Wednesday, July 05, 2006

More Advice for Nationals

You've registered. You've made your airline reservation. You have a hotel room and your roommate(s) all lined up. You have comfortable shoes and a new wardrobe. Your editor and agent appointment is made. You've perfected your pitch. In other words, you're ready to go.

I attended my first national conference two years ago in Dallas, Texas. I'd done all of the above except editor and agent appointments since I had nothing to pitch. But I had the comfy shoes, the new clothes, the fancy ball gown for awards night. I was fired up!

The workshop schedule appears in the RWR a couple months before conference and I scoured every listing. I read what each workshop was about and who was giving it. I took little sticky notes and marked my choice for every time slot in the conference. I also volunteered to work on Wednesday night at the literacy signing. And .in addition, I also took it upon myself to be a personal ambassador for the website I worked for as review coordinator since the webmaster had to cancel his trip to Dallas for health reasons. Iplanned to say hello to every author we hosted on the website and every author that we'd ever done a book review for.

I got to Dallas, checked into my room and met my three roommates, none of whom I had ever set eyes on before that day. I "knew" one of them from my reviewing work; she handled some of the website duties for the site in addition to writing for the Silhouette Romance line. I unpacked, hung my things in the closet, selected a drawer for my folded clothes, staked out a corner of the bathroom and picked which bed I was going to be in and on which side.

And then I hit the ground running. I never stopped for two and a half days except for about 5-6 hours of sleep a night. And then some time Friday night I hit the wall -- literally. I was in a workshop, sitting in the very back row with my chair against the wall and I felt my eyelids drooping. Next thing I knew I fell asleep and my head snapped back against that wall. Try as I might I could not stay awake any longer and I finally waved the white flag and headed for my room. I skipped supper, slept through the night and woke fairly refreshed and rejuvenated on Saturday morning.

I had experienced Conference Overload.

Fast forward to the 2005 conference in Reno, Nevada. I had comfy shoes, comfy clothes, fancy attire for awards night and had volunteered to work at the literacy signing. I had my workshop schedule too. But the big difference was that I learned that most of the conference is taped and I could always order the tape instead of running myself ragged with an overloaded schedule.

So my advice to you is to pace yourself. If there are two workshops you really, really want to attend that are scheduled at the same time, see if one will be taped and attend the other. Or maybe you can work out something with a friend who is going to attend it and she'll let you borrow her notes. If the cost of the tapes is too much for your budget, consider finding several friends to share the cost.

Another piece of advice is to drink plenty of water during the week. You're pushing your body hard and it will be easy to get a little dehydrated aside from the fact that nationals are being held in Atlanta, Georgia, which isn't called Hotlanta because of it's arctic climate. The hotel will have water available in some form -- pitchers and glasses or bottles of water. Make sure you take advantage of it lest you develop the mother of all headaches, which I can assure you will ruin your fun.

As a corollary to the water advice, bring along a bottle of your over-the-counter pain reliever of choice. Even if you don't need it for yourself, you might make a new friend when you offer a couple ibuprofen to someone in the elevator. Who knows? That someone might just be the editor you have an appointment with the next day.

National conference is an exciting adventure and it's understandable that you want to get your money's worth. But you'll be no good to yourself or others if you're too exhausted to absorb material or make an intelligent pitch.

Take it easy. Stay hydrated. Have fun. And if you see us at the conference, please be sure to say hello. Some of the time we'll be easy to recognize. We have T-shirts with out individual logos on the front and the Writing Playground logo on the back.

See you in Atlanta!


Problem Child said...

I think the thing to remember is that you can't do everything at conference. There's no way. Make a list of "must-dos" (like your volunteering) and workshops you think will be very helpful, but leave some flex in the schedule. You never know when a nap might be just the thing you need.

Also, spontaneous is good sometimes. I was on my way to a workshop in Reno and passed one of the pub signings. The line wasn't too long, so I went in. I got to meet and talk to Julie Garwood--one of my faves!!!

Smarty Pants said...

I guess I made that mistake last year. I kept trudging from workshop to workshop, feeling like the other playfriends were playing hooky for skipping sessions to go to signings or take naps. I have to keep telling myself this isn't SCHOOL! Yes, I paid to go, but I can listen to the tapes later (I won't, but I CAN) and the value added by the social activities is much greater than cramming in every workshop I can.

I haven't done it yet, but I need to look over the classes, see which ones I really NEED based on what I'm doing right now, then anything else I do is just a bonus. So hard for a planner like me...


Instigator said...

I've already hit the schedule with a highlighter. I've got way too many workshops on my list - I probably won't make half of them. But at least when I get the tapes I'll know which sessions to listen to first. My worry this year is networking - lets see how well this extrovert does at that :-)


Kathy said...

Rats, I've tried to blog twice... got deleted. Here goes.

I've gone through the class list and started my own itinerary. Some classes occur when I want to be somewhere else and I know things may change when I get there.

I've started my packing list and begun to worry about clothes. I've also had mini-mares, what if I stumble, what if I say the wrong thing, what if... etc. I'm obsessing over the shoes since everyone talks about how sore your feet get but I want to look good, too. I don't dress up that often.

I started exercising again to boost my energy levels. So basically, I'm tired already and I haven't even been to Nationals yet.

And wow, I can't believe you met Julie Garwood, PC. How awesome!

Angel said...

I went to my first Nationals in NYC. Instigator and I packed in full-time workshops and sight-seeing, on top of other stuff. I hit the wall on Saturday afternoon. This time I will be taking it much easier and leaving flex time in my schedule.

Which is really hard for me because, as a planner, I want to fill in all the little slots in my calender. :)