By the time you reach the halfway point of any academic conference, you start to feel yourself dragging. This is particularly in a conference like the Hemingway Society’s conference. Packed to the gills with fascinating papers about an author we all love, it’s hard to remember to take a break even though you might need it. I can only speak for myself, but I found myself running out of gas by Wednesday, my energy levels were quite low and I was in need of recharging. I’d entered what I’d refer to as the “conference doldrums.” With all that in mind, I thought I’d suggest a few things I like to do to shake things up and get out of these stagnant, sleepy moments that we all undergo in the midst of a conference. Perhaps you want to bookmark this so you have it ready wherever your next conference may be!
Find a local coffee shop or café: This is what I did this week, checking out Counter Coffee in Forest Park as I took a brief respite from conferencing-going to get caught up on e-mails and a little bit of writing. Sometimes we get so locked into the conference sites and the areas surrounding the conference hotels that we don’t branch out and do exploring. I definitely recommend finding a local coffee shop and getting something to drink, maybe bringing a book to read, and taking the time to see what life is like there.
Go out to lunch: This is a relative of the “Find a local coffee shop or café” option, but it’s a bit different and worth nothing. When you’re on the conference circuit, you have a tendency to eat at the place that is closest to whatever hotel you’re staying at. If you find a place that looks good, either for a lunch in between sessions at the conference or for dinner after the sessions are over, don’t be afraid to branch out and go check out that place. It’s a nice way to break the monotony and regularity that can come with a conference and a good way, much like with the coffee shop/café option, to get a sense of the local community.
Don’t be afraid to say no: It’s hard, when we know the people presenting papers and participating in panels, to pass on a panel or a presentation. I know I’ve felt so guilty in the past that I’ve gone to panels when I’d have probably been better served by taking some time to rest and recuperate. Thus I can say, with some degree of authority, that if you’re feeling run down or like you need a break, you should go ahead and take it. Your friend, the one expecting you to attend their presentation, will almost certainly understand.
Though this isn’t an exhaustive list, these are the things that I would recommend if, by the midway point of a conference, you find yourself running out of energy and entering into the conference doldrums. These are the ways that I’ve fought through the conference doldrums, both this time around and at previous conferences as well.