Notes on a Virtual Con

This year’s Penguicon Wrap Up post is going to be a little different from the usual.

I attended
Penguicon last weekend virtually. As I have noted before this is one of the cons which went virtual due to the pandemic. As much as I missed actually being there in person, there were a number of positives, some of which were quite unexpected.

Savings — I knew that this was going to be one going in. Usually I stay at the hotel, even though the convention is within an easy driving distance. Having a room at the convention means I have a place to drop stuff off1, I don’t have to worry about not waking up in time for early morning panels2, I can change throughout the day3, I am free to hang out at the room parties4, and I have my own bathroom5. This year I didn’t have to worry about dropping anything off, I slept in my own bed, I didn’t change, I attended room parties virtually, and I still had my own bathroom6. I did save money on not having a hotel room and I didn’t have to pay for food either7.

Anxiety — I wasn’t sure if I would have the same level of anxiety I usually have when appearing at a convention. I’m pleased to say that it was a little less. I did still get nervous before each panel that I was on, especially the ones I was moderating, but there was much less social anxiety. I am sure that most of that is simply because I was not around a lot of people. As much as I love going to conventions, especially Penguicon, it is very difficult for me. I don’t do well around lots of people.8/9

I’m interested to see how I will feel next year when I attend cons in person again.
10 I hoping that these virtual conventions will be a nice segue into seeing people up close and personal again. I also have quite a few appearances this year where I will just be a vendor — no panels. Lots of people, but without the anxiety of speaking in front of an audience. I am interested to see how that is going to feel.

Recovery — I almost always take the day after a con off. Sometimes this is required because there is travel involved before I get to rest at home.11 Usually I just take the day off from the day job so I have a chance to rest and depressurize before having to be social again.12 I returned to the day job on Monday, but I must confess that this is not because I thought it would be easier after a virtual con. Quite frankly, I thought I had put in for the weekend off, but I had forgotten to. I am fortunate enough to work with people who are willing to switch their schedules around in order to accomodate my lack of foresight.

Fortunately, going in the next day wasn’t that bad. Part of it may have been the one step remove provided by the computer, but I suspect that the real reason was that I wasn’t totally knackered from staying up waaaaaaaaay past my bed time multiple nights in a row.

Hydration — This is a weird one. I have been trying to make sure I drink the correct amount of water every day. I even have it as a daily on Habitica.13 This tends to go out the window at cons.14 Part of this comes from just not thinking about water. Part of this comes from the handy availability of other beverages. A major part may be the need for my beverages to be caffeinated. Regardless, I don’t drink nearly enough water when I’m at cons.

This was quite different this year — in fact detrimentally so. My boss at the day job gave me a huge travel mug.
15 I filled it with water before each panel. I killed it every time I was on a panel, and sometimes on panels I wasn’t speaking on. I drank so much water over the weekend that I sloshed when I walked — I drank so much that I felt sick.16

Rooms, Directions, and Steps — One thing which we discussed on a couple of the lead ins to the panels was the benefit of not having to run from room to room to get the the panels that you want to see. One of the great things about Penguicon is the huge normal of interesting topics and numerous panels available throughout the weekend. That, and the number of people who attend each year, have meant that over the history of the con it has moved to bigger and bigger venues. The current venue, the Westin Southfieldlink has plenty of rooms spread over multiple floors and multiple buildings. While it is great in terms of programming,17 it can be difficult to get from one space to another.

Add to this the fact that I don’t have the best sense of direction and you have a great opportunity for me to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Since the convention was virtual, all of the rooms were one click apart, making it easy to get to any panel I wanted to on time.

The downside was that I certainly didn’t get my steps in.

So, what is the take away from all of these observations? Nothing really. I just wanted to focus on some positive things and discuss the things which surprised me. Hopefully next year we will be back to in person convention and my usual Penguicon updates.

1 Especially that heavy stack of books I picked up.

2 Well…

3 Because who doesn’t like to look good at con?

4 I can stay up late AND drink.

5 Never underestimate the importance of having your own bathroom.

6 Well, I did still have to share.

7 Although Penguicon has an amazing consuite.

8 I have spoken before on the way I put on a persona of someone who is an extrovert when I speak or appear publicly. It’s one of the reasons I have the kilts, hats, and horror related work shirts.

9 And that is another reason I get the hotel room — to have some place to go when I need to decompress or just get away from people for a while.

10 Hopefully.

11 When attending an out of town convention, especially when I am vending, I like to stay an extra night and leave fresh in the morning. It can be kind of rough to work all day, pack things up around 5pm or later, and then drive through the night.

12 See the section on Anxiety above. Like any good introvert, I need time alone after spending any good deal of time in public with lots of people, even if I love those people and what I am doing with them.

13 I get rewards for doing things which results in XP. Of course I use Habitica.

14 Not literally.

15 I think it holds 30 oz.

16 Not the first time I’ve said that, but probably the first time I’ve said it about water.

17 As someone who was in charge of the Literature track for a few years, the more rooms, the better.

18 And even have time to visit the restroom and to refill that giant water cup.