-perception.

When I am onsite and the Lead for a conference, I become focused on all of the myriad details that need to me monitored to ensure a smooth-flowing event. The more details that need monitoring, the more focused I become on the needs of the event – sometimes to the point of forgetting my own needs (like eating and drinking). My focus (something needed, by the way) can get in the way of my ability to self-perceive my own condition. And this is not just something that I face. I have heard from other planners who have had similar experiences – and seen it occur in others as well.

Even attendees can suffer from dehydration. Have you ever been so busy that you “forgot” to eat lunch? (Be honest!) Conferences can be very busy affairs for the attendees as well as for the organizers. Packed event schedules can make even the most dedicated hydrator forget to drink up sometimes.

So, given that even low levels of dehydration can have negative effects on you, your work, and your moods, what can you do to combat dehydration at a conference (or anywhere for that matter)? Here are just a few ideas…

1. Set an alarm on your watch or phone to remind you to drink (and eat!) something. It does not have to be a lot – just enough to make sure that you are staying hydrated (or fed).

2. If you are onsite with other staff who work with you, remind each other periodically to get something to drink and/or something to eat. You may not realize you need it until someone says something to you. This is a technique my office uses with great success while onsite at meetings.

3. Keep a water station at your registration desk, in your onsite office, or wherever you will regularly see it. Having water in sight serves as a subtle reminder to regularly drink up.

4. If you are able, carry a water bottle with you as you make your rounds of the event, checking details, checking in with vendors, etc. Like having a water station in view, having a bottle of water with you can be a good reminder to stay hydrated. I know many planners who use this technique.

Don’t limit yourself to just these suggestions; find other ways to remind yourself to drink regularly throughout the day. Find what works for you – there is no one “right” way…

One final word of advice: don’t rely on just one method to remind you to stay hydrated. A single technique might fail. You could lose your water bottle (setting it down, then forgetting where you put it – or even that you had it) or miss/ignore your alarm. People can forget to remind you. But, if you have multiple reminders in place, the chances are much better that you will remember to drink plenty of water – and avoid any of the nasty effects of dehydration.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises