Conference Fatigue Syndrome

First of all, I need to apologize that I missed my blog post last week. I hear that is a bad move on the social media front, and I am sorry to my tens of followers. I was getting ready to be a speaker at the North American Veterinary Conference (NAVC) and I ran out of time. I just got back from six days in Orlando at the North American Veterinary Conference with 16 000 of my friends. It was full on. This is the biggest veterinary conference in the world. The main focus is on general practitioners and I have not attended this full conference before. This year, I was invited to give seven talks and the way they were scheduled, I was doing something every day, so I was in for the long haul. It was a scene.

When I first got there, I was emotional and overwhelmed by the feeling of being bonded to thousands of other people by our love for animals and the fact that we have devoted our lives to taking care of them. I also found something else that brings us together even more than animals. That is the love of free shit. Veterinarians love free swag. On day one, I found myself in a massive line that required stanchions and ropes for crowd control. I was waiting for a free teddy bear from Build-a-Bear that Vetfolio was giving away. I don’t even have children, yet somehow I had to be a part of it. I needed a bear. It was bizarre and unsettling to see so many professionals carrying around their teddy bears for the entire conference. A little bit of comfort at a massive conference center. Another line-up developed the next day with similar fury at the free T-shirt making station. Free, ugly, yellow T-shirts that everyone not only lined up for, but immediately donned. In one of my talks, about 1/3 of the audience was wearing a free yellow Tshirt. I did not partake in this. I draw the line at free stuffed animals. Then there is the free swag in the exhibit halls. I saw veterinarians with large boxes of something (kitty litter?) that were so big that they came with a little plastic trolley so you could continue to pick up more free shit and then you could put everything on your kitty litter box and your trolley. How are they going to get this all home? Everyone slowly cruises the flashy exhibit hall, trying to find the best swag and trying to grab it fast, without having to make eye contact or engage in the obligatory sales conversation. Nothing is for free. Actually, maybe some things are, because every time I went back to my hotel room, there was a present waiting for me. It was lovely. Chocolates, a travel mug, a useless car fan, a window decal and a “survival kit” (with Purrel, Advil, Band-aids, Kleenex, skin cream etc – I would have respected them more if they had thrown a condom in for good measure). It actually got to the point that the few times I returned to my room and there was not a present waiting for me on the freshly made bed, I was deeply disappointed and confused.

At the opening ceremony, there were speeches and the people from the NAVC were dressed fancy. Like black-tie fancy. It was a peculiar mix of people from a fashion perspective. (BTW, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my services as a stylist to anyone at the NAVC who would like a hand in this regard.) Intermixed with the speeches and sponsors were some circus openers and dry ice, and then, to top it all off, comedian Jim Gaffigan to entertain us. Jim Gaffigan was hilarious! I have to hand it to him. Last year, I came to NAVC for one night and the opening ceremony comedian (I get the feeling that the order of events doesn’t change too much every year) was Kevin Nealy. Kevin Nealy phoned it in. He did the minimum for his tens of thousands of dollars and he appeared most unhappy to be entertaining a ballroom full of incongruously dressed veterinarians. He might have made me chuckle, but I can’t remember. Jim Gaffigan made me laugh out loud and he gave us a show that would have been fit for a TV special. It was awesome! I didn’t go to the Monday night rock show (38 Special – wow) or the Tuesday night lecture (Ebola dog stuff). Mostly because of exhaustion and intense networking opportunities.

I didn’t know about the intense networking. I guess I am naïve. I didn’t realize that the tweeting would get so crazy at a conference. Or that I would get to Tweet up with my virtual friends on Twitter. I didn’t know that people said Tweet up. It was very cool to meet my virtual friends in real life. Real human beings were sprouting from my phone! I also taught a friend how to tweet. His first tweet was nearly a disaster as he used Siri to advertise his talk on Anal Sacs. Siri did not hear anal sacs. Enough said. I also didn’t realize that people would buy copies of Lucky Dog. I brought some copies with me just in case and sold them all randomly. Learned after the fact that this is illegal in the land of NAVC and it actually has a name. It’s called Suitcasing (that is a verb!) and it is naughty. (Sorry!) I am not sure how you get punished if you get caught. Maybe you have to stay in the Gaylord Palms resort for a few extra days and you never get to go outside.

I never got to go outside anyway. I had a few brief moments outside, on the bus from one massive hotel conference center to the other massive hotel conference center and my attempts to go for a run. I couldn’t seem to get more than 5km out of the hairpin trails outside the hotel and was told that it was unsafe to go “off property” (off compound). During my second run I ended up on the golf course by mistake and was reprimanded by some very impatient and angry golfers. The next morning, I went on the conference Fun Run. Hoping for safety in numbers. We actually ran on the same trails where my golfer friends were getting their knickers in a knot. The fun run brought out another characteristic that veterinarians share. We are a wee bit competitive. It was like a real race, with numbers and a finish line and medals. The whole deal. I met a woman who was running and she told me that she wasn’t carrying her cell phone for the 5K race because it was “too much weight”. Really?

The whole experience was wonderful and exhausting. It is going to take days to recover. I think that I have conference fatigue syndrome (CFS). The only cure is my own bed, my own dog and going for a long run on my own.

6 thoughts on “Conference Fatigue Syndrome

  1. This is hilarious. Love your new term–Conference Fatigue Syndrome.I remember going to one where at every break, you were expected to play games. After the first 36 hours, I lost track of what year it was.

  2. I loved this!! Loved your lectures and awesome to meet you too! P.S. I was one of those yellow shirt people…on the off chance Clinicians Brief found me and showed me the money to help with expenses but also I now have a yellow shirt to be a minion for Halloween.

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