Having Lunch with Magic Johnson (or Why Working at Conferences is Tough)

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Magic Johnson gets messed up by flight delays just like you and I do.  It’s just that its now my schedule that got tossed on its ear as I quickly change my plans with him to lunch.

But I digress… this isn’t Mr. Johnson’s problem, it’s mine.

You see… working at conferences or trade shows is tough.

I realize that bursts the bubble on the fantasy life that some of my friends believe I live.  After all, I’m staying in a gorgeous club floor room at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego (with stunning sunset views of the water).  The next couple of days for me include a party on the USS Midway and lunch with Magic Johnson.  And I’m enjoying lots of amazing food.  That’s where it would begin and end if you are following my social media feeds.

But it’s tougher than that.  My day today started at 5:30 am when I was up and conducting my normal Monday morning business (getting my weekly recap up here, prepping slides for my team’s weekly briefing meeting back home, answering emails from east coast clients who needed project updates for their own weekly briefing sessions) while also getting ready in my room.  7 am found me in the Grand Club grabbing a quick breakfast so I’d be ready when the conference exhibit hall opened.

It’s a dual-capacity show for me.  I’m here as both an exhibitor and an attendee which means my day alternates between selling time on the trade show floor (cell phone put away, face-to-face time key) and educational sessions, where I sit in the back row and kick into multitasking mode – answering emails or working on other items while listening to presenters.

Juggle, juggle, juggle – the key is keeping all the balls in the air.

This is one of many conferences like this that I attend throughout the year (as a presenter, exhibitor, sponsor, or attendee) and because the schedule is spread out as such, many of my clients are on normal schedules back at home and expecting my normal level of responsiveness.

I can try my best to try to slot in the things I need to get done, but it doesn’t always work out the way I hope.  Sometimes its a connectivity issue (I’m not always lucky enough to be at a conference like this where there is free wifi in all the meeting areas).  Sometimes its a matter of too much to do and not enough time to do it.  And occasionally something messes up the delicate balance of the day.

One of my keys for coping means maximizing every tiny slice of time I get – fire off a quick email here or return a phone call there.  Use a few minutes of time during a dull part in a presentation to check a file or type up a few paragraphs.  Or just take five minutes to have a pinch of downtime… walk to get coffee, swing by the gift shop, or jump on Twitter for a few just to give my mind a break.

Today we went from a schedule that originally looked like 90 minutes in the exhibit hall followed by 90 minutes listening to Magic Johnson talk about emerging health strategy to then be followed by another 60 minutes of exhibit time, 60 minutes of education, and then two glorious hours for a lunch break/optional networking… or what was going to be my planned “run to the room and catch up while eating room service” window of time”.

But Magic’s flight was delayed by fog.  So we instead had four hours of nonstop exhibit time (which was *great* for business development) and we’ll all listen to him today over lunch instead.

And so I’m catching up… right now I’m learning about Medicare risk management and bundled payment actuarial modeling while typing this and checking email simultaneously.  Because I know that the rest of my day will alternate between more education and sessions until about 6:30 tonight… and then I’ll take a longer conference call.  Finally around 8:30 pm, I’ll get to break for dinner where I can hopefully just have some downtime and get ready to do it all again tomorrow.

But for now, it’s all about lunch with Magic Johnson.  And trying to keep the rest of the day on schedule!

About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last nineteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Once an "every week" road warrior, she now only travels around 100 days a year. She resides in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and playing with her Border Collie/Great Pyreness mix puppy Harley Quinn.

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  1. Jennifer, I just looked up the definition of multitasking in the dictionary and saw a picture of you. Glad you can juggle so many responsibilities. Don’t forget to enjoy some of the perks of the conference/location 🙂

    • Oh definitely! You can’t come to San Diego and not enjoy your downtime. Grant, I know you are an aspiring marketing guru – if you ever get to hear Magic speak on business, GO!!!

  2. Go spartans!
    I knew my fellow alum had many businesses, but I did not realize he was in the health sciences; Or was he talking about general health trends?

    • A bit of both! He shared that healthcare and technology (primarily related to health sciences) are the only sectors where his company is seeking to expand now. His Sodexho partner company has expanded from sports and Disney consessions to bidding on hospital food service contracts. He also continues to have some pharma ties, particularly HIV/AIDS. But since this was a marketing/strategy conference, he also talked about reaching urban, intercity, and ethnically diverse consumers and how to adapt to market segments.

      We got him for 90 minutes – 45 minutes he spoke (off the cuff, walking around the room) and 45 of completely free-form Q & A. I was very impressed… he now beats out Rudy Gulliani (post 9/11 speaking on emergency response) for the best speaker the American Hospital Association has brought in for one of their events.

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