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Preparing for a Local Convention

The other day Howard was talking to me and interrupted himself mid-sentence three times in a row to change the subject. It was amusing and fascinating to listen to him close off these nesting topics one by one. My day today is going to be a lot like that. I have lots of tasks ahead. Many of them are going to interrupt each other and I’ll just have to hope that I’ve placed enough memory triggers either in my house or in my brain so that I can come back and complete the interrupted tasks. A day like today requires lists.

Most of today’s work can be summed up in a single sentence: I am preparing for LTUE. That statement can be broken down into three basic categories: arranging for the kids, booth preparation, and preparation for a professional appearance. From there the tasks fracture into dozens of small details, which I am now going to list so that at 2 o’clock this afternoon when I’m standing in my front room with the feeling that there is something important I should be doing, I will be able to look at the list and think “Oh yeah, right, THAT.”

Arranging for the Kids:

  • Most important here is arranging for adequate supervision. This used to mean negotiation with friends, relatives, or neighbors for babysitting. Now it means sitting my children down and reviewing exactly how we treat each other when mom is unavailable to mediate conflicts. House rules will also be reviewed.
  • Planning their travel to and from school when I can’t help carpool — Done
  • Food. I need to buy microwavable food so that they don’t go hungry in the mid afternoon. I’ll actually be here for most of the dinner times. However I will also be brain dead, so I will be grateful to be able to shove frozen things in the microwave and push a button.
  • Bedtime. This only matters on Thursday. The other nights they can stay up late. I just need to plan incentives and review normal procedures with the kids so that they are prepared for things to be a little different than usual. It saves us from upsets when everyone knows the plan.

Booth Preparation:

  • In theory LTUE is the convention when we test out new booth set ups and displays. Every fall we say “we should do A, B, C next year. We’ll test that at LTUE.” Then every February I realize that it is time to prep for LTUE and I don’t have A, B, C ready to go. sigh.
  • Making bundles — We sell our books in discounted bundles. These must be assembled and shrink wrapped. Fortunately Kiki was in need of funds and happily took the job for me. — Done
  • Packing merchandise — The first and hardest step of this is deciding how much to bring. Fortunately we’re coming home every night so I can re-stock as necessary, but we still don’t want to run out of anything when a customer is standing right there. Everything we decide to bring must be packed into boxes for easy hauling by dolly. Loose merchandise gets lost or damaged.
  • Display stands and booth dressing — These are the A, B, C which I never get around to until almost show time. Today it means buying a foam core board so that I can make a vertical display for our t-shirt, grocery bags, and magnets. We also need to get our book stands and table cloths out of the storage unit. Also our table leg extenders so that we can raise the tables.
  • Planning where to park for easiest hauling of stuff into and out of the dealer’s room. It never works exactly as we expect.
  • Cash for change — means a trip to the bank.
  • Post-convention accounting, inventory counting, and unpacking — none of this happens today, but for everything I prepare today, part of my brain is sadly looking ahead to when I’ll have to clean up after it.

Preparing for a professional appearance:

  • I write notes out for all the panels in which I participate. Often I don’t even use the notes, but the process jiggles loose thoughts and stories which could be relevant to the topic. It means that my brain is primed to say useful things when I’m up in front of a room full of people. I list things I feel strongly need to be said about the topic. I list things which might be relevant or reminders of amusing anecdotes which fit the topic. I bring the notes to the panel and then I take notes as the panel progresses. My panel notes form the basis of a blog post later. Taking notes mid-panel means that when someone says a thing that triggers a thought, I am less likely to lose track of that thought before it is my turn to speak again. I’m pretty sure that I over-think this. Most professionals I know just show up with the knowledge in their heads and do fine. I just enjoy the advance planning. It is part of the fun for me.
  • I plan clothes and hairstyles. I don’t do this in detail, but I think generally about what I want to wear. Then I make sure that I do laundry so that those things are actually clean and ready for me.

There’s my list. Ready. Set. Go.

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7 comments to Preparing for a Local Convention

  • Emily M.

    Sandra, is LTUE at all baby-friendly? If you stay in the back and leave if there is baby noise? Or is it just not done?

  • Emily M.

    Really really? Wow. I may be able to sneak away tomorrow then. With baby. We’ll see if the stars and planets align. I’m planning on one of the Friday sessions and as much Saturday as I can get away with.

  • 'nother Mike

    I knew one conventioneer who swore by carbonless pads? E.g., if they ran out of merchandise, the person asking got an immediate “rain check” note — and the carbonless pad gave the conventioneer an immediate copy without any extra fuss. It was like a memo pad, except it made copies? Seemed like a great idea to me, since I often write things down and hand them to someone, then later wonder what I wrote down.

  • 'nother Mike

    Weird question, but may I have permission to use this as an example for work breakdown structure? I teach (and sometimes write about) project management, and students always seem to think I’m talking about huge, strange projects when I get into this notion, but … this is a perfect example! And best of all, I didn’t do it.