Thursday, April 24, 2014

Off to Another Conference!

The Brave Astronaut Clan is on the road for another professional meeting.  LBA and and SoBA are along for the ride - but they're really here for the baseball portions of the trip (Cooperstown, a Rochester Red Wings game on Saturday, and maybe a stop at the Little League Museum on the way home).

The Spring 2014 MARAC Meeting is being held in Rochester, NY this week.  There is a full slate of activities, sessions, and events for my friends and colleagues to do for the next few days.  BuzzFeed posted a while back on the "Awful Stages of Attending a Conference."  Hopefully our meetings aren't like this.
  1. You have to wake up at a stupidly early hour because the event starts at 8.30 ON THE DOT.  Even though half the delegates arrive late and no conference in the history of human evolution has ever started or ended on time.  (For years, we have been toying with our schedule to try and get some events moved to different parts of the day from first thing in the morning - but someone is always going to get screwed.) 
  2. Conferences usually take place in the basement of musty old hotels, where there’s no phone reception. (This is becoming less of a problem as hotels join the 21st Century and provide free wi-fi - so you can keep playing that game of Words With Friends or Candy Crush.) 
  3. You’re supposed to be networking and exchanging business cards, but it’s too early and you find it endlessly awkward peering at people’s name badges to see who they are. (As the President of the organization, I meet a lot of the conferees and I'm ashamed to admit that I have stolen more than a few glances at name badges when people come up to me.) You're supposed to be networking and exchanging business cards, but it's too early and you find it endlessly awkward peering at people's name badges to see who they are.
  4. And when you do see someone you know, you can’t remember their name so avoid making eye contact. (I know someone in the profession that when engaged in a conversation with him - he would constantly be looking past you for someone else to talk to.) 
  5. There may be an exhibition area where sponsors can tell you all about their wonderful products. They may have hired a DJ. (In my memory, there's never been a DJ - but we get some good swag from our exhibitors - and there's often candy - something that LBA and SoBA will root out very quickly this week.) 
  6. Then the conference itself starts. There are some great speakers… and some not so great ones. (As a profession, we are not the most dynamic speakers - but we do OK.)  
  7. If you're a journalist covering a conference, you're often reduced to searching for laptop battery power. (We don't get a lot of journalists covering our meetings.) 
  8. Lunchtime! Now you have to try to eat and chat while holding a plate and cutlery and and a drink. Good luck. Bonus observation: What’s with those metal food heaters you get at conferences? Where do they come from? (We have pretty good luncheons - I used to avoid them unless the topic really grabbed me - but now as President, I'm there.) 
  9. You are praying there are cakes. Please let there be cakes. You are praying there are cakes. (We have pretty good breaks - and at this conference there is reported to be ice cream!) 
  10. After lunch is when you have to ward off that sleepy feeling. (Yeah, I try not to go to sessions in the afternoon - I don't want my snoring to disturb the presenters.)
  11. It wouldn’t be so bad if conferences weren’t so expensive. It will cost you $6,000 to attend the TED event in Rio this year. (Well MARAC is still pretty affordable - and most of the time - our employers will help with the costs.)
  12. And when it’s all over? There’s a free bar. Which you make full use of. (MARAC's Hospitality Suite "After-Parties" are legendary in the organization.) 

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