Antiracist WPA-ing: Living Impacts Learning

The Council of Writing Program Administrators held a virtual conference on July 13-14, 2020. I helped facilitate the “Antiracist WPA-ing” session, and I thought I would post the notes from my own little slice of the presentation.

Caveat: I am in no way an expert in anti-racist work, and my thoughts are neither comprehensive nor complete. These are simply student-level considerations I hope that WPAs and instructors consider as they plan their courses. I wanted to highlight the intersectionality that impacts how students experience their time in the classroom–any of these will affect how a student is able to participate and/or be present in class.

  1. Access and Resources
    This is especially vital since so many schools are opting to have online or hybrid semesters this fall.
    • Location (no reliable internet access)
    • Equipment (no computer at home–some have only phones, some not even that)
    • Access (databases and other resources that require subscriptions, including newspapers)
    • Time (use of internet might be limited, or equipment might be shared with multiple people)
  2. Policies (especially attendance and deadlines)
    • Transportation (not available or is especially arduous)
    • Family emergencies (death, accidents, caretaking, moving)
    • Sickness (lack of health insurance, lack of sufficient medical resources locally)
    • Work (inflexible employers, unexpected layoffs, exhaustion)
  3. Participation
    • Food (you can’t think when you’re hungry)
    • Social/cultural boundaries (taught to converse or not in particular ways)
    • History (previous educational experiences were hostile or insufficient)
    • Social grouping (isolation or othering)
    • Societal context (anxiety/stress over pretty much anything in the news)

These were just notes I shared as talking points, but I’ve had actual students concerned about one or more of the items above throughout the semester. Unfortunately, one thing will often cause or correlate with another.

How to Conference

The awesome Michelle McMullin asked me to present on conferencing for Purdue’s GradSEA Professionalization series. You can find my previous posts here on my how-to blog: How to Plan for Conferences and How to Slideshow at Conferences. A new checklist has been promised, however, and ye gods, A CHECKLIST SHALL BE DELIVERED.

So.

Scheduling

  • If you have anything you’re required to attend (say, your own presentation), put the date and time of it into your calendar. If your calendar is electronic, make sure the time zones are correct, because it can go HORRIBLY WRONG otherwise.
  • Once the schedule is published, get nerdy. Highlight! Annotate! Know your options and be prepared to be flexible.
  • Those of us who take conference VERY SERIOUSLY will go back-to-back-to-back-to-back with sessions, but either your brain or your feet will break by the end of the day. Don’t be like me: Plan to take breaks.

Getting Around

  • Wear your most comfortable walking shoes possible. If you’re at a big conference, convention centers can be a mile long. If you’re at a campus conference, the ground will inevitably be uneven. (If you feel compelled to wear fancy shoes to present, stuff those in your bag until the very last second. TRUST ME.)
  • Walking everywhere seems like a great idea until you are actually standing outside. The elements are unkind to those wearing business casual. Wear layers to prepare for any kind of weather–sunshine, rain, wind, whatever. And remember what I said about comfortable shoes?
  • In case of emergency, make sure to have the Lyft app on your phone, the bus schedule saved in your files, AND a taxi company saved in your contacts. (Buses and taxis prefer cash, remember.)

Packing
Here are the things I always have stashed in my conference go-bag:

  • Netbook and charger
  • Extension cord
  • Tiny plug-in speaker
  • Two flash drives
  • USB slideshow clicker
  • Phone turbo charger
  • Extra phone battery pack
  • Earbuds
  • Packet of business cards
  • Six pens (four of which I wouldn’t mind giving to other people)
  • A Field Notes notebook
  • Clipboard with some scratch paper
  • Tiny bottle of lotion
  • Tiny bottle of hand sanitizer
  • Tiny bottle of painkillers
  • Tiny bag o’ Tums
  • Bag of cough drops
  • Two slightly-squished granola bars
  • Two kinds of lip balm
  • Packet of Kleenex
  • A jar of jam to randomly give to someone I like

Aside from my phone charger, my conference go-bag is literally sitting in my office right now, ready to run. ALWAYS BE CONFERENCING.

Presenting
The splendiferous Pat Sullivan taught me that conference presentations should always include four things:

  1. A statement of what you’re about
  2. The location of your work within the field
  3. A description of your research methods
  4. A thing your audience can hold in their hands, or “hands,” as they leave

(I’m paraphrasing, obvs.)

Because we sink so much of ourselves into our work, we often want to tell the story of how we came to be, and the ins and outs of our study parameters, and the nuance and implications of every little thing you have considered, but ain’t nobody got time for nuance, y’all. You’ve got 15 minutes max, and usually less than that. Get in, get out, and give people your contact information for further discussion.

Gathering

  • If you’re presenting with a panel, make sure to plan to meet up beforehand–ideally over a meal, but at the very least for drinks/coffee. And schedule a debrief afterward, if you’ll all be around long enough.
  • There will never be time to meet up with everybody you want to see. (Reunion parties are the best way to see everybody en masse.) Reach out to two folks that you probably won’t see at panel things and make an effort to catch up over dinner.
  • Plan to sit with people at panels. It…it kind of counts as quality time?
  • Meet up with a mentor-y person, if only to say hi and give them a hug and/or handshake. Even if you feel like you haven’t done a ton since you last saw them, they’re invested in your life, and they want to know you’re doing well. (Particularly if they write letters for you, people. Or will write letters for you. Keep those connections open.)

So, there we have it in ten minutes or so: How to conference! Don’t be afraid to reach out–I love talking about this stuff, obviously. Message me on Facebook or Twitter, or send me an email!

How to Get Closure on Your Semester

It’s the end of Spring semester, huzzah! Once I am finally done with grading (agh), I have a mental checklist of things I want to do before, like, playing World of Warcraft for thirty-six hours. The idea is, basically, that I’ll wrap up the work of this semester positively, and get myself in the right mindset for keeping work going, in some form, over the next few months. I may or may not get these all accomplished, so hey, friends, feel free to keep me accountable. Note: If you are teaching summer courses or doing qualifying exams or dissertation things or moving, obviously your timelines are WAY different.

Pedagogy

  • If you still haven’t sent or said the last farewell to your class(es), it’s worth mentioning to the students that you could, theoretically, be one of their references as they go about seeking campus jobs or scholarships or the like. (Since writing classes tend to be pretty small, and the nature of the work lends itself to developing a rapport, writing instructors are often the only instructors first- and second-year students can be sure actually know who they are.)
  • Bradley Dilger (I think) once made the really smart suggestion that you keep a little file for each one of your students throughout the semester, making note of when you’ve interacted with them one-on-one, what kind of work they’ve been doing, etc. That way, if you’re asked to write a recommendation letter (rather than just filling out a form) or provide a verbal reference, you have concrete details to lend your opinions some weight. If you haven’t already been doing that, make those files now, while you still remember the semester.
  • After you’ve done all your grading (are we…are we ever done with grading?), go back to your syllabus and try reading it with fresh eyes. We encourage our students to revisit their introduction and thesis statement once they’ve finished drafting an essay, and this operates on the same principle. Get yourself a highlighter and a red pen and annotate your syllabus. What things did you end up adjusting throughout the semester? What items did students keep asking about, even though the information was in the syllabus? What policies ended up unnecessary for the class? What policies did you have to create? You may or may not end up changing things for the next round of classes you teach, but it’s helpful to know.
  • And then freewrite! Set a timer to thirty minutes and write a narrative about your experience teaching the class. What frustrated you? What surprised you? What do you want to do differently next time? What were your epic fails? What awesome work do you want to share with all your teacher friends? Once your thirty minutes are up, put your writing away and don’t look at it again for a week or so.
  • Choose your textbooks for the next semester, even if you don’t have to submit the order yet. Make a plan to read those textbooks over your break, even if you’ve used the books before. Give yourself deadlines for updating or creating your syllabus–even if it’s just to scribble out some ideas for projects, or change the dates of the course calendar. In three months, you will thank yourself.

 

Professional Development

  • Update your CV. Pat Sullivan once told us we should update our CV every semester–even if it’s just little tweaks, like shifting your teaching dates to show you’ve completed another semester. If you’ve presented at any conferences, or have been given the green light to present at future conferences, add those in there. Grad students, update your “Relevant Coureswork” section.
  • Grad students: Theoretically, once you take a seminar in something, you have a sense of how to teach that thing. Look back at the syllabi for the classes you took, and do the same kind of annotation you would do on your own syllabus. Create an annotated bibliography of the sources you found over the course of the semester. (Or update your Zotero or whatever.) Take thirty minutes and do a freewrite on what you found most helpful in class, and what you would do differently, if you got to teach it yourself.
  • Prep for the job market, even if you aren’t on the job market.
  • Whether you took classes, taught classes, or both, take a look at the projects you created and/or assigned. Which projects do you want to keep talking about? Then take a look at the conferences coming up in the next year, and particularly at their CFPs, open or not. Try writing to those prompts and see where you end up.
  • Find an accountability buddy or two. Like, someone you will check in with every other week, just to share your thoughts. Bounce some what-if research and teaching ideas around. Exchange drafts of things. Shamefacedly admit you have only been reading urban fantasy novels for the past three weeks and, you know what, no, I am totally not ashamed, I LOVE STEAMPUNK WEREWOLVES AND DEFY THOSE WHO WOULD SNICKER.

Research

  • Ask each of your mentors/professors for one book recommendation. Get access to those books. Decide when you will read them over the next couple of months.
  • If you’re a grad student, ask your professors if there are any projects or lines of inquiry they think you should pursue further. They may have already told you that in their feedback on your work, but if not, don’t be afraid to ask! Part of becoming a scholar is learning how to take ownership of your own research agenda.

    (Just remember not to take up a whole lot of their time. You think grading is bad? Imagine grading AND being on the thesis/dissertation committee of ten people who are all defending in the space of the next three weeks. Egads.)

  • Make a plan to catch up on your journal reading, whether it’s reading a bunch of articles you didn’t have time to parse during busier times, or simply speed-reading through the tables of contents of all the things you know you should be reading. There is more scholarship out there than there are hours in the day. Rhetorically read things and you’ll be the happier for it.

Material Management

  • If you don’t already have office hours mapped out in the summer (read: if you aren’t teaching or doing WPA work in the summer), plan to spend a half-day once a week to do some file management. Specifically, a time to ruthlessly cull your inbox and scan/shred paper documents. (Unless your university requires that you keep paper files for a certain amount of time.) It may feel like a pain, but it’s WAY worse to feel like you’re constantly inundated with work email when you’re not working. Give yourself the gift of only paying half-attention to your email six and a half days of the week.
  • If you do have to keep paper on file, put those files into some semblance of order. Label them according to semester => class => person. And put them in a drawer. They will probably stay in that drawer until you are allowed to shred them, and that’s fine.
  • If you’ll be returning to the same office/cubicle in the future, but won’t be around in the next few months, get yourself a can of compressed air and some Lysol and do some serious dusting before you depart. (If you are friendly with custodial staff, you could also check in to see if they already have deep-cleaning on their calendar–the quiet weeks during the summer are usually when serious carpet-cleaning happens.) Obviously, if you’re vacating the premises, you should do this cleaning after you’ve cleared out all your stuff.
  • Make sure you don’t accidentally leave your emergency snacks in your desk. Rinse out your office coffee mug and store it top down so it doesn’t accumulate dust.

And don’t forget to confirm when you have to come back to campus! Particularly if you have all-staff or orientation meetings prior to the semester’s start. Get that date in your calendar, and then plan to return to campus two days earlier so you can get your copying done before the rush.

Happy summer, y’all.

How to Slideshow at Conferences

There are four rules for any conference presentation, regardless of how you choose to present your information.

    1. Public presentations are public.
    2. Rehearse in front of humans before you present. Thrice.
    3. Expect someone will ask a question that will stump you, and prepare your Thoughtful Note-taking Face accordingly.
    4. Be specific in your examples and cautious in your generalizations.

If you remember nothing else, remember these things.

Accessibility

  • There are a number of guides online that talk about how to make accessible presentations. The Web Accessibility Initiative has got a good one: Read it. Love it. Enact it.
  • I applaud folks with the forethought to bring copies of their scripts in large print, as well as the usual 12-point font. If you aren’t a scripter, though, this gets a little dicey. Since we’re talking specifically about slideshows, you can always print that out! (More notes on that in a following section.) For the interests of archiving (especially as many conferences create a digital commons where presenters can upload their materials for sharing), it might be useful if you record yourself (to create a script later), or perhaps annotate your slideshow for future sharing.
  • Folks who are hearing-impaired may have requested a sign-language interpreter, so I presume there is a procedure by which this process happens. (The conference website has a downloadable accessibility guide, and there will also be an accessibility table at the conference proper.) That in mind, having a loose script of what you’re talking about beforehand would be an assist to interpreters, if one should happen to be requested.
  • If you’re including visuals like photos or charts, make sure to verbally provide a caption so that folks who are visually-impaired have a sense of what you’re talking about. (This is where rehearsal becomes vital—if you can’t verbally and clearly describe what your illustration is doing, you probably shouldn’t be using it.)

Identification

  • Make sure your name, email, and institution are clearly identified at the beginning and end of your slideshow. If you’re able to include your name on each slide, it would be a HUGE assist for folks who arrive at the panel late and miss the introductions.
  • If you’re Twitter-friendly, it would also be a good idea to include your handle and the assigned/preferred hashtag for the panel itself. If there isn’t an officially assigned panel hashtag, most folks default to time slot + session number, e.g. #A25 or #F2. (Conferences that don’t assign session numbers are the bane of this Tweeter’s existence. Come ON, conference organizers. It’s super-easy.)
  • Have a handful of your business cards to share with folks who might want to chat later. Or, alternatively, have a blank piece of paper for folks to leave their name and email address, if you plan to share your materials later.

Content Curation

  • Public presentations are public. Don’t say anything you would rather not be quoted on. Even if folks aren’t on social media, they still, y’know, talk to their friends and colleagues about things they found interesting or appalling. Social media just makes it visible.
  • If you plan to tell a story about your students—an anecdotal illustration—don’t put it in your slides. While not all anonymized stories rise to the level of detail that signals IRB approval might be needed, it’s just…polite. (Another loophole: If your students have signed a release form stating they’re fine with you showing their work at conferences.) Say it, don’t show it.
  • If you plan to use fake names for the purposes of clarity, use names that could be ascribed to a variety of genders, ethnicities, and heritages. And make sure the pronouns you’ve tied to your example characters aren’t only he/him/his.
  • Think bullet points, not paragraphs. If your point can’t be delivered without a long wind-up, your point isn’t clear enough to be shared. This will also, handily, ensure that you don’t hog all the time accorded to your panel.

Circulation

  • If you have simple slides or easily-read illustrations, chances are an attendee might take a picture. If you don’t want a picture taken of a particular slide, you should both say something when it comes up AND put a caption of some sort on the slide itself. (Note: It would be a kindness if you differentiated between folks taking a photo to remember it later and folks taking a photo to share on social media.) This doesn’t mean folks won’t share it if they want—again, public presentations are public—but most people are understanding about research being presented in-progress.
  • If you’re using a common platform like Microsoft Powerpoint or, uh, whatever the Apple default is, put some notes into the “notes” section. This is especially important if you’re not someone who scripts out the entire presentation—the notes section can be used to indicate additional context you provided verbally, or highlight questions or comments from the audience that are related to specific sections. (If you’re not comfortable sharing an editable document with the public, you can use the “print notes” version as a PDF instead.)
  • If you have handouts of any type—bibliographies, worksheets, etc.—make sure you include your identifying information on it. If the furniture allows, put a stack by the door for late-comers. Or, if you have a panel chair or a buddy, put them in charge of distributing your handout as you start your presentation. And put a note into your slideshow indicating that there was a handout! Even if you don’t have the information replicated in the slides, it’s useful context for folks who have downloaded your slideshow.
  • In addition to having your contact information on the slideshow, do include a note at the end indicating you’re happy to respond to follow-up questions or chat further about things later. Because you should be.

Delivery

  • Don’t read long quotes. Just don’t. Read key phrases if you must, but if you feel the need to include the full context on the slide, trust your audience to divide their attention appropriately. And remember, people generally read much faster than you can speak. If you take the time to read out a gigantic block quote, they’ll tune out while you’re halfway through the recitation.
  • (I used to do my slides on autoplay, so long quotations would pop up a few minutes before I actually highlighted the specific point. Audience members noted it was fun to see that interplay between text and presenter—it ended up reinforcing what I wanted to say, rather than detracting from it. YMMV, obvs.)
  • As much as possible, try not to spend a lot of time facing the slides instead of your audience—whether you’re pointing your body towards the projected screen or casting your eyes down to the computer or tablet in front of you, it’s going to be awkward. Quick glances are fine, but remember one of the first lessons of proscenium theatre: Never put your back to the audience.
  • I try to start out my presentations by requesting folks take a picture of me and tweet it out, so my mom has evidence that I still exist. (I have the bad habit of sharing pictures of what I see and nothing else, so Mom has to remind me she’s interested in seeing me, not my surroundings.) It’s a nice ice-breaker, and it encourages the audience to actively engage in your presentation. If you don’t like having your picture taken, you can ask folks to jot down a couple of questions as they listen, or a note about something similar that’s happened to them—then it ends up being a smooth transition into Q&A, as well.

Obviously there are a billion permutations of good conference presentations, and thus a billion permutations of good conference slideshows. My knowledge isn’t comprehensive, but generally, I’ve found these points to be helpful as I build my own presentations (even if I don’t always follow my own advice).

How to Prep for the Job Market If You’re Not on the Job Market

Caveat 1: This post is intended for folks currently teaching composition, and believe they will someday be seeking positions that include the teaching of composition, but not right at this very moment.

Caveat 2: I’m by no means an expert on job market strategies. I have, however, successfully found positions at two vastly different institutions. I’ve also been on a handful of search committees.

Caveat 3: If you’re actively on the job market right now, this post may or may not freak you out. If you feel you’re in a freakoutable stage, ignore this and proceed with your work.

So! With all that in mind:

  • Update your CV every month, or at least every semester. Even if you’re not adding or revising big-ticket things like degrees, positions, or publications, you can still tweak smaller things. This is especially useful if you have descriptions for duties according to your position, or descriptions for the classes you’ve taught. Have you added any interesting assignments? Have you taken on a new committee? If you’re still in coursework, you can also include a “Relevant Coursework” section on your CV.
  • Ask a couple of folks to observe your class. For a lot of us, we get observed in our first year of teaching, and then nothing after that. If possible, get both a mentor and a peer to observe your class. These are the folks who could attest to your teaching experience when you’re on the job market. After they’ve observed you, have a follow-up conversation with them. Find out what they thought you did especially well. (Or where they think you could grow more–feedback is always, always useful.)
  • While you might be sensitive about those Likert scores on student evaluations, thinking about how students experience your teaching is incredibly important. If you have students write reflections of their work, take a look and see if there are statements that could be useful for your material. (I’d recommend asking the student if they’re cool with being quoted, just to be upfront about it–or if they’re okay with being quoted, but would rather be anonymized in your materials. But do this after semester grades are submitted, not before. Avoid at all costs sounding like a good grade is dependent on positive feedback.) If it feels too weird to directly quote students, you could go more general, e.g. “Through the process of creating marketing materials and a press release for a local non-profit organization, students indicated they now felt more comfortable communicating in a professional venue,” etc.
  • You could also hold on to examples of student work–again, with the student’s permission. At the beginning of the semester, I usually ask students if they would sign a release form allowing me to use their work (anonymously, if they want) as examples in presentations or for future classes. It’s totally optional, and I make sure to highlight that I’ll only use their work in a positive light, i.e. “this is an awesome infographic my student made,” NOT “this is the worst thing ever.”
  • Type up three qualities you think are important in teaching. Then include a couple of ways you bring, or could bring, those things into classroom projects/practices. Save that document. It is now a rough draft of your teaching philosophy. 
  • Write 2-3 sentences about a research project that you’ve already done (this could be about a class project, or it could be something outside of your coursework), including a summary of your findings. Then, write 2-3 sentences about the research things that have been occupying your mind this year. Then, write 2-3 sentences about a project you think would be interesting five years from now. Save that document. It is now a rough draft of your research statement.
  • If you’re someone interested in doing administrative work, type up three things you’ve noticed that good administrators do. Then include some ways you intentionally emulate them. Save that document. It is now a rough draft of your administrative philosophy.
  • If you’re working in a writing center, create a list of three really good tutoring sessions you’ve had in the past year. Then include a couple of sentences for why those stuck in your mind. Then identify how those experiences have informed your subsequent sessions. Save that document. It is now a rough draft of your writing center experience statement.
  • Submit something to an event like the Research Network Forum at CCCC, or the Graduate Research Network at Computers and Writing. This gives you an opportunity to not only practice talking about your work in front of colleagues, but also do that “networking” thing that will pay off later on.
  • Do you know someone who’s on the job market now? Invite them to have coffee and spend half an hour not worrying about the process at all. Alternatively, invite them to drinks and offer them half an hour of pure and unadulterated venting. Or both! This isn’t you gathering information on what the job market is like–this is you making a connection with someone who may return the favor when your turn on the market rolls around.

There is a lot of advice floating around, some of it incredibly helpful, and some of it incredibly stressful. My idea with this piece is to just help you get the groundwork laid out. Once you’ve got these things articulated, even generally and vaguely, your brain will naturally start collecting and processing projects and ideas in a more focused way.

Then, you can save all your anxiety for later, because hey! You’ve already got documents saved. It’s an excellent start!

How to Plan for Conferences

Originally posted on my personal blog on 26 May 2015.

For the Presentation:

  1. If you’ve got an Apple, make sure to bring a dongle (AKA that thing that connects your laptop to a projector). Actually, bring one even if you don’t have an Apple device. Ten minutes before panels begin, start calling out your rental rates.
  2. EDIT: Newer machines might only have a port for USB-C, so that’s something to keep in mind as you prep. The dongle many folks, including myself, carry around is configured for micro-USB ports.

  3. If you’re doing a presentation with sound, bring some speakers with you. Some easy-travel ones can be found at a decent price. For a cheaper price, you can get more awkward ones that you can bang around a bit.
  4. Print out your outline (or whatever) before you leave wherever your workday printer lives. Don’t rely on the hotel business center or the university printing lab. At the midnight before your presentation, they will both be either out of paper or out of toner. TRUST ME, I know.
  5. Do you have a flash drive? Do you have two flash drives? Bring ’em.
  6. Test your presentation materials in three different locations. If it’s a video/slideshow/electronic thing, that means three different computers. If you’re reading or consulting notes, then run through it in front of actual human people. Not only does this minimize technological problems during the presentation itself, it allows you to check your running time, and also discover which words you are bad at pronouncing.
  7. Seriously, assume every single thing will go wrong, technologically. Mentally accept that you may have to freestyle for 10-15 minutes because an electromagnetic pulse has crashed all of civilization, but people still desperately want to hear your thoughts on pedagogy.
  8. If you’re in a panel with folks you know, don’t forget to set a time limit for each piece. If you’re in a panel with strangers, plan for about 10-12 minutes. Yes, your ideas are complex, but you also only have an hour or so. If there’s plenty of time after everybody has given their talk, great! More time for Q&A.
  9. Make sure you identify yourself, even if you were already introduced by the panel chair. And let people know that you are happy to share your materials if they want to follow up with you. Because, hey, you should be.

For Convention Center/Conference Room Survival:

  1. It is either going to be too cold or too hot in the convention rooms. Plan your outfits as layers, not ensembles. (I have a shawl that I keep wadded up in the bottom of my purse.)
  2. Always have an alternate plan. If you think that one panel in a smallish room sounds can’t miss? Chances are fifty other people did, too.
  3. Go to at least one panel where you know nothing about the topic.
  4. Bring granola bars, because you might sleep in and miss breakfast. Or you might have panels you want to attend during lunch, and restaurants in convention centers are expensive. If you can manage it, I’d recommend dried fruit and/or a bunch of slightly-ripe bananas.
  5. Bring a refillable water bottle, and if you’re a caffeine addict, a traveling mug. They’ll usually have water available, and if you also have access to coffee? You will want to fill up rather than wrangling flimsy disposable cups.
  6. Bring a small paperback book, or a couple of text-heavy magazines. Yeah, conferences are for learning and networking, but doing it 24/7 will burn you out. If you have a spare ten minutes, sit in a quiet space and disconnect.
  7. Bring a small bottle of the painkiller of your choice, and a handful of cough drops. Even if you don’t need them, somebody will. (If you REALLY want to impress people: pack of Kleenex, a few bandaids, nail scissors, and tweezers.)
  8. If you have business cards, have them handy–even if you’re not a very networky person, somebody might ask you for contact information. You have smart things to say! People want access! (If you don’t have business cards, I recommend Moo.com–they’re a little pricier than Vistaprint, but you can do more fun things with graphics.)
  9. Have mints or gum for after lunch (unless you have the energy to run back to your hotel room to brush your teeth). Also, check your teeth for spinach, etc. If you don’t carry around a mirror, your phone probably has a camera you can use to the same effect.
  10. Usually you can count on hotels and convention vendors to provide you with pens and notepaper, but bring a couple of your preferred pens, too. You won’t regret it.
  11. Carry your phone/laptop/tablet charger around with you. At all times. When you enter a new room, scope out the available outlets. You may need them, and you’ll need to get to them discreetly.

For Your Tourist/Foodie Times:

  1. Check out the menus of the restaurants within/closest to the conference site. Check when they’re open, as well. If you get caught up in a conversation with an old friend or a new colleague, you can then easily suggest a place to continue without having to worry about dietary restrictions or getting lost or busting your budget.
  2. If you like checking out local landmarks or doing touristy things, the convention center or conference planners probably have a list of suggestions, as well as how to get to them. You will probably have to miss out on 2-3 hours of conference time (there’s no quick popping down the block).
  3. Whether you have meals provided, or if you are doing the “find something nearby” food plan, resign yourself to the fact that you will likely be presented with food you aren’t super-excited about. As long as you’re not allergic to it, you will survive it (or survive by going a bit food-light, depending on the situation). Make a deal with yourself: pick one meal where you won’t compromise. (Breakfast if you’re a morning person, or dinner if you make reservations in advance.) Because, sure, you hate those weird sticky danishes that you always get stuck with at the continental breakfast, but BY GOD, you are having yourself some hash and French toast tomorrow.