Only six weeks to go until I hop on a plane to YYZ for Art Toronto 2009! Simultaneous excitement and nausea. Of course, I’m really looking forward to putting faces to all the names, voices, and emails I’ve interacted with over the past year, and greedily anticipating the massive sensory feast that the four days of the fair will amount to. Also, heck yeah, a tad bit nervous.
Events are always dicey — but it’s less often the stuff that actually goes wrong than the stuff that I worryabout that keeps my stomach churning at night. What if I forget my BOOK? What if the hotel double-books? What if my partner forgets to water my plants while I’m gone? (I already tragically lost my entire window-box herb garden on a 5-day trip to Toronto in July — bye-bye homemade mojitos!)
After years of working events of all shapes and sizes, I’ve come up with a top-ten(ish) list of MUST-DOs that are essential to my survival, maybe yours too.
1. LISTS ARE KEY. (Shouldn’t the first item of any list be: ‘make list’?) Your list might unfold into a series of mini-lists (or at least mine do, but maybe that’s just my particular brand of OCD…) like Things to Bring, Things to do Before, Things to do After… it goes on and on.
2. Refer to your list constantly. Like, daily. And don’t be afraid to take your list into the organic realm. If a week after making your list you discover ten more things you must do, add them. If you realize you’ve done things without even writing them on the list, add them anyway and your list will be that much handier next year.
3. Take the time to write a novel. Just kidding! But do put together a book. Make sure you’ve got all your important paperwork — contracts, order forms, copies of layouts and designs, instructions on how to get to your hotel from the event centre and more. Include also a list of phone numbers and addresses of friends, coworkers and industry colleagues in case you need anything while you’re in town. I find that copies of maps and lists of instructions are the things that I always need urgently when I don’t have them, and don’t need at all when I have three copies. Don’t be afraid to overpack when it comes to these things.
4. Get a Lt Riker and give him your emergency preparedness contingency just-in-case plan. It worked for Picard, after all. Remember that time he got abducted by the Borg? If it hadn’t been for Riker… I digress. What if the worst really did happen, and you couldn’t go? Make sure you’ve got a second-in-command to take care of things in the event it all goes pear-shaped. If you bring Numba One with, great. If you leave him behind make sure he or she knows your schedule so you can do a daily-debrief, which will help you off-load the important stuff right away, instead of forgetting to remember it days later when the event is over.
5. Eat. This fits within the overall theme of stress-management. Stress does mad things to the body, wears you out in ways that you don’t understand until it’s already way too late. But making sure to get enough of whatever the heck it is you need to keep your mojo on 100% is crucial. My advice: lots of fruit and veg, especially the dark greens; limit your carbs and non-natural sugars when and wherever possible; resist the temptation to do double-duty on your caffeine intake. Because the next most important thing for you to get is…
6. Sleep. Not many would think that sleep is the thing you should look to when your intention is to work over-time. But it’s essential. Scientists told us ages ago (were you listening?) that driving while sleep-deprived is more dangerous than putting a drunken monkey in novelty sunglasses behind the wheel. Aside from the fact that they can barely see over the steering wheel, it’s hard for a chimp to get a good purchase on his clutch when he’s in rollerskates. Most people generally make terrible decisions when they’re overtired, plus you don’t listen as well, and don’t delegate (read: hand off) with nearly enough vim and vigour.
7. Medicate. Ok, don’t do drugs – it’s not that kind of list! But take your multivitamin. The chances that you’ll get as many dark greens or deep zeees as you really need while you’re stressed-to-the-max is skinnier than Kate Moss. So do yourself a big favour and cheat a bit with a good multi-V.
8. Take a day off. I hear you laughing, but I mean it. A day off when you’re in the midst of super-stress mode will help you focus. EVEN IF THAT DAY IS A WEEKEND. Too many (myself included) are guilty of stretching the work-week beyond reasonable limits. And you need those days, if nothing else to fix your busted pedicure or catch up on missed episodes of True Blood.
9. Consider in advance what kinds of personal items you’ll want with you to guarantee success. What do I mean? If you’re the type who needs slippers at bedtime with a cup of mint tea, either put them on your list to pack or make sure your hotel of choice can supply them. Don’t rely on crummy hotel hairdryers for the volume you know you need. Bring something professional but fashionable to wear to the countless after-hours events. (For the uninitiated, this is the LBD your mother always told you about.) A word about rules of conduct at after-hours events: avoid wearing white, or avoid red wine. You may neglect one or the other but not both of these rules, unless your goal is to bring the tie-dye look to formal wear. And considering the number of people you know you’ll be making small-talk and brokering big deals with, make sure breath mints are on the list.
10. Refer to your lists at all times. Add to it if you need to, even things that were important but got done without the need of a list. It’ll help you, your book, and your Lt Riker in the long-run if everyone’s on the same page. Oh darn, did I already mention that? I’ll have to remember to strike that off the next list…