C is for Conference Redux: Food, Drugs & Masks

June 29, 2009 at 1:00 pm (Events)

More of last year’s prepping for Nationals series, originally posted July 15th, 2009. Enjoy!


Wow, we’re practically at the two week mark. The “Oh, my God, where did the time go?” hysteria is now being replaced by the excitement of “Two weeks until Nationals. Squee!” I have a few details to iron out, but am close to being ready. (I’ve even started the packing pile on the couch in our front room. Sorry, honey. Hope you didn’t want to sit there or anything.)

With this post, I’m going to deviate from an earlier statement when I said I was going to discuss pitches and instead head back into the hotel/conference information. If anybody has any questions on future posts or would like to see a discussion on pitches, let me know either here or by email. I live to serve.

So today let’s discuss what to take with you. Since we already addressed what to wear, these lists are going to cover food/drink and miscellaneous. (I’ll admit it—I went to Target this weekend and got my items for these lists, so I’m a little excited about this post.  And yes, I was giggling in Target. I told you I was a conference slut.)

Food and Drink: “But, Pam,” you say. “The conference provides some meals and the hotel has restaurants and a Starbucks. Am I not good to go?”  Yes and no. Sometimes you’re good, sometimes you need a little augmenting, and sometimes you need Plan B.

When you’re good: The keynote luncheon on Thursday and the awards luncheon on Friday. These are yummy meals hitting several of the food groups (including dessert) and shouldn’t be missed unless an editor is asking how to spell your name for legal documents, such as a contract. Plus, the talks are inspirational, you get more free books, and it’s a wonderful chance to meet other people.

When you need augmenting: Friday and Saturday mornings are a continental breakfast. These are wonderful buffets of fruit, breakfast breads (pastries, bagels), fruit, and yogurt. (I’m pretty sure on the yogurt, but don’t hold me to that.) Plus, coffee, tea/hot water, and juices. This is a lovely start, but if you’re anything like me, you need an extra boost of protein or complex carbs. For this, I always bring a few packets of Quaker instant oatmeal (preferably the ones with a high percentage of protein.) Since I don’t drink coffee, I also bring my own tea (because I’m a tea snob, plus it rates as a comfort beverage, so I want what makes me happy) and packets of sugar-free cocoa. (Another comfort beverage, plus it’s a little more filling than tea or juice.) I’m also a firm believer in those individual powered drink bullets. You can get a variety of teas, fruit drinks, vitamin-enhanced juice, and so on. Plus they’re so tiny and so easy to carry!

I’m also including snacks in augmenting. Excellent items that are easily packed and can be tossed into your conference bag are: granola/protein bars, lunch-size packs of fig newtons, cheese or peanut butter and crackers, raw almonds, dried fruit, trail mix, M&Ms (more comfort food, and if you choose something in dark chocolate, also health food!) and so on. I prefer the lunch-size/treat-size packs because they’re individually wrapped. I’m a huge believer in Ziploc bags, but my theory is if airport security picks your luggage to search, the food is factory sealed and less likely to cause a kerfuffle.

Plan B: If you were at Dallas last year, you already know what I’m talking about. The restaurants/snack bar were just not equipped to handle us, and getting food could be something of a challenge. San Francisco is already better because of the Marriott’s proximity to restaurants, but there are times you’d rather have a little nosh and some quiet time, or just don’t have time to walk somewhere for food. For these times I always pack a few soups—can be a traditional cup-o-soup or a little more complex version that comes in its own disposable cup/bowl. (Start saving plastic silverware now!) Since the Marriott says each room is equipped with a coffee maker, you can boil water and voila! Instant snack! I remember a rainy day in Dallas last year when we just went up to our room and had chicken tortilla (me) and split pea (Montana) soup rather than spend 90 minutes waiting for a $20 hamburger and fries in the lounge downstairs. At that point, I believe I was declared “brilliant.”  (You could also call some almonds and a packet of instant oatmeal breakfast if you were running late or missed the continental breakfast.)

Miscellaneous: Here is a list of items I’ve found particularly handy to have at the conference. (Keep in mind, too, that I pack like I’m going to deepest Siberia with no access to any type of store, so some of this may seem like overkill. You can feel pity for Montana, but keep in mind he’s benefitted from my compulsion. See “brilliant” reference above.)

  • Sewing kit/extra safety pins—no further explanation needed
  • Shout Wipes/Tide pen—this is the voice of experience. At the Reno conference, I dropped a huge glop of salsa on my yellow shirt. One Shout Wipe later and you couldn’t tell I needed a bib.
  • Sleep mask/earplugs—again, the voice of experience. Sleep is crucial and when you need it, you need it. So if it’s the middle of the day, if your roommates are practicing their pitches, if the 4+ people in the room next door are talking and laughing until 3:00 a.m. (true story)—slap on your mask (yes, one of those 1950’s satin jobs) and pop in your earplugs (those little foam things you can get at any sporting goods or hardware store) and sleep is that much closer.
  • Alarm clock—rather than depend on the hotel’s clock, I’ll use my cell phone or bring a small kitchen timer set to wake me up in one hour or eight or whatever.
  • Medicinals—this includes the pain reliever of your choice, Tylenol PM or equivalent (because your body is going to ache at the end of the day), Tums/Pepto/etc. (no explanation needed), DayQuil (for those times you feel a little cold-ish), and for those of you who need it, allergy medication.
  • And I always keep a few mints or roll of Life Savers with me. Not only for breath protection, but you can never tell if you’re going to get all nervous and dry-mouthed before your pitch.

I hope this is helping. Take what you can use, discard the rest. I think the bottom line I’d stress is bring what makes you happy and comfortable. The more relaxed you are, the better conference experience you’re going to have. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to check my Hershey’s shipment going to the hotel.



  1. Montana (curtbooks) said,

    Next year, Baby!

  2. Katie Reus said,

    Wow! I’m not going, but you’re a woman I wouldn’t mind traveling with 🙂

  3. Sandra Ferguson said,

    I totally agree with Katie. You’re my kind of traveling buddy. For years, my kids have said I pack the magic bag. Like you, I hate to need something that I had sense enough to pack and didn’t. Hubby says I pack everything but the kitchen sink — okay, not quite that bad, but it’s always amazing how he’s the first to say, “I wish I had matches, spare keys, bug repellant, a TOWEL (how does one forget a towel when packing for a camping trip — oh wait, if men aren’t wearing it they can forget it) snacks, etc. Maybe it really is that uterus thing. If you want to have stuff, take a woman! It will all be in her carry-on.

    Have a great conference.

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