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Thursday, June 26, 2008

A different kind of balance

V had a good time at his first ever conference. He met awesome scientists and on one particular night had far too good a time. He was hurting the next day and honestly, I can't even remember the last time he was this hungover! Luckily, he didn't embarrass himself like the unfortunate girl who was hitting on everyone (including V!).

After I was done laughing (and laughing.....and laughing some more) at him in his sorry state, I started thinking about the balance involved in conference drinking behavior. Obviously, this balance is different for everyone. Not everyone drinks or hangs out socially at conferences, and that is fine. It just happens that a lot of folks in our fields do both and so do we. So the balance for us is in finding how to go out and have fun while networking, without feeling the need to 'keep up' (V's downfall) and be hungover for the next mornings activities.

My first conference was much like V's, I tried to keep up and was intellectually non-existent for the morning sessions. Not so smart on my part. At my second conference (where I was giving first talk) one host-friend was determined to get me drunk. I was a good grad student and went back to the hotel early to get a good nights sleep. The problem was that I missed all the late night fun. This was a very, very small conference so anyone who did go out (including big wigs) all went out together. With more experience and having covered both extremes, I'm starting to understand my balance. That is, how hard it is to be awake, aware and involved with early morning (and long days of) talks, and what my body and mind need to be able to do it. Personally, I can handle little sleep by mainlining coffee and feel fine. But I can't function hungover so can't drink too much. Closing down the bar has served me well in terms of networking but I just have to remember to opt for water instead of another beer.

We will have to see if I remember this in August at the Major International Conference....

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5 Comments:

Blogger EcoGeoFemme said...

I never, never turn down an invitation for a drink at meetings because the very best time to network. But I really nurse my drinks so that a) I don't get loopy and say something I'd regret and b) don't get a hangover. I find that if I drink at a normal pace but take breaks between beers, people buy me fresh ones sooner than I want. If I maintain a glass with something in it, I drink far less.

I too had an early conference experience where I drank a LOT every night, staying out LATE. I still got up for early sessions, but I was a trainwreck by the end.

12:12 AM  
Blogger Mad Hatter said...

I'm a lightweight, so I do what EcoGeoFemme does--I go out for drinks, but I sip mine. The unfortunate consequence is having my drinks get warm and not-so-tasty towards the end, but it's worth it to not get myself completely wasted!

10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anna said...

So just which conferences were these "regional conferences" you're referring to? I remember one in particular where a hangover occurred, could that have been the first?

8:12 AM  
Blogger DancingFish said...

Ecogeofemme and Mad hatter- it sounds like a very good tactic there. I might have to try that instead of my water tactic.

Anna- the very, very small one was a genus specific conference in Europe right after Thanksgiving during my second year. Those regional ones- well, they are part of my 'learning' and I was much, much better about keeping it in check this year. Although, it could've been just because I didn't have you to go have fun with =)

10:12 AM  
Blogger botanybabe said...

oh yeah. med students have to be particularly careful when interviewing for residency. not only with drinking BUT with just social behavior period. you have to be on "interview" behavior the whole time..you never know who is watching and who knows who. dangerous situations. then there are the "over the top" stories of students who get so drunk at a social engagement they actaully physically fight people, can't find their hotel at the end of the night, pass out in a park on a bench, and miss their interview the next day. what do you say to THAT!

3:16 PM  

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