The DONA International 2018 Summit is T minus less than 24 hours ’til the start and doulas and other birth professionals are arriving in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from all around the world. The line up of speakers (both keynote and concurrent sessions) is outstanding and there is a nice balance of topics to appeal to everyon. For some of you, this may be your first DONA conference and for others, this is not your first rodeo. Either way, I wanted to share with you some tips and things to consider that will help you and other Summit attendees get the most out of the conference experience.

Meet new people

It is really easy to stay close by and move through the conference activities with people you know. They are familiar and safe, and you can be relaxed and yourself. The reality is, conferences are great opportunities to meet new people, make connections and establish professional relationships that may help your business grow. Make an effort to sit with some new faces, introduce yourself to people you have not met before and forge new friendships.

Stretch your comfort zone

While attending a conference, consider stretching your comfort zone by trying something new. Choose a concurrent session that you would normally not participate in, get up early to go to the yoga session, try new foods that are regional to the conference location and more. Explore the conference city when you can and be open to new experiences. You may surprise yourself with what you end up enjoying the most.

Eat and drink and rest to stay healthy

It is easy to get exhausted and run down during a conference. The hours are long, you stay up late visiting with others and you are pushing yourself physically and emotionally. Making wise food and drink choices can go a long way in keeping you healthy and strong. Stay hydrated, avoid too much caffeine and alcohol, and get lots of fresh veggies and protein. Many people soon start to feel like they are running on empty, burning the candle at both ends and letting themselves get depleted. Eating well and drinking healthy beverages can let you enjoy the conference without feeling drained or exhausted and getting a good night’s sleep helps you be fully prepared for all the activities.

Put in to practice what you learn

Some of the information you learn at the conference may be new to you. Other material may be familiar but presented in a new light. Either way, make an effort to identify at least one thing from each session that you will be able to apply and put into practice upon your return. One of the points of the conference is to learn new things and find out what is current best practice or a new way of doing things. Be open to the information and jot down next steps that will work for you from each session you attend. When you get home, remember to make time and space to implement some new ideas.

Track your expenses

Your hotel, meals, transportation, conference fees and other expenses associated with the conference are tax-deductible as a business expense. Make sure you save and label all your receipts so that they will be easy to access when tax time rolls around. I like to bring an envelope and after jotting down what the receipt is for, I stuff them in the envelope to access when I am doing my taxes.

Wear comfortable clothes and shoes

Conference rooms can be hot, cold or both! Dress comfortably and bring a light sweater. Layers work really well. Choose outfits that you feel confident and comfortable in, and that travel well. Shoes that you love and are easy to wear if you are going to be doing a lot of walking are good to have. Hotel rooms may be located far away from the conference rooms, or you may be walking to a restaurant or evening activity off the premises. Feeling your best happens when you feel good in your clothes and shoes! Wear what works well for you


Doulas are no different than other professionals- we love a good conference!  I am looking forward to seeing old colleagues, meeting new ones, learning, and networking. If you are in Fort Lauderdale, please come up and say hello. If you have some conference tips of your own to share, please do so in the comments. They will be valuable to all of us.