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The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

16 April 2013

Ten tips for fun, productive conferences (chronic illness series)

Professional conferences and fan cons can drain even a healthy person physically and mentally. Some people routinely get sick ("con crud") after a conference because they wear themselves down taking advantage of every opportunity the conference offers. For a person with chronic illnesses, conferences are even more demanding and can be debilitating.

Ages ago, when I worked at Science magazine, I attended one or two conferences every month. Later, as a medical writer, I covered in-town medical conferences for various physician tabloids. Now as a fiction writer, I try to go to at least one writing conference or fan con every year. They remain difficult, but over the years, I have learned several ways to make the experience easier and to feel good so I enjoy the con.

1. When possible, I arrive the day before the conference starts. Doing so gives me a chance to recuperate from traveling, get a full night’s sleep, and check out the conference facilities so I don’t get confused and lost during the conference itself. Sometimes the conference has early registration set up, which lets me plan or refine my schedule.

2. I stay in the conference hotel. Yes, it’s usually more expensive. But doing so allows me to take a rest break or a nap anytime I want. Also, I can put meals on my room bill, relieving me of most of the burden of keeping track of receipts.

3. When I reserve the room, I request a refrigerator. It allows breakfast to be less rushed and makes it easier to stay hydrated and (if necessary) caffeinated.

4. I plan my conference schedule ahead of time. Most conferences and cons post the final schedule on the Website before the conference starts. I make a grid for each day, showing for each time period my first-, second-, and third-choice sessions and where they are. I also include the scheduled conference meals and appointments I’ve made to see friends and readings I want to hear. Many conferences extend their special conference rate to the days before and after the conference.

5. I take enough medication for an extra day or two. Sometimes, flights get cancelled because of weather. Sometimes, planes arrive late and one misses a connecting flight. I try to be ready if I have to spend an unexpected extra day away from home.

6. When possible, I travel with another person. Travel, especially plane travel, exhausts me and leaves me confused and disoriented. Traveling with a companion ensures I reunite with my luggage and get on the right shuttle.

7. I skip most evening events, including parties. Yes, I know that’s when most networking takes place, a major reason to attend a conference in the first place. But sleep is priority #1 for people with chronic illnesses. Also, a healthy person may be able to party all night and still be on the ball for a panel or talk the next day; I can’t.

8. I prepare for the panels I’m on before going to the conference. In general, I’m not good at winging it, so I would do this even if I were healthy. But with chronic illnesses, I can’t predict how I will feel on a particular day. Preparing ahead of time means I can do an adequate job on panels even if I’m foggy and confused.

9. I try to schedule nothing for the two days after I get home. I take three things for granted when I get home: 1. It always takes more time to unpack than I expect; 2. Urgent emails will be waiting; and 3. I’ll be too tired to go anywhere or work productively.

10. When I can, which is not often, I leave the day after the conference ends. No lugging heavy bags around on the last day, no long line to stand in to check out, no rushing to get from the last session to the airport, no forgetting something essential in the hustlebustle. 


Charles Gramlich said...

I used to try and make the parties but these days I usually skip them too. I'm just tired and most of the time have to work the next day anyway.

Shauna Roberts said...

CHARLES, I probably would skip the late parties in any case.

When I go to a writing conference, I want to get my money's worth and learn a lot. I can stay up all night drinking beer at home, without paying for a conference registration and a hotel room.

If I'm on a panel, I want my audience to get their money's worth from attending it. I would be embarrassed to show up hung over and incoherent, as some presenters do.

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Shauna said...

Dear Ms. Shauna,

I was so glad to read that you are now going to concentrate on the medical side of things on your ever-inspiring site!! I have always loved the posts and really anything you write is beautiful.

To now come and read you speaking of the chronic illness side of life, will be even more of a treat! (Ok I'm being selfish) ;)

I say we start making plans for a long-needed and hoped-for meeting of the minds...and meeting of the Shauna's. Will email you honey.

Gentle Hugs---<3