I’m pretty much what you expect from a professional programmer. I have all 7 seasons of Star Trek: TNG on DVD. I play computer games long into the night. And when it comes to people, my official policy is “no thanks”. I can write code for 8 hours solid without any problems. But put me in a group of people and ask me to mingle, and I’m burnt out within an hour.
In a few weeks, I’ll be going to my 5th Autodesk University conference. Here are some of the techniques I’ve picked up over the years to cope. Don’t get me wrong, I love AU. I just don’t ease through the conference like my extrovert co-workers.
Be a Wallflower
If you are a regular attendee, you can quietly slip into the background. Attend the classes you care about, visit the exhibit hall, watch a few sales pitches, and you’re done. Despite the crowds of people, you can remain fairly anonymous. The only thing is to make sure that you don’t miss out on anything important. If you have a question about something, make sure to hunt down the right people and get the answers you need.
For my first AU, I was able to mostly get away with this technique, but those days are over. This year I’m presenting two lectures, co-presenting one lecture, presenting at ADN DevDays, providing support for ADN DevLab, and manning both the Vault and PLM 360 booths. Also there are about a dozen contacts, inside and outside of Autodesk, that I need to hook up with while I’m there. There is no way for me to slip into the background. So, I’ve had to come up with some new techniques.
Just about every AU event has a generous supply of alcohol. I find that one or two beers really takes the edge off. Of course, you must know and respect your limits. There is nothing more pathetic than getting bombed and making a fool of yourself at a software convention.
I have to represent Autodesk, so my limit is pretty low. I also make sure to balance things out with food, of which there is also a generous supply at AU. Remember, this is a marathon. Pacing is everything.
Tablets and Smartphones
For us introverts, mobile devices are probably the best inventions of all time. If you are at a table full of people, you can just pull out your phone and start playing away. You are not being rude; you are working! Also, about half the people at the table will also be busy on devices too, so you won’t even look out of place. These devices are turning everyone into introverts. I guess we really will be inheriting the Earth.
Get Enough Sleep and Food
Social situations are exhausting enough, you don’t need to make it worse by being hungry or tired. The goal here is to make everything as confortable as possible to counter-balance any social discomfort. If I know I’m in for a busy day, I usually pay for the full breakfast at the hotel restaurant instead of the free conference breakfast. It’s worth the money to insure that I can perform better.