So. Many. Business. Cards.
“The sun is shining outside. Ehh, I’ll catch it tomorrow, I need to go to my 8th work session in Pavilion 4.”
I caught myself saying these words while I was just in Lisbon, Portugal for the massive annual Web Summit last month.
All work and no play makes Melissa a dull girl, so I did my best to balance my networking hustle with some time to explore Lisbon.
Web Summit was awesome. I met inspiring people, heard innovative ideas, and witnessed all things technology.
However, if you’re going to dedicate time to a 3-day conference with 60,000 people in a beautiful country you’ve never been to before, I have four pieces of crucial advice for you so you be productive AND have a fun time while at a conference in Lisbon:
Tackling Conferences in a Group
Having someone to check in with periodically is a nice way to stay grounded during the chaos that is a giant conference.
If you’re attending multiple work sessions, lectures, and shaking so many strange peoples’ hands that you want to bathe in hand sanitizer – it’s nice to check in with a familiar face from time to time.
You can go get some fresh air together to see how your experience is going or to see if you can connect each other with people you’ve met that could be relevant to your industry or your goals.
Bonus: you have friends to go out with in Lisbon when the dust settles each night.
I highly recommend going out in Chiado near the Alfalma district. You will find yourself climbing up and looking down at the old cobblestone street. You’ll eat in tapas restaurants with Portuguese red wine so delectable it’ll make you swear off chardonnay for good. Your eyes will widen when looking at the unique architecture of the colonial-style old buildings on your way to a charming little espresso shops with antiques all over the walls open at 11PM. All the while, you’ll find yourself swaying back and forth as your ears are tickled with the sounds of buskers in the street.
I distinctly remember going to this little hole in the wall restaurant in Chiado with a group of friends from the conference. We ate, laughed, and clinked wine glasses for hours. Smiles, full bellies, and laughing so hard we cried. That’s a big part of what I remembered from my Lisbon trip, the making of memories with other people. It made me so thankful that I went to Lisbon with friends.
Don’t force yourself to stay in the recommended hotel near the conference.
I have one word for you: Airbnb.
Whenever possible, especially when traveling throughout Europe, I try to stay in an Airbnb. You can book the same amazing comfort in a charming home that you could get in a luxury hotel. Even better, the experience you’ll have with an Airbnb will provide local recommendations from your host and charming local neighborhoods you otherwise may not have found.
We chose to stay in a cute 2-bedroom apartment in the Alfalma district. Boy oh boy it didn’t disappoint. Alfalma is down by the water in the old district of Lisbon and is so stunningly beautiful. Brightly colored buildings, winding streets with extremely literal addresses posted on the wall that make you giggle, and seeing how the locals live when you walk by their window and they shout “hola!”
Word of warning: the older parts of Lisbon (like Alfalma) are made up of tons of hills. I’m talking 50-degree angle hills. Make sure to bring very comfortable walking shoes and water as walking from place to place is like city-based hiking. If you prefer something less labor intensive, Uber is widely available in Lisbon and is very inexpensive.
Make time to see the city!
Staying indoors constantly doing your elevator pitch in a giant pavilion for three days straight is not only unnatural, but not fun. I’m not saying don’t network and achieve what you want to achieve at the conference, you absolutely should.
However, remember that you’re in a brand-new city you may not have been to before and you may have some serious FOMO if you don’t make time to explore it.
For Lisbon in particular and awesome-sauce views, I’d recommend going to see the Arco da Run Augusta, Chiado, Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara, and Miradouro das Portas do Sol. The views of the city and the water are unearthly.
Lisbon as a colorful colonial gem by the sea.
The colors, location, food (make sure to check out Charcuterie Portuguesa down near the Praca de Comercio), and the people are so lovely. Portuguese people are so warm and welcoming and they want to share their culture with you.
This country is an overlooked European destination that most people don’t think of to travel to, so for that reason, it’s a great place for a quiet holiday escape, especially during the off season.
Don’t be lazy yo – do your itinerary homework ahead of time!
Conferences and going to a new city is a lot to take in at once. My advice: don’t just show up because then you won’t maximize your time and have a serious case of regret.
I’m not saying to do 3 hours of research, but at least devote 30 minutes before your trip to researching what you want to see in Lisbon AND what you want to accomplish at the conference. You may not be able to get to everything, but at least you’ll have a plan of attack that will serve you well.
Enjoy exploring Lisbon, or as they say in Portuguese, “aproveite a exploração de Lisboa!”
Have you traveled for work before? Were you able to sightsee a little? How was the experience?