Conferences: A Descent into Madness

My employer’s Midwinter Meeting (not conference, please, it’s a thing…) was last weekend. Now, covering it for said employer’s magazine is one of the things I truly enjoy doing. It’s also stressful, with fast-paced, 14-hour days and the constant danger of some issue you didn’t even know existed exploding in an unpleasant way.

I’ve got several ideas from the conference (yeah, I know, but it’s way easier) that are relevant to museums. But I’m not yet fully coherent, due in part to recovery time and in part to a few unrelated things that chose this week to spring up, so I’ll start with this completely factual, not-at-all-intended-humorously documentation of a person’s descent into madness over the course of a conference. Not that anyone descended into madness or anything…

2 days before conference: Diligently plan everything you need to bring, including business cards, schedule, pen and pad, laptop, camera, pocket video camera, badge, special employee badge holder, flight information, hotel information, and so on. Realize that, in total, you’ll have no less than 6 cameras. [That part is true, because I’d sent 2 camcorders in trunks that get shipped to the conference. I needed them all, too. Or at least, I needed all of the ones I brought special; I didn’t really use the camera built into my computer.] Have a sneaking suspicion that you’re forgetting something.

1 day before conference: Pack. Cram everything into a carry-on bag, so you can carry it on the plane. Have a sneaking suspicion you’re forgetting something.

Day 1, 12:00 pm: After early flight, arrive at convention center. After a brief confusion, decode the hall organization system, and cheerfully assist attendee who isn’t so sure where she’s supposed to be.

12:10 pm: Find office, drop stuff, run out to get bearings and “capture some good B-roll.”

2:00 pm: Attend preconference session. Take copious notes.

4:30 pm: Debate whether to do some interviews or check into hotel. The former is proper and just, but the latter means you might get a room that’s not immediately next to noisy elevators that will be running until 3 am. Decide to be proper and just, and do interviews

5:25 pm: See a group of people sitting on the floor while waiting for exhibit hall opening. Fervently hope that they’re just sitting to sit, rather than as a protest against you.

7:30 pm: Reception 1. Smile a lot, chat animatedly.

8:00 pm: Reception 2. Smile a lot, chat whenever the conversation seems to be in a lull.

8:30 pm: Reception 3. Smile a lot, chat whenever you can’t quite manage to duck away when you see someone.

8:45 pm: Head to hotel. Get room by noisy elevator that will run until 3am.

9:00 pm: Dinner in overpriced, mediocre hotel restaurant, which has run out of bread.

10:00 pm: Write up interviews, receptions, send video files to editor.

12:00 am: Set clock for 5:00 am. Go to bed.

12:03, 05, 07, 09, 11, 14, 16, etc.: Curse elevator.

Day 2:

5:00 am: Rise. Shower. Discover that thing you suspected you were forgetting: Pants.

5:30 am: Seek caffeine. Fail. Catch shuttle to fun run, which you agreed to shoot video of even though it’s still dark.

8:30 am: Arrive at convention center. Decide caffeine is all in your mind after all.

8:40 am: Arrive at second session. Take fifteen minutes to realize your mistake.

10:45 am: Demand to know if anyone has thought of the children.

11:45 am: Discover warning signs about the dangers of alcohol on a fetus hanging in the men’s restroom.

3:00 pm: Do happy dance at the existence of Dropbox.

4:00 pm: Reach the conclusion that the association president requires groupies. Gather a crowd by promising pie.

4:45 pm: Rush into the exhibit hall, muttering something about “just one more churro.”

5:30 pm: Do angry dance at the delivery failure of Dropbox and try again.

6:30 pm: Reception 1. Singlehandedly give it a Brazilian theme.

7:00 pm: Reception 2. Decide it needs an ice sculpture, then make it happen, but with cubes instead of a big block and a chainsaw.

7:30 pm: Reception 3: Conga!

8:00 pm: Early trip to hotel! Dinner at same overpriced mediocre restaurant, which is out of bread and pork.

9:00 pm: Begin marathon writing session.

12:30 am: Discover, much to your chagrin, that you’ve managed to translate your entire website into Bulgarian, except for the one page that targets a Bulgarian audience. That one’s still in Finnish.

12:45 am: Realize that someone is playing “Heart and Soul” on the elevator stops. Let it rock you gently to slumber.

3:00 am: Fire drill! Apparently you sleepwalk, and sleep-discover-imaginary-crises.

Day 3:

6:30 am: Gaze longingly at the overpriced mediocre hotel restaurant’s breakfast buffet, knowing it will only bring you misery.

6:35 am: Give in, order the buffet, and discover just how much scrambled eggs can resemble Kathy Bates.

8:00 am: In office, see portal through time. It might just be a screensaver, but you better lock that down.

9:00 am: In discussion about new technologies, declare zombies to be the bacon of the undead. Demonstrate on two unwilling victims, and one surprisingly willing pig.

10:30 am: After a fairly rushed hitchhiking session, vote in the South Carolina primary.

1:30 pm: Realize how badly the word “conference” needs acute accents, and change signs accordingly.

3:00 pm: Discover that even a flashmob of one can be fun, especially if it’s performing a special Pig Latin mashup of songs from Eminem, Sesame Street, and the Starland Vocal Band.

4:00 pm: Refuse to go quietly.

11:00 pm: Ask the nice man for more horse tranquilizers.

Day 4:

8:30 am: Ask the closing speaker to wean you off of cheese.

9:30 am: Finally beat up that damn robot.

1:00 pm: Yep, the pants are still an issue. At least, according to the airline. Which is odd, because TSA didn’t mind the situation at all.

2:00 pm: Ponder Skymall.

3:00 pm: Ponder the inflight magazine. Particularly the letters to the editor. Who writes them, anyway?

6:00 pm: Collapse. It might not be in your own bed, or even your own city, but people are probably nice.


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